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

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Saint-Séraphin-de-Sarov Parish

The church dedicated to Saint Seraphim of Sarov in 1933 is one of the first to be dedicated to him in Western Europe.

A student boarding school had been set up in 1922 in the present parish house by Michel Mikhailovich Fedoroff (1858-1949), president of the Russian University Youth.

The church was installed in a "hut" in the garden and originally known as "the Hermitage of St. Seraphim" with its two trees growing inside. The energetic organizer of this parish was Father Dimitri Troïtsky (1886-1939), a deeply spiritual pastor, author of "Life and Canonization of Saint Seraphim" (1933-1939).

For her part, in 1932, a nun dedicated to assisting emigrants, Mother Marie Skobtsov, opened the Parish of Protection-of-the-Mother-of-God in the same neighborhood.

The parish of Saint-Séraphin-de-Sarov in 1965

The two parishes, Saint-Séraphin and Protection-de-la-Mère-de-Dieu were reunited in 1970 and, since then, have become one.

After the death of Father Dimitri, Father Ioann Léliouhkine, until then priest of the Plessis-Robinson church, was appointed rector of the church. He continued and consolidated the liturgical and pastoral tradition until his death in 1942. Father Michel Sokolov (1942-1961) succeeded him, who in turn was at the origin of a decisive stage in the life of the parish. : indeed, it is to his efforts that we owe the foundation of the Institution Saint-Séraphin-de-Sarov, whose aim was to acquire the land on which the parish house and the church were located. . This made it possible, during the time of Father Leonide Mogilevsky (1961-1981) to build, in 1974, under the direction of architect André Nicolaevich Fedoroff, a church that was both more solid and more spacious for the two combined parishes.

History of the parish

It was only later, under the rectorate of Father Michel Ossorguine (who succeeded Father Nicolas Soldatenkoff in 1983), that the exterior walls were lined with red cedar paneling. At the same time, two blue bulbs were placed on the roof, giving the building its Russian church style.

Then, it was under the responsibility of the seventh rector of the church, Father Nicolas Cernokrak at the start of the 21st century and in anticipation of the centenary of the canonization of Saint Seraphim in 1903, that the building was again modified.

To obtain a harmonious whole, it became necessary to reorganize the space: an apse was built to enlarge the too narrow sanctuary, and an awning was added which made it possible to place the entrance in the axis of the building. The iconostasis was moved back on this occasion and the presentation of the icons revised to integrate those of Sister Jeanne (Reitlinger) and Mother Marie (Skobtsov).

70th anniversary of the founding of the parish of Saint-Seraphim-de-Sarov

Iconography in the Church of Saint Seraphim of Sarov

The oldest icon comes from Russia: painted on canvas by a monk of Optino, depicting Saint Seraphim kneeling in his desert of the Russian forest. It had been given to the home by Monsignor Euloge. In 1922, Bishop Seraphin (Ostrooumov) of Orel cut from its frame this canvas which he kept in his office and entrusted it to a young girl, Zinaïda Liamine on her journey of exile from Russia, to give it to the Metropolitan. Euloge in Paris with his recommendation. Bishop Séraphin was shot in 1937 and canonized in 2001.

The iconographers who worked for this church are among the greatest of the Russian emigration to Western Europe. The primitive iconostasis is the work of Pierre Alexandrovich Fedoroff (1878-1942). Called on by Father Troïtsky in 1933, he surrounded himself with eminent artistic and intellectual personalities, including Nicolas Vassilievich Globa, former president of the Stroganov Museum in Moscow, and the professor of art history Katalinsky.

Pierre Fedoroff painted the elements of the altar: the large cross and the two processional banners (the Ascension and the Mother of God) as well as the epitaphion (Entombment), the archangels Michael and Gabriel of the diaconal doors, the original royal gates, six holiday icons (currently in the sanctuary); in the nave the large icons of Saint Seraphim and Saint Nicholas, the great Crucifixion, with the Mother of God and the apostle John, from the table of the deceased, the small icon of veneration of Saint Seraphim, the icons of Saint Alexander Nevsky and Saint Sergius of Radonge. Nicolas Globa designed the interior decoration, executed by V. A. Meler, and made the embossed copper ornaments himself.

Some icons and works of art of the church

The church was enriched after 1970 with a large collection of painted and embroidered icons from the parish of Protection-de-la-Mère-de-Dieu. The great icons of the Savior and the Mother of God, in the sanctuary and the royal gates were painted by Sister Joan (Reitlinger), while the embroidery depicting the angel of the Apocalypse with a golden censer, the three small icons with embroidered ornaments of the Savior, the Mother of God and St. Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow, are from Mother Mary (Skobtsov). From it, the church also keeps the embroidered epitaphion and a priestly garment. The great icon of The Protection of the Mother of God is probably a collective work. At the end of the 1970s, N.I. Izselenoff conceived an original project to enhance the iconostasis with a row of icons which were executed by several iconographers from the workshop of the Association "L’Icône", under the direction of Georges Morozoff. On either side of the traditional Deisis (The Savior in Glory between the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist), he placed the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the apostles Peter and Paul, Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian, fathers of the Church, the megalomartyr saints George and Panteleïmon, the apostle Andrew the first called and Saint Olga, equal to the apostles, protectors of Russia. Other renowned 20th century iconographers, Princess Lvova, Marie Struve, Father Georges Drobot, also wrote icons for the church. Continuing this tradition, contemporary iconographers still regularly enrich the church through their production, such as Catherine Guerra, Hélène Bléré, Marie-Thérèse Gourdier, Orest Hrytsak.

The parish today (parish feast 2021)