Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

Ruslan Shamukov/TASS

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.