Moscow, October 27, 2020
Following protests, pickets, and appeals from the Russian Orthodox Church and concerned citizens, the city of Moscow has removed a number of manhole covers with the image of St. George on them.
The image of the Great Martyr George the Victorious slaying a dragon adorns the Moscow city coat of arms that was placed on manhole covers in northern Moscow’s VNDH Park this summer.
The installation of the manhole covers was earlier announced by their designer Artemy Lebedev, who argued that many cities throughout the world have their coat of arms, including images of their patron saints, on manhole covers, Interfax reported in July.
Conversely, Archpriest Leonid Kalinin, head of the Russian Church’s Expert Council on Church Art, commented: “Not only personally, but as an official representative of the Church, I have a very negative attitude about such an image being on manhole covers. The image of St. George the Victorious being put on an object that gets trampled under foot, on a sewer manhole, is an insult to the patron saint of our city.”
Icons are to be honored, not used as decoration, Fr. Leonid emphasized. Those who venerate an icon thereby venerate the saint depicted thereon, and conversely, “any intentionally offensive or simply negligent actions in relation to sacred images also go back to the person, to the hypostasis of Christ, the Theotokos, the angels, or the saints,” he concluded.
On October 14, V.A. Epifantsem, the Deputy Head of the Moscow City Department for Capital Repairs, wrote a letter stating that the covers would be removed:
In accordance with the collective citizens’ appeal of 7.30.20, addressed to the Mayor of Moscow S. S. Sobyanin, the state institution “Automobile Roads” removed the image of the coat of arms from the manhole covers on the territory of VDNH.
Thank you for your active participation in the life of the city.