A spiritual and cultural centre of the Russian Orthodox Church opened in Paris on the 19th October 2016. Located a few metres from the Eiffel Tower, the centre is funded by the Kremlin which spent nearly €170 million on the massive structure.

An Edificial Display of Moscow’s Power and Authority

The towering edifice is capped by gold domes, and widely perceived as Russia’s sustained efforts to project itself as a strong, religious nation. The Holy Trinity Cathedral is crowned with five gilded domes and measures 4,800 square metres. It comprises of a lecture theatre and foyer, offices and flats, a French-Russian primary school that accommodates up to 150 pupils and a culture centre, including a bookstore, gallery and a café.

Did Putin Snub Invitation?

Although Russian President, Putin, was said to have been invited as the guest of honour to the launching, his Minster of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky attended the event in his place. Many believe this is no surprise following the former’s row with the West on his position over Syria. In addition to the dispute, the construction of the building has been impeded on several occasions by architectural and financial issues.

French officials have complained about the building’s proximity to a sensitive government area. There is France’s supreme magistrate council, the Palais de l’Alma buildings, and the living quarters of senior presidential advisers.

According to the French Media, France’s counter-intelligence operatives surrounded the area with jamming devices to prevent Russians from performing any electronic surveillance.

Details of the Building Development

In 2010, the Russian president at the time, Dmitry Medvedev, authorised the deal for the Kremlin to buy the cherished property by the Seine river- a UNESCO listed site for €73 million. According to reports, other countries also interested in the deal were Saudi Arabia and Canada.

However, the initial plan to build the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Centre was opposed by the French capital back in January 2012.

When Francois Hollande took over from Sarkozy as French President in 2012, the French Heritage officials forwarded more criticisms about the project, and Russia retrieved its first application for a construction permit.

The project was then remodelled under the direction of architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, and a permit was approved in December 2013. Construction began the following year in 2014.

Technical Specifications

The building was started in the first semester of 2014, commissioned by Architectural firm Wilmotte & Associes, one of the country’s leading firms. Other key players in the construction include:

  • Landscape Architect: Louis Bench
  • Façade Engineer: VP & Green
  • Sustainability consultant: Green Affair
  • Surveyor: Geo-perspectives

The site is listed at the UNESCO World Heritage and presently houses old administrative buildings of the French Meteorological Service originally constructed in 1948.

In its pure state of mind, the building’s integration, noble materials, and timbre address mastered volumes. In similar height and materiality, the Branly, Rapp and University buildings within, form a unified architectural assemblage around the church.

The project inscribes itself in a sustainable manner with the aim of being HQE certified.