A piece of the True Cross may now be at the bottom of the Black Sea.
The piece may have been on board the Moskva missile cruiser, the Russian warship that sank last week after being struck by a Ukrainian missile.
It hasn’t been confirmed that the relic was on board the Moskva, but a 2020 report from Russian news agency Tass says that a piece of the True Cross had been acquired and would be placed on the ship.
[Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Sevastopol District Sergiy Khalyuta] explained that the relic is a wood chip only several millimeters long. It is embedded into a 19th century metal cross, which, in turn, is stored in a special reliquary.
“This relic used to belong to a Catholic church, but was acquired by anonymous patrons of arts, and it was their will to send the relic to the [Black Sea] fleet. The Moskva cruiser has an onboard chapel, where services take place,” Khalyuta said.
He underscored that such relics are very rare and important for all Christians — both the Catholics and the Orthodox. Russia is in possession of several items with pieces of the True Cross embedded into them; usually, they can be found in large temples. Purchasing such relics has become possible after European churches began to close and sell their property.
The archpriest also disclosed that the relic had already been handed over to Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, the commander of the Black Sea fleet, and is currently at the fleet headquarters. It will be delivered to the Moskva cruiser shortly.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the True Cross, Britannica explains that it is “reputedly the wood of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Legend relates that the True Cross was found by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land about 326.”
The Moskva became internationally famous not for its military accomplishments during the Russian invasion of Ukraine but because of an incident in which a Ukrainian sailor radioed “Russian warship, go f—k yourself” while preparing a defense of his country’s Snake Island with only a few other seamen alongside him. The men were ultimately captured but later freed during a prisoner swap. Regional Gov. Ihor Taburets later awarded the sailor, Roman Hrybov, a medal “For Merits to Cherkasy Region.”