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CHURCHES, CATHEDRALS AND MOSQUE IN SAINT PETERSBURG

The Alexander Nevsky Monastery complex is home to some of the oldest buildings in the city, as well as to cemeteries which contain the graves of some of the giants of Russian culture, including Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, and Glinka.

 

The monastery was founded in July 1710 - seven years after the foundation of Petersburg - by Peter the Great near to the spot where contemporary Swedish maps showed the Swedish fort Landskrona had stood. (This was during the Northern War between Russian and Sweden, so it was a symbolically important location - especially as it had been sacked in 1301 by an army from Novgorod under Prince Andrei, son of legendary Russian leader Alexander Nevsky, during a previous war!) In 1712, the first church was built, in wood, on the site of the future monastery, and consecrated in Peter's presence on March 25, 1713. The monastery began working shortly afterward.

 

In 1724, a new church, designed by Italian architect Domenico Trezzini, was consecrated. The new church was named for Alexander Nevsky - considered a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church - whose remains were brought to the church from the ancient city of Vladimir, in a journey that took several months. The day the remains were moved into the new church was celebrated each year as a holiday.

 

In 1750 Empress Elizabeth ordered that a silver shrine be built to shelter the holy remains. The shrine - using an incredible one and a half tons of pure silver - was decorated with symbols of the famous Battle on the Ice fought on Lake Peipus in 1242 and other of Alexander's victories. The shrine was moved to a new cathedral in 1790, and in 1797 Emperor Paul gave the monastery its current rank - the highest in the Orthodox hierarchy - and name: the Alexander Nevsky Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

 

By the beginning of the 20th century the territory of the monastery complex was home to an impressive 16 churches. Today, only five survive: the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of St. Lazarus, the Church of St. Nicholas, and the Church of the Holy Mother of God, the Joy of All Those who Mourn, which is over the monastery gates.

 

Like many centers of Orthodoxy the Monastery suffered at the hands of the Revolution. Happily, though, much has survived, and restoration work has been ongoing in recent years.

 

In January 1918, the Bolsheviks attempted to seize the monastery and its valuables, but were driven off by determined church-goers, summoned by the ringing of the monastery's bells. However, the monastery was closed shortly afterward, and robbed and looted of its valuables.

 

From 1931-36 all of the churches and cathedrals within the monastery were closed, and in 1932 the Museum of City Sculpture was organized on part of the monastery's territory. The remaining space was turned over to the city government, which soon distributed it to various different institutes, offices and warehouses.

 

After a number of petitions from local believers, Holy Trinity Cathedral was returned to the Orthodox Church in 1955. However, the destruction of church buildings and monastery graveyards continued, and trading in graves continued well after 1959, when it was officially banned. Services began in the Church of St. Nicholas - located in the graveyard behind Holy Trinity Cathedral - in 1985. On June 3, 1989, the remains of Alexander Nevsky were moved back to the Cathedral from the Museum of Atheism which had been opened in Kazan Cathedral, and in the early 1990s the monastery was the center of celebrations of Alexander's life and heroic deeds.

 

For many visitors one of the major attractions is the monastery's graveyards, home to the final resting places of many of the great names of Russian culture. The Tikhvin Cemetery contains many of the most famous graves: In the far right-hand corner from the gate is an impressive bust of Tchaikovsky over his grave, while close by are Rubinshtein, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Glinka. Dostoevsky lies further back along the wall, towards the gate. The other main cemetery, the Lazarus Cemetery, is the resting place of several of the great architects who left their indelible mark on the city, including Starov, Quarenghi and Rossi.

Nowadays the picturesque area to the south from Frunze Street, between Moscovsky Avenue and Yury Gagarin Avenue, is called Cesme, but at the beginning of the 18th century it was a foul swamp called «the frog bog» among Finns.

 

According to the legend on this very place Empress Catherine the Great got the long-awaited news that on the 26th of July 1777 the Russian squadron gloriously defeated the Turkish navy in Cesme Gulf. This victory became a crucial point in the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774. To honor the memorable event the Empress ordered to build a palace on that very place where she met a messenger. The construction of the palace was entrusted to architect Velten. At that time English Gothic reigned in European architecture and that's why the architect took the Longford Castle as a model. Some years later close to the palace the church was erected. The church, also accomplished in Gothic style, was decorated with narrow vertical rods and plastic lancet arches, intersected with high lancet windows. The walls were topped with a parapet and pinnacle turrets.

