Sunken Russian warship may have carried Christian relic 'True Cross' piece

The Moskva — Infamous for its role in the Snake Island incident — Was sunk last week, and may have been carrying a Christian relic, a fragment of the True Cross.

A view shows Russian warships on sunset ahead of the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea July 27, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXEY PAVLISHAK)
A view shows Russian warships on sunset ahead of the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea July 27, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXEY PAVLISHAK)

The Russian warship that sunk during the military operations against Ukraine last week may have been carrying what is claimed by some Christians to be a fragment of the cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on. 

The Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva — which helped seize Snake Island in an infamous incident at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War — sank on Thursday after being seriously damaged following an explosion that a Ukrainian official said was the result of a missile strike.

In 2020, it was decided that a Christian relic, a piece of the "True Cross," would be carried on the Moskva, archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Sevastopol District Sergiy Khalyuta told Russian state media outlet TASS.

The True Cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on was supposedly found by Roman Emperor Constantine's mother, Empress Helena, and the alleged fragments of the cross have over the centuries been dispersed among different sects and churches. Khalyuta emphasized to TASS that fragments of the true cross are very rare and of great religious importance for all Christian denominations.

"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," Khalyuta told TASS. "The Moskva cruiser has an onboard chapel, where services take place." 

 Russian Navy vessels are anchored in a bay of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea May 8, 2014 (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER/FILE PHOTO) Russian Navy vessels are anchored in a bay of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea May 8, 2014 (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER/FILE PHOTO)

The Moskva's True Cross fragment was embedded into a 19th-century metal cross, which was in turn stored in a reliquary.

Russian news agencies said the Moskva, commissioned in 1982 as the Slava, is armed with 16 anti-ship Vulkan cruise missiles with a range of at least 700 km (440 miles).

The Atlant-class guided-missile cruiser was one of the two ships that seized Snake Island on February 25, in the now-famous incident in which Ukrainian border guards told Russian naval forces,"Russian warship, f***k you...!" when told to surrender.

Russia claimed that a fire had started on board, detonating ammunition stores. It did not say what caused the fire, and that it was "under investigation." Maksym Marchenko, the Ukrainian governor of the region around the Black Sea port of Odesa, claimed the Moskva had been hit by two Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles.

Russia later reported that the fire was contained, but the damaged Moskva later sank when the Black Sea Fleet attempted to tow it to safety during a storm.

The ship's crew was evacuated, but there has been no word about if the Moskva's holy relic was saved as well, or sank to the bottom of the Black Sea with the vessel — now a lost relic.