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Russians brave cold, snow to see holy belt of Mother of God in Moscow

Maxim Shipenkov / EPA

Russian Orthodox Church believers stand in a line to enter the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to see a casket containing the holy belt of the Mother of God, brought to Russia from Vatopedi monastery situated on Athos Mountain in Greece, after a church service in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 19. Greek monks brought the belt said to be the one of the Virgin Mary to Russia nearly a month earlier and finish their tour of Russia in Moscow.

According to a number of religious texts, Thomas the Apostle, or Doubting Thomas since he did not believe in the ascension of Christ until he touched Christ's wounds, also doubted the Virgin Mary's Assumption. It is said that she tossed her girdle, or what is now called a belt, that she had made from camel hair herself, to Thomas from above in order to make him believe that she had been lifted to heaven. 

Today there are two parties that claim to possess the belt in its entirety: the Cathedral of Prato in Italy and the Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece. Despite the claims of both the cathedral and monastery, thousands of people come out to see both pieces when they are made available for viewings. In Italy, the belt can be seen five times per year: Easter, May 1, Aug. 15, Sept. 8 and Dec. 24. On Mt. Athos, viewings are limited only to men, so the current showing in Russia is quite special.

The shrine is said to have powers to cure barrenness and to promote good health. 

Sergei Chirikov / EPA

Russian Orthodox Church priests and bishops stand in line to kiss a casket containing the holy belt of the Mother of God, in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 19.

Sergei Chirikov / EPA

Russian faithful kiss a casket containing the holy belt of the Mother of God, Nov. 19, in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia.

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