Easter Events in St. Petersburg
Published: March 27, 2013 (Issue # 1752)
Alexander Belenky / spt
Local Catholics, Protestants and other denominations celebrate Easter this weekend ahead of their Orthodox brethren.
Winter may still hold the city in its snowy clutches, but while St. Petersburg’s Orthodox Christians are busy digging out recipes from their Lenten cookbooks, the city’s Catholics, Protestants, and members of other denominations of Western Christianity are preparing to celebrate Easter this weekend.
The Protestant and Catholic Churches use the Gregorian Calendar, while the Orthodox Church follows the older Julian Calendar, meaning that the two churches usually celebrate Easter separately due to the 13-day difference between the two calendars.
For the city’s Catholic community in particular, this year’s celebrations will be of special significance, following the inauguration of a new Pope in Rome earlier this month. St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko recently sent a letter congratulating the city’s Catholics on the election of Pope Francis.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of St. Petersburg’s believers belong to the Orthodox church, but among representatives of Western Christianity the city can count small but significant minorities of Catholics, Protestants and Lutherans, among others.
Though not on the scale of the Orthodox Easter celebrations in the city, there are always a number of cultural and religious events organized to mark Western Christian Easter, and this weekend non-Orthodox Christians of various denominations can choose from a range of services and concerts taking place around the city.
For traditional Easter services, believers need look no further than the city’s oldest Roman Catholic church. St. Catherine’s Church, at 32-34 Nevsky Prospekt, will hold a Good Friday service at 7 p.m. on March 29, and a traditional Easter Vigil from 9 p.m. on Saturday. On Easter Sunday, mass will be given in English (9:30 a.m.), Russian (10:45 a.m., midday and 7 p.m.), Polish (1:30 p.m.) and French (5 p.m.).
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, at 5 Kovensky Per. in the city center, offers a special Good Friday service beginning at 3 p.m. On Saturday, confession will be taken all day from 10 a.m. and churchgoers can bring Easter food to be blessed. Easter Vigil begins at 7 p.m.
On Easter Sunday, Mass will be celebrated (in Russian) at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. The mass at 10 a.m. will be given in Polish. The church will hold a Holy Mass on Easter Monday at 7 p.m.
The city’s only Estonian church, the St. Ioann Evangelical-Lutheran Cathedral on Ul. Dekabristov, will put on a concert by the brass band of the City of Tallinn Firemen’s Society to music by Verdi, Bach and Beethoven at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by an evening of Baroque music at 7 p.m.
The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of St. Maria, on Ul. Bolshaya Konyushennaya, offers a program of music by Bach at 6 p.m. Easter Sunday.
On the Petrograd Side, the St. Yekaterina Evangelical-Lutheran Cathedral on Bolshoi Prospekt offers a program of harpsichord and organ music by Bach and Louis Couperin on Good Friday from 7:30 p.m., while Easter Sunday sees a program of organ music by Bach, Gabriel Reinberger and François Couperin, starting at 4 p.m.
St. Petersburg may be a Russian city, but as Peter the Great’s “Window to the West,” it has had a Catholic and Protestant presence since its earliest days.
The first Catholic parish register for the city’s Catholic community dates as far back as 1710, and Peter the Great himself was the recipient of the very first Catholic baptism. The city’s churches were closed during the Soviet period but began to reopen in the early 90s.
Many of the city’s Christians will mark Easter by preparing special Easter dishes. In many countries a traditional Easter Sunday dinner consists of roast lamb, symbolizing Jesus’ sacrifice, though in the U.S., it is traditional to eat ham at Easter. In the Catholic countries of central Europe, sweet cakes are eaten on Easter, and eggs are boiled and painted as they are in Russia. Even the well-known German pretzel was also originally an Easter food, representing arms folded in prayer across a torso.