 

Nowadays the Cesme Church is one of the few buildings in St Petersburg that have Gothic motifs in their design. On the 24th of June, 1780 the church was consecrated to commemorate the glorious Cesme victory. Since then the palace and the church have been called Cesme. During the World War II the church was damaged seriously. The reconstruction works were carried out only in the 1970s. Since 1977 the church functioned as a branch of the Central Naval Museum. The exposition was devoted to the Cesme Victory. In 1991 after the long break the divine services were renewed in the Cesme Church, which is a functioning temple today. On the territory of the church there is a small cemetery. Originally there veterans of different Russian wars who had spent the downhill of life in the charity house of the Cesme Palace were buried. In the middle of the 20th century all burial places were destroyed. Nowadays there lie the soldiers who died defending Leningrad during the World War II.

Kazan Cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, probably the most venerated icon in Russia. The construction was started in 1801 and continued for ten years (supervised by Alexander Sergeyevich Stroganov). Upon its completion the new temple replaced the Church of Nativity of the Theotokos, which was disassembled when the Kazan Cathedral was consecrated. It was modelled by Andrey Voronikhin after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Although the Russian Orthodox Church strongly disapproved of the plans to create a replica of a Catholic basilica in Russia's then capital, several courtiers supported Voronikhin's Empire Style design.

 

After Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, and the commander-in-chief Mikhail Kutuzov asked Our Lady of Kazan for help, the church's purpose was to be altered. The Patriotic War over, the cathedral was perceived primarily as a memorial to the Russian victory against Napoleon. Kutuzov himself was interred in the cathedral in 1813; and Alexander Pushkin wrote celebrated lines meditating over his sepulchre. In 1815, keys to seventeen cities and eight fortresses were brought by the victorious Russian army from Europe and placed in the cathedral's sacristy. In 1837, Boris Orlovsky designed two bronze statues of Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly in front of the cathedral.

 

In 1876, the Kazan demonstration, the first political demonstration in Russia, took place in front of the church. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the cathedral was closed. In 1932 it was reopened as the pro-Marxist 'Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism.' Services were resumed in 1992, and four years later the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Now it is the mother cathedral of the metropolis of St. Petersburg.

 

The cathedral's interior, with its numerous columns, echoes the exterior colonnade and is reminiscent of a palatial hall, being 69 metres in length and 62 metres in height. The interior features numerous sculptures and icons created by the best Russian artists of the day. A wrought iron grille separating the cathedral from a small square behind it is sometimes cited as one of the finest ever created.

The St Petersburg Mosque with two minarets decorated with multi-colored tiles was built by the architect Stepan Kirchinsky in 1912. The architect used the architectural forms of the Gur Emir Mausoleum of Tamerlane erected in Samarkand at the beginning of the 15th century.

 

It also bears certain features of the Northern Modern style. First and foremost, it is an austere stone facing of grey Tiurula gneiss and Kovantsaari granite finished in different techniques and therefore multicoloured. The building corners and a part of the southern facade are faced with rusticated slabs of Tiurula stone; its rocky texture brings out a gloomy dark-grey colour. The colour scheme of the grey Kovansaari granite facing most of the building changes from the deep grey of the unpolished slabs with uneven surfaces to the light grey of the smooth ones. Above the windows, smooth granite walls are decorated with oriental carvings. Small angular arches are cut in the granite. Two round medallions on the back facade are covered with sets of ornament-like Arabic letters; these are quotes from the Koran. Rather striking are the tall minarets faced with light-grey granite and decorated all over with carved ornaments shaped as large rhombi. The austere grey stone is complemented beautifully by colored majolica and porcelain. These colourful ornaments appear on the portal, as a carpet-like adornment on the walls of the northern and eastern facades, on the minaret towers and the cupola. They were created by a prominent ceramics artist Pyotr Vaulin at a small factory in the village of Kikerino near Gatchina; blue clay commonly found around the city and known as Cambrian was used. Large mosaic ornaments of the facades are made of porcelain. Fragments of an intricate oriental pattern have different shapes and feature colours typical for Style Moderne: blue, light blue, emerald-green, lilac, violet, pink and purple. The porcelain mosaic has kept very well until present. Unfortunately, convex majolica tiles in the cupola have proved more fragile and are beginning to flake.

The great example of the late Russian baroque, the gilt-domed Nikolsky Cathedral, is situated on the bank of the Kryukov Canal. The cathedral was built at the instance of Prince Golitzin who offered Empress Elizabeth to erect in Saint Petersburg a temple to Saint Nicolas, the celestial protector of all sailors, and thus to honor the glory of the Russian navy.

 

The project of the cathedral was worked out by architect Chevakinsky who was also entrusted to direct the construction works started in 1753 and finished in 1762. For the new cathedral the former Navy troop court parade ground was chosen. The consecration of the cathedral took place on the 20th of June 1762. Empress Catherine the Great herself attended the solemn ceremony. The two-storey cathedral is a cross in a plan. It is crowned with five gilt domes and lavishly decorated with moldings and columns of Corinthian order. The splendid combination of the golden domes, blue facades and snow-white columns makes the cathedral look festive and elegant.

