Day of Peter and Paul in St Petersburg

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The Day of the Apostles Peter and Paul

July 12, 2011

On July 12 the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates the Day of the Apostles Peter and Paul.  Jesus Christ chose Peter (who was a fisherman called Simon at that time) together with his brother Andrew as his disciples. Simon became the most devoted follower of Jesus and for his strong belief Jesus named him Peter which means “rock” in Greek.

The original name of Paul was Saul and at first he was a cruel persecutor of Christians. But after he had the vision on the way to Damascus he was baptized and became a faithful confessor of Christianity. Both Peter and Paul ended their lives in Rome. Paul was put to death by orders of Emperor Nero. He had the rights of a Roman citizen, which meant that he could be put to death by having his head cut off with a sword, rather than by crucifixion. Peter was crucified. Thinking that he was not good enough to die as Christ he asked the executioners to crucify him upside down.

In Russia people began to worship Saints Peter and Paul more than a thousand years ago. In commemoration of the service and sufferings of the Holy Apostles the Orthodox Church established the Fast of the Apostles.  During this fast Orthodox believers exclude from their meals meat, eggs, milk and on some days also fish. The fast may last from eight days to six weeks depending on the date of Easter. This year the Fast was long and lasted six weeks.

There is a special message in every holiday of the Orthodox Church which tells people how they should live. The Day of Saints Peter and Paul is an appeal to missionary work. Of course, not many people nowadays set out for missionary journeys and it is not possible for everyone. Still there is one simple mission for everyone of us – try to be a little ray of sunlight for other people.

This year for the first time this feast will be celebrated on the city-wide level, at the territory of the Peter-and-Paul fortress. The special morning service at St. Peter-and-Paul cathedral will be followed with the secular festivities. The cathedral is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the fortress (Saint Peter being the patron saint of the city). The current building, being the first stone church in St. Petersburg, was designed by Trezzini and built between 1712 and 1733. It is the second one on the site. Its golden spire reaches the height of 404 feet and features at its top an angel, holding a cross. This angel is one of the most important symbols of St. Petersburg and the Cathedral has been its one of the most sacred places for over 300 years.

The official opening ceremony of the secular part of the festivity will start at 3-00 p.m. at the Naryshkin bastion, which will become the center of the event. During the day there will be  reconstructions of historic battles – and the participants will be wearing uniforms of various armies of different epochs, one can see the performances of military brass brands, concerts of classical music. Art workshops for both, kids and adults will work there. The art gallery in the open air will represent lots of works, made by St. Petersburg painters. In the water area of the Neva-river there will be a festive regatta, given by the young yachtsmen. The culmination of the event will be a huge pie, for a symbolic fee you will be able to taste it. The holiday will be completed with a carillon concert.

From now on this feast will be celebrated annually, thus introducing a new tradition in the life of St. Petersburg.