History of the church
It has been Archimandrite Kliment ( Vernikovsky) who first had the idea of building a Russian Orthodox church in Rome at the end of the 19th century, who at the time was the Rector of the Russian Embassy Church (1897-1902). A true Russian patriot, Archimandrite Kliment knew how to higher church guidance and secular power for “ the need for an Orthodox Church accountable to the dignity of Orthodoxy and greatness of the native Land” in the city of Firsthighest Apostoles.
Already in1898 by initiative of Archimandrite Kliment the choice of means started, in the year 1900 the decision had been officially taken by Nicholas II , who royally funded 10.000 rubles. Offers for the church came from Archdukes Sergei Aleksandrovich and Mikhail Nikolaevich, Muscovite artisans and Siberian golddwellers.
The first formation of the Building committee was composed and proclaimed by Archimandrite Kliment and Mr. Nelidovim, Russian Ambassador to Italy.
The committee had examined a huge number of projects for the future church, among which those by the famous Russian architekt B.A. Pokrovsky and the Italian architect Moraldi.
In Autumn of 1913 Tzar Nicholas II decided to start collecting donations from all over Russia. At that time the Building Committee stepped out with a circulating leaflet which started with these words:” Throne of God in a rented apartment”. After the publication of such article the collection of donations underwent a definitive quicker course. In the Spring of 1914 the State Bank of the Russian Empire , at its St Petersburg offices, officially opened an account for the erection of a Church .
In 1915 the new Building Committee lead by Prince Abamelek-Lazarev, chose a site by the Tiber bank in the name of the Russian Embassy , near Ponte Margherita (Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia).
By 1916 265.000 Italian liras had been collected, which were enough to complete the building of the church. Up to this date in the Church of St Nicholas in Rome a book is kept with all the offers and the donors with their signatures and sealed by the Russian Ambassador Mr Nelidov. But the uprising of the Revolution changes the course of the project.
In the early 90’s of the 20th century the thought about the need of an Orthodox Church in Rome rose up again. Such initiative received the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexei II. In 2001 on the estate of the Russian Embassy, a gift by the head of Building Committee before the Revolution the Prince S.S. Abamelek-Lazarev, a piece of land had been chosen for the future building site. On January 14th 2001 the Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun with the presence of the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs I. S. Ivanov blessed the posing of the first stone on the site where the church is to be build, to be named after the Great Martyr Catherine- saint of the 3rd4th century - belonging to the Undivided Church.
Beginning 2001 every Christmas, Easter and Saint Catherine Day a liturgy is celebrated on the building site of the future church. In June 2002 under the guidance of the Russian ambassador to Italy the church obtained a construction license . The building itself had been in the Summer of 2003.
On may 19 2004 with the blessing of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia , the Fund for the construction of the Orthodox Church was registered according to the prototype of the pre-revolutionary Russian Orthodox Church Building Committee. The main task of the Fund i s to collect donations for the construction.
The future Church of the Great Martyr Saint Catherine , in the Villa Abamelek, will be open to a wide range of believers. For the numerous members of the Orthodox Diaspora in Italy ( Russians, Ukrainians, Bielorussians, Moldavians, Georgians, Serbs) it will stand as a true spiritual and cultural centre.