Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Saint Sergius Parish

The life and history of the Orthodox parish of Saint-Serge, founded by Russian emigrants who took refuge in France after the Revolution of 1917, merges to a great extent with that of the famous theological school of Paris, first Academy , then Saint Sergius Institute of Orthodox Theology.

"I felt a great peace come over me and I had the impression of hearing a voice saying to me: 'This hill belongs to the Lord'", said the German pastor, Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, the one who bought the hill in 1857. and had the church built in 1861, then enlarged in 1863 to meet the needs of the German working-class community in the Villette district. After World War I, the German population having left Paris, the hill was confiscated by the state and sold at auction.

In 1924, on Saint Sergius of Radonge, one of the most revered saints in Russia, the hill was bought by Russian immigrants, initially with only five percent of the amount needed. The church was moved in the style of Russian Orthodox churches, decorated with royal doors dating from the XVI century from the Novgorod school. The rest of the iconostasis and wall decorations were painted in the same style by Dimitri Stelletsky.

For decades the parish has served as a place of prayer and liturgical formation for generations of Orthodox students and faithful. A sober and distinguished, quasi-monastic style of liturgical celebrations became the hallmark of Saint Sergius and influenced a large part of the parishes in Western Europe and even in the Americas. Great liturgies, such as Father Sergius Boulgakoff and Father Alexis Kniazeff, as well as Мikhaïl Ossorguine senior and his son Nicolas, left an indelible mark on the liturgical history of the parish.

Currently, after the crisis caused by a decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to submit all the parishes of the Russian Exarchate to the Greek metropolitans, the parish has chosen to remain within the Archdiocese of the Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe under the canonical protection of the Moscow Patriarchate. This allows him to preserve the fullness of his canonicity, while keeping his liturgical, spiritual and sociological achievements.

After a difficult year following the departure of some of its faithful, the parish is in full swing, regaining a participation of the faithful at least equivalent to that before the crisis. The faithful seem even more aware of the inestimable spiritual value of their parish. The brotherly bond is strongly felt during services of beauty widely recognized in the Orthodox and Western world. It is extended and even reinforced during the little feasts organized after the services, in the refectory on the ground floor of the student hall.

The crisis did not spare the choir either. However, it is also in full revival and on much more solid foundations. Once again, as in the days of the great Ossorguine, people come to the choir to pray better, while appreciating the beauty of the liturgical song. Young singers, very gifted and well versed in song and liturgical rules, form a team full of enthusiasm and joy in living in the house of the Lord, near His altar.

The parish feels very strongly the love and the warm and paternal support that its Archbishop, Metropolitan John does not fail to show it on the occasion of each of his pastoral visits to Saint Sergius Hill.