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Seineside Orthodox church given go-ahead, Russian embassy

The St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris
The St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris Pline

A controversial plan to build a Russian Orthodox church on the banks of the River Seine has been given the go-ahead, the Russian embassy in Paris announced on Christmas Day. The original design was slammed by Paris’s mayor Bertrand Delanoë as an eyesore.

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Planning permission has been granted to build a church on a piece of land purchased in 2007, the embassy said, despite opposition on aesthetic grounds by Delanoë and other Paris councillors.

The Paris region prefecture did not confirm that planning permission had been granted, saying only that the request is being processed.

In November Russia withdrew its initial permit request after Delanoë criticised the church’s design as too ostentatious and unworthy of sharing the skyline with the Eiffel Tower.

The design, which was chosen in an international competition, and endorsed in 2010 by the then-president Nicolas Sarkozy and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev was for a white church with five traditional golden domes topping a wavy glass roof linking it a cultural centre nearby.

The architect, Manuel Yanowsky, accused Culture Minister Aurélie Filipetti of squeezing him out for political reasons.

After the criticism, Moscow agreed to review the plan and find ways to make the planned building "harmoniously fit the surrounding landscape".

Architects are now working on a design that will use other materials, such as titanium.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had said that France was committed to the project, while pointing out that regulations are strict in the area around the chosen site.

Paris already has a Russian Orthodox Church, the Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was built in 1861, but it comes under the spiritual leadership of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Turkey.

The new church would come under the leadership of the Moscow patriarchy.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been pushing to increase the patriarchy’s influence abroad.

There was no indication of when work on the new church would start.

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