A Cathedral Resists the Label 'Property of Russia'

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NICE, France — On a February morning in 2006, a group of experts in Russian art approached the onion-domed Russian church here and demanded to be admitted to take an inventory of the building and its contents — icons, liturgical vestments, incense burners, everything.

“We refused them entry,” even though they had an order from a local judge, said the Rev. Jean Gueit, for the last four years the archpriest of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas. “It was a long morning,” he added.

The cathedral, completed in 1912, was built with the “solicitude and generosity” of Czar Nicholas II, as a stone plaque on the church states, for the Russians who vacationed or settled on the French Riviera.

The court order was obtained by lawyers representing the Russian government. It was a first salvo in a local struggle for the stones and, perhaps, the souls of the Russians living here.

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