The Russian Orthodox Church has defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark cathedral.

St. Isaac's Cathedral features on the list of UNESCO's cultural assets and is the third most-visited cultural site in St. Petersburg. It has been turned into a museum, but the Church has periodically used it for services.

The museum's director warns the takeover could hamper tourist access and slow down the pace of restoration works. Some in the city administration also opposed the church's bid, and local activists pushed for a referendum on the issue.

Natalya Rodomanova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Orthodox Church's St. Petersburg eparchy, said Friday its bid complies with the Russian law. She said tourist access to the building will not be impeded.