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St. Petersburg is distinguished by numerous beautiful buildings. Each of them attracts many people every day! The one of the unique masterpieces of architecture in St. Petersburg is The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. This incredibly beautiful building attracts people’s attention by colorful design, its relief, and its impressive size. The history of the church is quite interesting. It is rich in both tragic and happy events.
The idea of making that building was born after the tragic events of March 1, 1881. It happened at the Catherine Canal Embankment. There was an explosion perpetrated by the revolutionary Grinevitsky. Emperor Alexander II lost both his legs and a few hours later he died. The next day after the accident it was decided to build a church here which was supposed to become a memorial to the ruler.
There was a Council’s meeting in March 2. Alexander III, the son of Alexander II, suggested to build a church dedicated to his father’s death. However, it would involve lots of works, so the decision was made in favor of the chapel. The main architect was L. N. Benoit. The sponsors were the merchants Gromov and Militin. Everything was done by mid-April. The chapel was consecrated and it was ready to carry a memorial service. It did not “live” long. Soon the cathedral replaced it. The place where it was proposed to build the church was immediately cordoned off. There were around-the-clock guards. The chapel was moved to Konyushennaya ploshad (Konyushennaya square), and then it was completely destroyed.
Despite the fact that the tomb of Alexander II was built on the bank of the Catherine Canal, Emperor Alexander III did not forget his desire to build here a church. Right after the tragedy, a competition of designers was announced. They supposed to create a project of new Orthodox church. The challenge was really interesting so many famous architects wanted to participate the contest. 26 applications were submitted. All of them were anonymous – it was a proviso of that competition. In the first round 8 best works were selected from others. Among the best ones were projects by A. I. Tomishko, I. S. Kitner, and A.L. Gouna, and L. N. Benoit. They were presented to Alexander III. Surprisingly, none of them impressed the emperor. He wanted the temple to be built as a model of Russian architecture of the XVII century. One of the main emperor’s wishes was a pedestal right at the place of the tragedy. Then they appointed second contest. The number of participants increased to 31. And again no one was pleased the emperor. Only after a huge number of developments the joint work of the architect Alfred Parland and Archimandrite Ignatius of Trinity-Sergius Hermitage was chosen. Only after a several years of the transformation the project was finally approved in 1887. Professor D. Grimm was a participant of that difficult work.
At first, the idea of A. Parland was about the creation of the church with five domes. There supposed to be the bell tower on the other side of the Catherine Canal. The belfry and the church should be combined by a gallery in a form of a covered bridge over the canal. Also they wanted to build a number of other building on the church’s territory. There should be some galleries of the regions that made donations for the construction. Moreover, in these galleries had to be a museum in memory of Alexander II. The architect wanted to highlight the place of emperor’s death by the canopy with four columns styled in traditional Russian architecture.
The head of the Commission of the construction of the cathedral was earl Vladimir. The work was under the control of many famous architects such as D. I. Grimm, R. A. Gёdike, E. I. Gibert, R. B. Bernhard, I. V. Shtrom. The construction began with uncompleted projects, which was completely developed through the work. Archimandrite Ignatius offered to name the Cathedral after the one of the major biblical events - Bright Resurrection of Christ. The first stone was placed in the foundation of the church in 1883. The new emperor's family and ordinary people attended the celebration of the construction’s beginning.
The first done thing before the start of the construction was the extraction of the granite slab and cobble-stones from the bridge. There was a blood spot on them, which appeared as a result of the Emperor's wounds. A part of the cast-iron fence around the place was also taken away. All these things were placed in the chapel, which was located in Konushenaya square at that time. The cathedral’s building was very long and incredibly difficult. Problems appeared in early beginning. The main problem was the looseness of the soil due to the fact that there was a river nearby. The only possible option to solve the problem was to install the piles. 3 rows of piles were built in the close distance of the Catherine Canal. Also, builders put some clay between them. It was supposed to be some kind of damp-course. Small wooden bridges were built under the walls of the building. And again there was a clay between them. Clay protected the building pit from channel water and ground water. This technology allows to create a protective barrier against the water. In addition, it significantly strengthens the foundation pit for the future building.
Parland decided to use a new technology for the time. He put the building not in a pile foundation, but on the concrete pad. The walls and pillars are made of brick. The faced is decorated with granite, and the rest outlook of the building is decorated with special bricks which was brought specially from Saxony. The construction of the cathedral was carried out with the latest innovations in science and technology of that time. It was planned to finish the cathedral by 1890. But this did not happen. The builders made only vaults and arches by 1893. The roof of the cathedral was made of a metal; domes were also based on metal material. All domes and crosses were made in a factory in Moscow. It was decided to cover the head plates with enameled copper for the first time. They chose the brightest colors for the design: yellow, blue, white, and green.
It was decided to decorate the facades with mosaics. However, there weren’t any masters of mosaic art among architects and builders. So again another competition was announced. The participants were not only Russian masters, but German and Italian specialists. The A. Frolov’s factory won. The commission considered that this private company was distinguished by high quality of its products, short making time and the main thing – their mosaic had light weight. Because of the mosaic, all work was carried out for more than 10 years.
The façade is decorated with a special dark red granite planks. There are images of “good deals” of Alexander II. There are 20 pictures on the façade of the building.
The cross was raised on the main dome in 1897. Its height is about 4.5 meters. A special event was dedicated to the cross. Metropolitan of St. Petersburg's Ladodsiky Palladiy consecrated the cross and then the same day there was a big celebratory prayer service.
Two years later they put the bells into the belfry. The bells were made in Finland. A special part in their manufacture took Rostov’s Aristarchus named Israel (he was really trusted by Alexander III). The main bell weighed more than 1,000 pounds. There were also three smaller bells and some tiny bells.
