Lost Russian Cruiser Moskva May Have Carried a Piece of the True Cross

An image appearing to show Moskva in her final hours (unknown source)

Published Apr 20, 2022 9:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

The lost Russian cruiser Moskva may have gone down with a (purported) piece of the True Cross on board, according to Russian state media. 

The 19th-century reliquary was donated to the Black Sea Fleet by an anonymous private collector in 2020, according to the archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church's Sevastopol district, Sergiy Khalyuta. It was intended for the chapel aboard the Moskva. 

The relic entered private hands when "European churches began to close and sell their property," state-owned outlet TASS reported. Many churches in Crimea have closed since the Russian annexation in 2014, driven out by government policies that limit religious freedom. Rights groups, researchers and religious organizations in Crimea claim that Russian officials restrict the activities of non-Russian Orthodox congregations, including Jehovah's Witnesses, evangelical Christians, Greek Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox groups.

Many Christian denominations believe in the value of True Cross relics. Fragments of the historical cross figured prominently in early Christian history, and they have been purchased, exchanged and subdivided for millenia. The provenance of each fragment can be difficult to determine; many historical references to True Cross fragments discuss a lively trade in forgeries. Still, the reliquaries and shrines containing cross fragments have value to the communities that venerate them and to collectors who trade them. 

If this particular relic was aboard the Moskva on her final voyage, and it was not removed by a member of her crew, it would be located in the ship's wreckage at the bottom of the Black Sea. Ukrainian and American defense sources claim that Moskva was hit by two of Ukraine's Neptune anti-ship missiles on April 13, resulting in her sinking on the following day. Officially, Russia's Ministry of Defense maintains that a fire on board sparked a magazine explosion, and that the vessel sank during a salvage tow; unofficially, commentators on Russia's leading state television channel have openly blamed Ukraine for the sinking.