Picture of the day: Get me to the church on time: Moscow's faithful queue to see the mother of all relics


Hundreds of thousands of Muscovites have spent hours in line this week, often queuing through the night, to get close to a religious relic they believe is part of a belt worn by the Virgin Mary.

The relic, on a month-long tour of Russia, is being displayed at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in central Moscow for a week only, and the level of interest has been so high that queues have snaked miles along the embankment of the Moscow River.

The belt is normally held in a monastic community on Mount Athos in Greece, but arrived last month in St Petersburg, where it was met by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Since then, the relic has been viewed by more than two million people in 14 cities even before it arrived in Moscow, where another half million have seen it. The huge excitement has even led to suggestions the belt may be flown over Moscow in a helicopter to bless the whole city before it departs for Greece on Monday.

Yesterday, police near the cathedral said the waiting time was down to around 14 hours, from a peak of 24 hours earlier in the week. About 1,500 police officers were on duty to stop anyone attempting to jump the queue. Snacks, hot cups of tea and portable toilets were provided at various points by Moscow authorities.

Traditionally, the Virgin's belt is believed to help women conceive, and cure all sorts of other pains and ailments. Ironically, a smaller part of the same relic is on display permanently at a church in Moscow, where it draws only a few visitors.

Some commentators suggested that Orthodox belief and the Russian national psyche made people feel that enduring a certain level of "suffering" before gaining their brief audience with the relic would make its powers all the more potent.

The internet has been rife with rumours that Kremlin employees and other top government officials had been given special passes that enabled them to avoid the queue. The Orthodox Church denied this, but Kseniya Sobchak, a socialite often described as the "Russian Paris Hilton", said yesterday she had been invited to visit using a special pass that allowed VIP visitors to skip the queues.

For those without VIP passes, the line yesterday stretched more than three miles. Svetlana, 52, arrived at 4am yesterday to join the end of the queue, and was arriving near the front by the middle of the afternoon.

"I had hoped that I would be able to get in and see it before going into work, but I've had to spend the whole day here. I called in sick," she said, with a guilty smile. "But I think God will forgive me such a small sin.

"After all, I don't get the chance to see the belt of the Virgin Mary every day, do I?"

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own