An icon of Jesus embedded in a Kremlin gate used by Soviet leaders but bricked over in the 1930s during communist times was restored on Saturday to public view.

On a rainy and windy day of the Assumption in the Orthodox calendar, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill unveiled the icon that has been covered for more than 70 years and had been regarded as lost.

The icon could have been immured in 1937 -- the exact date is unknown -- when Soviet authorities celebrated the 20th anniversary of the coup of the Bolsheviks, who waged war against organised religion, destroying temples and icons across the country.

The icon, which had adorned the Moscow site since the 16th century, was rediscovered in the spring when the Spasskaya Tower gates, the main entrance to the Kremlin overlooking Red Square, were being renovated.

Medvedev, speaking from under an umbrella on the day that marks the Virgin Mary's being taken into heaven, said the Saviour Smolensky icon, which is 2.2 by 1.5 m (yards) wide and depicts Jesus holding open the New Testament, with Russian saints below him, will provide moral support to Russia.

Now that we've got the icon back, our country secures an additional defence, he said after Kirill, struggling to keep his cap on his head in a strong wind, anointed the icon.

The official presence at the event is another sign of the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, opposed by rights groups and some other religious confessions.

The trend towards consolidation of the church as a national force in Russia has worried its 20-million strong Muslim population -- a seventh of Russia's people -- as well as those who believe church and state should be kept strictly separate.

The Orthodox Church has undergone a revival since the fall of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago ended decades of repression under communism, and Russia's leaders have endorsed it as the country's main faith.

There is a special meaning in today's event, particularly, it's in the unity of the Church and people, Medvedev said.

(Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Michael Roddy)