Precious icon stolen from Helsinki’s Uspenski Cathedral in broad daylight
A valuable icon depicting St. Nicolas the Miracle Worker was stolen from Helsinki’s Uspenski Cathedral between noon and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday.
"The worth of the stolen icon is difficult to estimate in cash terms", notes Fr. Veikko Purmonen of the Helsinki Orthodox Congregation, while saying that it is old and very valuable.
The icon has been cherished and honoured, says Fr. Purmonen. However, it is not the most valuable individual treasure in the cathedral.
The Uspenski Cathedral, the main church of the Helsinki Orthodox Congregation, is one of the prime sights of the Finnish capital. The largest Orthodox church in Western Europe, it is visited by about two thousand tourists each day. In the summer season the church is open from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
The police are investigating the action as an aggravated theft. It is thought likely that there may have been eyewitnesses to the taking of the 45 cm x 35 cm artefact, which was on display in the church as normal.
The icon originates from the 19th century, while its exact origin is unknown. Originally the treasure was a gift to the Vyborg Cathedral, from where it was brought to Helsinki during the wars of the 1940s.
St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the poor, children, and all mariners, was born during the 3rd Century. The story of Santa Claus begins with St. Nicholas, Fr. Purmonen commented.
The anniversary of St. Nicholas’s death is celebrated in Finland on December 6th.
According to Fr. Purmonen, the thief might possibly try to smuggle the stolen icon for sale abroad. Once before, an attempt was made to steal a valuable artefact from the Uspenski Cathedral, but the thief was caught at the door.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Uspenski Cathedral gets golden cupolas back (5.6.2007)
Thirteen domes to designate Christ and the Apostles (28.9.2004)
The Orthodox Church of Finland (Virtual Finland)
Uspenski Cathedral (Wikipedia)
St. Nicholas Center: Saint Nicholas and the Origin of Santa Claus