The church was originally built in 1893 by Polish Catholics deported to Novgorod, a historic city around 120 miles from St. Petersburg.
Bolsheviks destroyed the church in 1933, turning it into the Rodina (Homeland) cinema. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, local Catholics began to use parts of the former church for celebrations.
Between 2009 and 2010, Catholics secured federal funds to restore the church’s towers. They then succeeded in having the building recognized as a “monument of federal value.” Finally, they made several requests to use the church again.
While Catholics are thought to account for only 0.5% of Russia’s 144 million population, the Catholic presence in Novgorod stretches back centuries.
Historical records suggest that as early as the 12th century, there was a church dedicated to St. Olaf for Baltic and Scandinavian merchants and another named in honor of St. Peter for the German-speaking community.
The city’s Catholic community was dispersed in the 15th century, reconstituted in the 19th century, and dispersed once again in the 20th century under communism.