Domes of Jerusalem Russian church sparkle again

JERUSALEM, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Russian Orthodox clerics celebrated the completion on Thursday of a $1.5 million restoration project on the onion-domed roof of the landmark Church of Saint Mary Magdalene on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives.

Archbishop Mark, overseer of Holy Land properties for the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, declared the church safe for millennium pilgrims after workers spent three years repairing the structure and regilding the distinctive domes.

The Russian-style church sits on the slope of the Mount of Olives next to the Garden of Gethsemane, sacred to Christians as the place where Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion.

The roof had not undergone restoration since the church was built in 1887 during the reign of Russian Czar Alexander III. Archbishop Mark said the dire state of the roof had put 28 unsuspecting nuns from a convent attached the church at risk.

``They were in fact in danger of their lives, not knowing it. When rain was dripping on their heads during their prayers, they did not know that danger was hidden over them,'' he said.

After a brief prayer service, he was lifted up on an electric ladder to sprinkle the domes with holy water.

The restoration project, funded by donations from abroad, was carried out by the small German firm of Hans Lanz.

``It's a project you can do once in your life,'' said Hans Kellner, who affixed 40,000 pieces of gold leaf to the domes.
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