PHOTO: memorial plaque in memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s visit to Penza in 1904
On 19th June 2022, a memorial plaque installed at the beginning of the 20th century on one of the columns of the Cathedral of the Saviour [aka Spassky Cathedral] in memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s visit to Penza in 1904 was returned to the Penza Diocese. During his visit, the sovereign held a review of Russian troops who were being sent to the Russo-Japanese War, followed by a liturgy held in the Cathedral of the Saviour.
This memorial plaque, installed by the Penza City Duma, became the first memorial plaque in the Penza region. The inscription on it reads: “His Imperial Majesty the Sovereign Emperor Nikolai Alexandrovich and His Imperial Highness the Sovereign Heir Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich deigned to visit the Penza Cathedral and prayed at this place on June 28, 1904 at 11 ½ o’clock in the afternoon.”
The words on the commemorative plaque turned out to be prophetic. The cathedral, located on the Cathedral Square of the city was blown up by the Bolsheviks in 1934. In 2010, reconstruction of the cathedral began, and took 12 years to complete.
On 19th June 2022, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia performed the rite of the Great Consecration of the Cathedral of the Saviour in Penza, concelebrated by the clergy of the Penza diocese, and read out a decree on conferring the status of a cathedral.
PHOTO: Igor Sergeevich Shishkin (right) holds the historic memorial plaque, during the handing over ceremony at the Cathedral of the Saviour, on 19th June 2022
For decades it was believed that the memorial plaque had been lost or destroyed. This was based on the recollections of Penza residents, who recalled that in February 1918, armed Bolsheviks came to the cathedral and smashed the plaque with their rifle butt. But as it turned out, the plaque miraculously survived. The parishioners hid it by burying it in the ground not far from the cathedral.
About twenty years ago, rumours surfaced that the memorial plaque had survived and was mostly intact [only a corner was broken off]. Local historians carried out a search of the former grounds, as a result of which the plaque ended up in the hands of the famous Penza collector Igor Sergeevich Shishkin, who today returned the memorial plaque to its rightful place.
The handover ceremony of the memorial plaque took place before the great consecration of the Cathedral of the Saviour, which was performed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia during his primatial visit to the Penza Diocese.
© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2022