 

Nikolsky Cathedral consists of two churches - upper and lower. The lower church was consecrated to Saint Nicolas Wonder-worker who is considered to be the patron of all travelers. The upper church was consecrated in honor of the Epiphany. Thus the full name of the cathedral is Nikolsky Epiphany Cathedral. The upper church treasures a wonderful well-preserved iconostasis created by outstanding master I. Kanaev. The iconostasis is richly decorated with vegetative ornaments and classical colonnade and features priceless icons created in Byzantine traditions by the brothers Kolokolnikov. The most honored sacred object of the cathedral is the icon of Saint Nicolas Wonder-worker that dates back to the 17th century.

 

Close to the cathedral the elegant four-tiered belfry crowned with a gilt spire was constructed. The belfry became not only the organic element of the splendid ensemble but one of the well-known frequently depicted sights of Saint Petersburg. In honor of Russian glorious victories over Turkish and Swedish fleets Catherine the Great endowed the cathedral with ten sacred images and since then Nikolsky Cathedral became the sort of museum of Russian naval glory. As Nikolsky Cathedral was a naval church, solemn divine services held there marked the important evens in the life of the Russian Navy. To celebrate the glorious victories of the Russian Navy thanksgiving services were held. In Nikolsky Cathedral the deceased sailors-heroes were prayed for. To commemorate those perished in 1906 in Russian-Japanese War the memorial plaques were installed on the walls of the cathedral. In 1908 the obelisk commemorating the crew of the Alexander III battleship that was sunk in Tsushima Battle on the 14 of May 1905 was erected in the churchyard.

 

After the revolution of 1917 Nikolsky Cathedral had hard times. And although the considerable part of the cathedral's decoration was lost, the temple wasn't ruined and even wasn't closed as many other churches of St Petersburg. During the blockade of Leningrad metropolitan Alexy I, the future patriarchy of all Russia, lived there and hold services.

 

Nowadays Nikolsky Naval Cathedral is a functioning Orthodox cathedral that carefully cherishes its long-standing memorial traditions. In 1989 the walls of the cathedral were enriched with one more memorial plaque commemorating the crew of submarine Komsomoletz. And just recently the memorial plaques with the names of the decedent sailors of the submarine Kurk were added to the cathedral's walls.

St. Isaac's Cathedral is the largest, the richest and the most famous cathedral in Russia and the 4th largest domed cathedral in Europe. It is also the most "visible" building in St. Petersburg. Its golden dome is so huge that you can clearly see it from the side window of the airplane or from board the ship when you arrive. It was constructed in the 19th century as a principal cathedral of St. Petersburg. It is 101.5 meters high and its area is 4 000 square meters - enough to accommodate 12 000 people. The construction took 40 years.

 

The interior is richly decorated with paintings belonging to the brush of the leading Russian artists, mosaics so intricate that you can hardly tell them from a painting, exquisite combination of semiprecious stones, gilded sculptures and bronze bas-reliefs. You can find 14 types of coloured Italian marble in the decoration of the interior. The columns of the main icon-stand are made of malachite and lapis-lazuli.

 

Apart from the luxurious decoration the Cathedral is also famous for its unique engineering design. During the guided tour we will tell you how using the engineering techniques of the 18th century the builders managed to strengthen the basement of a building so huge, put up solid granite columns weighing more than a hundred tons, construct a dome which is 25.8 meters in diameter. You will also hear a lot of interesting facts about the history of the construction of the Cathedral, people who took part in it, the historical events the building evidenced and the complicated life the Cathedral has to face today, trying to combine the status of the State important museum and an active church at the same time.

 

If you are willing to take beautiful pictures and are adventurous enough to afford a climb of 226 steps (no elevator) we can also offer you to go up to the Colonnade of the Cathedral. After struggling a breathtaking climb you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city from the height of 43 meters, with the whole panorama of St. Petersburg lying in front of your eyes.

The magnificent Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of St. Petersburg's most memorable landmarks. The church, built at the end of the nineteenth century, is constructed in a classical Russian style decorated with colorful domes and glazed tiles.

 

Officially consecrated as the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, the Russian Orthodox gem more commonly known as the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was built to honor tsar Alexander II of Russia, who was assassinated at the site where the church now sits, hence the reference to "spilled blood". The section of the street on which the assassination took place is enclosed within the walls of the church and the site of the murder is marked by a chapel in the building.

