Harbin to rebuild Orthodox church

A unique Russian Orthodox Church, the Holy Iveron Icon Church, will be rebuilt after almost half a century of neglect.

The project will be part of the rehabilitation of a busy area of Harbin that acts as a transportation centre.

The church, with five magnificent Russian-style domes, was built in 1908.

The domes, which later disappeared, will be rebuilt with the original features regardless of budget.

Some minor renovations are already under way, said a source with the Harbin Municipal Bureau of Urban Planning.

"Unlike most Orthodox churches in Harbin, the Holy Iveron Icon Church had five ogee domes," he said.

Also, a mosaic of religious figures has begun to fall off.

The church project will go hand-in-hand with the new railway entrance, which will be designed to fit in with the church located just to the north of the station.

With the church as the leading landmark, this area will be transformed into a showcase of Harbin architecture.

The church was once dedicated to Russian soldiers who died in wars in the beginning of the 20th century.

It fell into disuse after 1949 and was severely damaged during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

Harbin should well preserve historical relics, said Bi Congliang from the Harbin Cultural Relic Management Centre.

"Even if the northern entrance project does not go ahead, repairing the church should be on the agenda," he said.

As one of the most important cities in Northeast China, Harbin once attracted many Russians at the end of the 19th century.

The city now has about two dozen Oriental Orthodox churches, several Protestant churches, and a beautiful Turkish mosque.