Russian cathedral plan for Paris site sparks spy fears
Franco-Russian practice Sade-Arch has sparked fears of cold war-style espionage in the heart of Paris with its plans for a £30 million Russian Orthodox cathedral beside the Eiffel Tower.
The architect has unveiled plans for a golden onion-domed building with a huge glass solar-panelled roof. The highest dome would reach 27m.
The firm’s chief architect Manuel Nunez Yanowsky said the roof was designed to evoke an immense waterfall and “the veil of the Mother of God”.
The practice, founded by Nunez Yanowsky and Miriam Teitelbaum in 1991, was chosen from a shortlist of 10.
But the scheme has found itself at the centre of a political storm with the French worrying the cathedral could become a Russian spy base. French counter-espionage agencies are concerned because the man overseeing the project, Vladimir Kozhin, is a former KGB agent, the Daily Telegraph reported.
French intelligence has detected a significant rise in Russian spy activity since the election of President Sarkozy in 2007, it added.
But France has agreed to the project in principle after intense lobbying from Russia.
Archbishop Marc d’Egorievsk, who represents the Moscow patriarchy, said the practice was chosen because its scheme “blends orthodox tradition and the modernity of a city like Paris”.
The cathedral will be part of an Orthodox centre with a vast 3,400sq m public garden with terraces as well as a library, classrooms, a reception hall and lodgings for church representatives.
If approved, it will be the first Russian monument to be built in the French capital in more than a century.