 
At the request of Alexander III, son of Alexander II, construction on the church began in 1883. Funding for this amazing structure was almost totally provided by the Imperial family with other donations made by private individuals. The project was completed in 1907.

The principle architect chosen for the project was Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, who was, incidentally, a non-Russian-born individual. The architecture of the church varies greatly from other buildings and religious structures in St. Petersburg, which were largely constructed in the Baroque and neo-Classical styles.

 

However, the era in which Church of the Savior was built was a time of resurgence of nationalism, thus the classic Russian style of the church.

 
Looking at both the interior and exterior, it's easy to see why the church cost about 4.6 million rubles, way over the budgeted 3.6 million. The outside was designed to mirror the magnificent St. Basil's in Moscow, the city's easily-recognizable centerpiece, and the building - both inside and outside - features about 7,000 square meters of mosaics, most of them designed by the prominent artists of the time, including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel. The majority of the mosaics depict biblical scenes and saints though some are just patterns. The colorful onion domes, of which the central one reaches a height of 81 meters (266 ft), are covered with bright enamels.

 

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, much of this amazing church was ransacked and the interior was seriously damaged. In the 1930s, the Soviets closed the church, as they did with most churches in St. Petersburg. During World War II, it was used as a storage facility for food. If suffered yet more damage during the war, and afterwards, was used for many years as storage space for a local opera company.

 
In 1970, St. Isaac's Cathedral assumed management of the church, and funds garnered from the cathedral (which was, at that time, a museum) were used to restore the Church of the Savior. Restoration was finally complete in 1997 and remains one of St. Petersburg's top tourist attractions.

The enormous Classical dome of Trinity Cathedral is located just south from the gleaming Baroque cupolas of St. Nicholas' Cathedral. Trinity Cathedral is a fine example of Classical architecture built by Vasily Stasov. It can accommodate up to 3,000 visitors, but sadly has only recently begun to be restored to its pre-Revolutionary splendor, after years of neglect.

 

Trinity Cathedral was the regimental church of the Izmailovsky regiment, one of the oldest guards regiments in the Russian Army. Named after the village of Izmailovo, near Moscow, the Izmailovsky regiment moved to Petersburg when the northern city was re-established as the Russian capital under Empress Anne.

 

On July 12, 1733, a large field tent operating as a church was consecrated here, with icons painted on a dark blue satin. However, the church functioned only in the summer, and in winter the soldiers and officers had to attend other parish churches. In 1754-1756, a wooden church was built on the site on order of Empress Elizabeth. The church had two altars, the main one of which was consecrated in the name of the Trinity. It suffered heavy damage as a result of the flood of 1824 and had to be rebuilt, a commission given by Nicholas I to Vasily Stasov.

 

Construction of the new church began in May 1828, and despite several accidents hampering the work, the cathedral was consecrated in May 1835. The cathedral rises to a height of more than 80 meters, and dominates the skyline of the surrounding area.

 

Memorial plaques to regimental officers killed in battle were mounted on the cathedral's wall. After the cathedral's opening, flags, keys from forts and other trophies that the regiment won in campaigns in 1854-1855 and 1877-1878 were also housed in the cathedral.

 

The Trinity Cathedral was renowned for its exemplary collection of icons. The main section of the cathedral housed the Nativity icon, while the southern section housed the Jesus Christ icon. Empress Elizabeth presented the church with the Beginning of Life Trinity icon in 1742. Other holy objects housed in the cathedral included a large ark made in the form of a cross in 1753 from silver, a large silver cross presented to the cathedral by Nicholas I in 1835, and two large Gospels in valuable bindings.

 

In 1922 most of the cathedral's valuables were looted, and the thievery continued for several more years until the cathedral was finally closed in 1938. There were rumors of plans to demolish the cathedral and use the remaining material for a district workers' theatre. However, the rumors never came true and the cathedral was transferred to the Soviet Ministry of Telecommunications, for which it became a warehouse. Only in 1990 did the cathedral return to the hands of the Russian Orthodox Church and the restoration began.

 

The cathedral is now open and functioning once again, although the largely bare, Spartan interior is saddening when compared with the splendor and majesty of its pre-Revolutionary past.

 

In honor of the victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 when the Russians liberated Bulgaria from a Turkish invasion a memorial column was constructed in front of the northern facade of the cathedral. Its foundation was 140 trophy cannon barrels used to beat back the Turks during the liberation of Bulgaria. The monument stood eight meters high, and was crowned with the winged figure of victory with a wreath made of oak leaves in one hand and palm branches in the other. An iron spiral staircase was located inside. Ten cannons surrounded the outside of the monument. Unfortunately, in 1930 the monument was dismantled and sold to Germany for cash.

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