Cathedrals, churches and monasteries

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The Kazan Cathedral was built in 1811 specifically for the miracle-working Kazan icon of the Mother of God. The cathedral was built in accordance with designs of Andrei Voronikhin, a serf of the president of the Russian Academy of Arts Count Alexander Stroganov. The count was so impressed with the future architect’s artistic talent, that he sent him to Moscow to study, later gave him his freedom and in every possible way encouraged Voronikhin to comprehend art in all of its forms. 

In 1812, came the Patriotic War and after each victory it became a tradition to hang the banners and flags of the prostrate French military units in the cathedral. The icon stand was made from the silver trophies. In 1813, the military commander Mikhail Kutuzov was laid to rest here. 

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Peter the Great who worshipped the deeds of Alexander Nevsky ordered construction of the Saint Alexander Nevsky Monastery at the supposed site of the Grand Prince’s Neva battle with the Swedes. Later it became known that the battle actually took place higher up the Neva stream, near the junction with Izhora River, while the nearby lands were the site of another battle, in which Alexander’s son, Prince Andrei, also defeated the Swedes.

 Nevertheless a huge monastery with a school of theology and divinity, a big garden and an inn for pilgrims was built. At the end of the 18th century, the Church of the Virgin of Consolation of All Sorrows and the Holy Trinity Cathedral were consecrated and the remains of the Russian saint prince were transferred here. In the burial vault of St. Petersburg’s oldest temple-the Church of Annunciation-Peter the Great’s sister Natalia and his little son Peter were put to rest. Pushkin’s grandfather Osip Hannibal, the first Russian Field Marshal Boris Sheremetev and scientist Mikhail Lomonosov were buried on the grounds of the Lazarevskoye Cemetery. Composers Mikhail Glinka and Petr Chaikovsky, writers Nikolai Karamzin and Fedor Dostoyevsky were buried at the Tikhvinskoye Cemetery.

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The first St. Isaac’s Church was very simple, basically a log-house decorated with a spire made by the Dutch master Harman van Boles who also made the spire of Peter and Paul Cathedral. St. Isaac’s Church was one of St. Petersburg’s main temples, and Peter the Great married his second wife Catherine here. When the church fell into disrepair, it was decided that a new one, this time made from stone and closer to Neva, should be built. That decision was fateful as the river flooded often and eroded the soil, so that the church sunk and was dismantled. 

Construction of the third St. Isaac’s Cathedral began in the time of Catherine the Great and was completed by Paul I. In his desire to act in defiance of his mother Paul went too far, personally interfering with construction and the result was ridiculous. Paul’s son, Alexander I, decided to rebuild the cathedral and the design competition was won by the young Frenchman August de Montferrand. He spent the next 40 years building the cathedral and died shortly after finishing his work. The magnificent decoration of the cathedral — the sculptures, the bas-reliefs, mosaics, frescos and stained glass — made a great impression on the residents. 

Today, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is primarily a museum and church services take place rarely on extraordinary occasions. The main tourist attraction is the colonnade, which during the White Nights season is open all night, until sunrise.

Ticket office: 10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

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The Church of the Saviour on Blood, otherwise known as the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, was built on the spot where on March 1, 1881 the People’s Will revolutionary Ignaty Grinevitsky mortally wounded Emperor Alexander II. The new Emperor Alexander III personally selected the designs suggested by the architects and chose the project presented by Baltic German architect Alfred Parland and Orthodox Abbot Ignaty. They wanted the church to be stylised to look like the old churches of Kostroma and Yaroslavl, with time-consuming finishings; the 7,000 square metre (75,300 sq ft) mosaic alone, designed by Russian artists Viktor Vasnetsov and Mikhail Nesterov, took more than ten years to complete. 

In the years of the Leningrad Siege, the building was used as a morgue, and later as a warehouse of theatre stage sets and a vegetable storeroom. In 1961, the workers accidentally found an entire German landmine weighing 150 kilograms (330 pounds) in the church’s central cupola. In 1970, the Soviet leadership decided to turn the Church of the Saviour on Blood into a museum and so began the many years of restoration. In 2004, the Metropolitan bishop of St. Petersburg held a liturgical service here; the church, however, remains a museum.