Lonely Planet Writer

Cat calendar shows different side of Russian Orthodox Church

Bearded clerics smiling while holding cats has become the latest symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church, after a calendar has gone viral for its depictions of priests with their pet cats.

Priest with cat from Priest + Cat calendar
Priest with cat from Priest + Cat calendar Image by Anna Galperina

A group of Christians created the annual calendar that shows the softer side of the Orthodox Church, as priests are photographed at home holding their pet cats. Released at the start of the month by photographer Anna Galperina and editor Ksenia Luchenko, the Priest + Cat calendar was the Russian response to the famous Italian Calendario Romano, which depicts handsome priests posing around Rome’s beautiful historic sites.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia. Image by paweesit / CC BY 2.0

Luchenko spoke to AP about persuading the priests to do the calendar. “To be honest, it feels a bit strange, when you call priests and ask: ‘Father, tell me please, do you have a cat? Oh, you do? Great!” she said. “So the initial reaction was a bit wary,” she said.

Another shot from the Priest + Cat calendar
Another shot from the Priest + Cat calendar Image by Anna Galperina

The response they received was mixed, with many priests saying they feared the calendar was too ‘pop’ and would take away from the seriousness of the subject.

The creators of the calendar however wanted to present a lighter side to the modern Orthodox Church that challenged its reputation for seriousness. The calendar is not officially sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church.