It has been said that one of the conditions for the construction of the temple was the Alexander II wish. He wanted to highlight the place of tragedy where died his father Alexander II. Parland’s project involved the installation of the stone. It was supposed to be a true masterpiece of stone art. By the time of the consecration of the cathedral the installation wasn’t in its place, but work on it was almost completed.
The interior of the temple is truly luxurious. Not only architects, painters, sculptors worked on it. If you inside the cathedral, you can’t stop admiring. It’s like you are in a fairytale, in some magical place. The windows in the cathedral used to be made of colored glass. They were blue at the top, and transparent at the bottom. This design created the illusion of good weather outside the temple.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is called "Mosaic Museum". There is no coincidence. The mosaic, interior is full of it, occupies more than 7000 square meters. The history of the church showed that mosaic interior served it in difficult times. Not only the walls are decorated with mosaic, but the dome space is also decorated with it. Images on the walls are about biblical scenes. An interesting feature of the temple is the Western Wall, located by the waterfront area, where the Emperor was wounded. It is devoted to Alexander III. The window is framed with art-works called "Guardian Angel" and "The Saint earl Alexander Nevsky." The images represent the two warriors who are an honor guard.
Finishing materials were produced in the best Russian and foreign factories. In particular, the iconostasis and mosaic marble floor were brought from Genoa. The iconostasis is made according Parland’s project. T was finished only in 1907. When you look at this masterpiece for the first time you can’t believe that it is made entirely of marble. It seems that all patterns are carved from wood. It took more than 12 years to finish the decoration of koits. The Royal Doors are made of precious materials. Jewelers from Moscow made the decoration of them.
For several years builders worked on the creation of a unique mosaic floor. Its design is made up of pieces of 5 mm wide marble. Lots of different colors were used. To protect the floor, it was decided to cover it with carpets.
During the construction of the cathedral architects used some new techniques that they didn’t use before. For example, a lightning rod was made. It is grounded on the southern and northern sides of the bell tower. The lightning rod comes from the dome (the cross) and from the central part of the belfry.
There was a unique heating system in the temple. It was a steam system. There were several channels within the walls. They allowed the warm air from the steam boiler, located in the basement, to penetrate in the room of the cathedral. The walls inside the cathedral had square holes, framed with special decorative bars. Exactly through these holes the heat came into the main hall of the cathedral. Fans were under the benches of stone, which were located along the walls.
The heating system was also inside the domes. In the largest dome the heat was supplied through the steam pipe made of copper. It passed through the large apse and completed in a cast-iron battery. The system was made perfectly. Every detail was on its place. The smoke from boilers went through a specially constructed boiler building, located in the Mikhailovsky Garden. The basement of the Cathedral and the building was connected by the pipeline. In the same building there was a special container for oil.
It’s important to note the architect's decision about the drainage systems creating. On the roof of the cathedral special chutes were built. Through them water and snow came in special bowls in the corners of the roof. Then all the water flowed down the copper pipes and faded away in the pavement.
There was another interesting system inside the temple - a system of condensate diversion. The architect spent his valuable time on this important work. Under the windows he placed special containers for liquid, formed by condensation. From these tanks all the water came into the same pipeline.
In the attic space there was a special equipment for a cradle which helped to do different kinds of work such as washing windows, walls, changing light bulbs in huge chandeliers. These facts proved that Parland gave his soul to this project. He paid his attention even on such small things. The lighting inside the temple was electric. It was new luxury technology for that time. There were more than 1,500 lamas inside the church. There were three types of lightning: a holiday lightning, ordinary lightning, and lightning for workers. During ordinary church services they turned on 6 large chandeliers, 4 sconces, and 4 lanterns. During the large Orthodox holidays, they turned on the ceremonial lighting. The lighting focused on images (icons) and altar apses.
The long-awaited consecration of the cathedral took place on August 19, 1907. The ceremony was attended by the family of the emperor Nicholas II, the great earls, representatives of departments, ministries and the higher clergy people. Ordinary people were not allowed to visit the celebration.
In St. Petersburg, there were only 2 cathedrals on full state support - Isaac's Cathedral and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The last one wasn’t for ordinary people. There was a preaching service, as well as the worships dedicated to the death of Alexander II. In 1917, state funding was over. The church’s abbot Peter Leporsky was forced to ask people for help. The temple was never a parish one, but in 1920 it changed. Through the years the church belonged to the Old Believers and to Josephite trends of Russian Church.
In 1930 the temple was closed. It was near the edge for several times. It could be destroyed. In 1938 it was decided to start to disassemble the church piece by piece. However, the start of the Great Patriotic War prevented it. Such a large-scale construction of high-strength was needed. During the war years there was a morgue for dead people.
After the war, the building was given for rent to the small opera house. They which used it as a storage room.
There was a strange event in 1961. People found a huge explosive projectile inside the main dome. Apparently, in one of the bombings during the war, it got inside through the arches of the dome and stayed there. Incredibly dangerous work carried out in the autumn of 1961. Climbers and sappers removed the projectile risking their lives. They took it away the city and destroyed it. In 1970, the church passed to the Museum of "St. Isaac's Cathedral." Since that time, it had a new life. Immediately they planned to renovate facades and internal decoration. In 1997 there was a "second birth" of the cathedral. After 90 years after the first ceremony of the consecration it was opened again. Since that time all people can visit it. Now the cathedral is conducted church services.
If you are in St. Petersburg, you should visit this incredible church! The incredible beauty of mosaic masterpieces, rich external decoration stand the temple out of millions others! Visiting it – is a must.