Sep 20, 2015

Russia’s ‘Temple for All Religions’

The Daily Beast
September 6, 2015
Nina Strochlic

Jesus Christ told Ildar Khanov to build a structure to honor all the world's great faiths.
Temple of All Religions
Inclusion has never looked so good as it does in a multicultural Russian city where an eccentric architect and psychic healer dedicated 20 years to building a structure that represented all the world's theologies.

Ildar Khanov claimed that Jesus Christ appeared to him on the banks of the Volga River in the city of Kazan in 1994 and ordered him to begin construction on what is now called the Temple of All Religions. "Ildar, wake up tomorrow at six in the morning, take a shovel and start to build the foundations for a temple for all religions," Khanov claimed he was told.

For two decades, Khanov and his volunteer assistants lived inside the site as they constructed the building. Neon greens, yellows, and blues of stained glass, mosaics, and painted domes stand out against the forested background landscape. The 16 minarets, spires, and cupolas are intended to signify each of the world's major religions, and each has a Christian cross, Star of David, Chinese dome or Muslim crescent. The words "Peace," "Freedom," "Brotherhood," and "Solidarity," are inscribed on the outer walls in a variety of languages.

The idea was not to "merge all religions in one, because they all have their own history and their own cultural necessity," Khanov told Le Figaro before he died in 2012, but to "bring them together, to give them a meeting and communication place. It is not a place of worship, but of culture."

Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, about 500 miles east of Moscow, which has made its mark in history many times over. It was invaded by Genghis Khan before being pulled into Russian control by Ivan the Terrible. Later, Leo Tolstoy lived in Kazan and Lenin studied at one of its universities.

Today its population is a blend of Muslims and Christians, and 100 different ethnic groups. Tourists visit for the Kazan Kremlin: an ancient fortress and group of buildings dating back to the 16th century that shares ground with one of Europe's largest mosques. A few miles outside of the city, in a village called Staroe Arakchino, is the Temple of All Religions.

According to reviews left by visitors, the temple is not open to visitors, but it used to be possible to see inside if you were seeking an appointment with Khanov.

Khanov was an eccentric, according to the sparse accounts that exist. He apparently studied art in Moscow before returning to Kazan. When Christ allegedly visited him on the river banks and ordered the temple's construction, it was the second time Khanov had claimed as much. The first, he said, was at just 3 years old, during an experience in which he nearly died. Khanov told others after that he was gifted with clairvoyance and healing powers.

Advertising these powers, his temple became an attraction for pilgrims, who would come seeking his advice and healing from addiction and diseases. Some 300 patients were seen per day, he reported. According to Hidden Europe magazine, he slept just four hours a night and lived on donations from his healing.

When he died at age 73, his funeral was held in the church.

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