One of the most beautiful cathedrals in Russia. Church of the Savior on Blood has a long and troubled history. One could say it is a miracle that we can still go to St Petersburg and enjoy seeing it.
This Church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and it’s dedicated in his memory. In 1881, as Tsar Alexander’s carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. Bleeding heavily, the tsar was taken back to the Winter Palace where he died a few hours later.
Construction of the church began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907.
The architectural style used for this church could be called “romantic nationalism”. It more resembles Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow than any other church in St Petersburg. The Church contains over 7,500 square meters of mosaics (according to its restorers) more than any other church in the world. It was all recently restored after many years of decline and is simply a must see.
After the Communist Revolution of 1917, the Church was severely looted and damaged, it was almost destroyed because communists were claiming that God didn’t exist and that religion was created to brainwash the masses. Many other churches in St Petersburg weren’t so lucky though…
During the Second World War, when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the Church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat, from starvation and illness. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name, “Saviour on Potatoes”.
It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, it has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics.
If you have the chance – go visit, and don’t forget to take A LOT of film!