The Russian Orthodox Church does not rule out that the grave of Alexander III in St. Petersburg’s Petropavlovskaya Fortress could have been opened before.
“We are not alleging anything, we are not alleging that the grave was invaded, although we believe it could have happened. The only thing we are alleging now is that the headstone was disassembled and then assembled again,” Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk, secretary of the Patriarch’s Council on Culture, told a press conference in Moscow on Friday.
“It is possible that the tsar’s remains were disturbed, there could have been looting, and they are in an inappropriate condition,” the bishop said.
The bishop said a possible opening of the grave is indicated by the absence of metal belts holding the marble covers of the headstones, which was discovered by experts who worked in the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral. The bishop also said garbage, traces of asbestos and plaster and broken stones had been found under the headstone cover. Experts now have to lift the stone under the headstone, he said, reiterating that all actions are recorded on video and photographed.
Bishop Tikhon said graves in the Petropavlovskaya Fortress had been opened before, possibly multiple times. He said there is evidence of the opening of tsars’ graves, including Peter I and Alexander I, adding that the remains of the latter were not found, the grave was empty and that evidence can become “a weighty argument” to the Russian Orthodox Church. “We are not brushing any evidence aside; we are trying to check it,” he said.
The grave of Alexander III is being opened as part of the forensic evaluation of the remains of the family of Russia’s last tsar.