Religious groups in Europe condemned a section of the pop star's show, which will play in Moscow on September 12, that features a song with the 48-year-old apparently being crucified on a giant cross studded with small mirrors. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Muslim community have advised believers to stay away.
"The pop star calling herself Madonna is abusing the Cross," said Valentin Lebedev, head of the Union of Orthodox Citizens. "At her concert in Luzhniki stadium, she will sing her songs hanging on the Cross in the image of Christ wearing a crown of thorns."
The protesters at the sanctioned demonstration carried black posters and flags with inscriptions such as "God Save Russia" and "With Belief in God, Freedom or Death!"
Some of the protesters pierced a picture of the American pop icon with a wooden stake and then demonstrably tore it apart. They also cursed the organizers of the singer's tour, Confessions on the Dance Floor, and then moved on to praying.
Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich, an organizer of the action and head of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, was even more outspoken, "We have declared a new holy inquisition that will fight all villains who oppose Christ, sacred symbols and the Orthodox Church."
He said the Cross was an instrument saving humankind from sin and death.
Vladimir Osipov, head of the Christian Revival Union, said Madonna was an "American Satanist", "an anti-Christ forerunner and anti-Madonna," because everything she did contradicted the image of the Virgin Mary.
Osipov also accused the American singer, who raised a storm of criticism from religious groups in 1989 with the video to her hit Like a Prayer and has since courted criticism with explicit videos, of taking Christianity for a soft target.
"I would like to see her abusing the religion of international bankers - she would have immediately been cornered and sent back to the streets," he said.
The protesters said they hoped the authorities in Moscow would cancel Madonna's debut concert, which has already been forced to change venue because of crowd-safety concerns, and called on the public to be more active in expressing its discontent.
At least 40,000 tickets to the concert in Luzhniki that can accommodate 70,000 people are already thought to have been sold.