Saint Isaac's Cathedral

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Isaac's Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in Saint Petersburg. The church on St Isaac's Square was ordered by Tsar Alexander I, to replace an earlier Rinaldiesque structure, and was the fourth consecutive church standing at this place. A specially appointed commission examined several designs, including that of the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand (1786?1858), who had studied in the atelier of Napoleon's designer, Charles Percier. Montferrand's design was criticised by some members of the commission for the dry and allegedly boring rhythm of its four identical pedimented octastyle porticos. It was also suggested that despite gigantic dimensions, the edifice would look squat and not very impressive. The emperor, who favoured the ponderous Empire style of architecture, had to step in and solve the dispute in Montferrand's favour.

The cathedral took 40 years to construct, under Montferrand's direction, from 1818 to 1858. Under the Soviet government, the building was stripped of religious trappings. In 1931, it was turned into the Antireligious Museum, The dove sculpture was removed, and replaced by a Foucault pendulum. On April 12, 1931, the first public demonstration of the Foucault pendulum was held to visualize Copernicus?s theory. In 1937, the museum was transformed into the museum of the Cathedral, and former collections were transferred to the Museum of the History of Religion (located in the Kazan Cathedral).

During World War II, the dome was painted over in gray to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft. On its top, in the skylight, a geodesical intersection point was placed, with the objective of aiding in the location of enemy cannon. With the fall of communism, the museum was removed and regular worship activity has resumed in the cathedral, but only in the left-hand side chapel. The main body of the cathedral is used for services on feast days only. Today the church is still a museum.

The exterior is faced with gray and pink stone, and features a total of 112 red granite columns with Corinthian capitals, each hewn and erected as a single block: 48 at ground level, 24 on the rotunda of the uppermost dome, 8 on each of four side domes, and 2 framing each of four windows. The rotunda is encircled by a walkway accessible to tourists. 24 statues stand on the roof, and another 24 on top of the rotunda.

The cathedral's main dome rises 101.5 metres and is plated with pure gold. The dome is decorated with twelve statues of angels by Josef Hermann. Bronze doors are covered in reliefs, patterned after the celebrated doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Suspended underneath the peak of the dome is a sculpted dove representing the Holy Spirit. Internal features such as columns,pilasters, floor, and statue of Montferrand are composed of multicolored granites and marblesgathered from all parts of Russia. The iconostasis is framed by eight columns of semiprecious stone: six of malachite and two smaller ones of lazurite. The four pediments are also richly sculpted.

The interior was originally decorated with scores of paintings by Karl Bryullov and other great Russian masters of the day. When these paintings began to deteriorate due to the cold, damp conditions inside the cathedral, Montferrand ordered them to be painstakingly reproduced asmosaics, a technique introduced in Russia by Mikhail Lomonosov. This work was never completed.

References:

Comments

Your name


Pedro said 4 years ago
Casualmente ou providencialmente caí aqui na frente desta catedral. O mundo fica inexoravelmente cada dia menor. Moro a 12.000 km distantes, cidade de Patos de Minas, Brasil. Aqui ao meu lado na mesa do meu computador tenho uma foto desta catedral que minha filha em 2010 trouxe de São Petersburgo...:)


Details

Founded: 1818-1858
Category: Religious sites in Russia

Rating

4.9/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Igor (2 years ago)
Without a doubt one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Europe, similar in size and overall style to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In both cases, the observation deck is an inseparable part of the experience! Beautiful views of the city!
Hugo Philippe (3 years ago)
This cathedral is close to the Hermitage, and has some peculiarities compared to the other big churches in Saint Petersburg. Not only is it a museum, but also the architecture is different. The columns outside each weigh over 100 metric tons, and you can only really appreciate their size when you stand right next to them. Another thing is the dome build with a steel support. If you purchase the ticket for the inside, you can see how the church was build and what techniques where used. You will also be able to admire the artwork and gold plating, typical for Russian churches. If you pay a little extra, you can climb up to the colonnade on top of the church and enjoy a wonderful view all over the city. The tickets are only valid for the day of purchase though!
Jared Bowen (3 years ago)
Outstanding experience! Two areas to visit here: the column and the museum. The column is about 400 steps up and has a 360 degree view of the city. The views are truly incredible! The museum has a large collection of canvas paintings of the major religious figures and the walls and ceilings are painted in beautiful detail. Truly exceptional experience with views of the city and a cultural/historic landmark.
SEBASTIAN'S SCRIPT (3 years ago)
Stayed at the W Hotel across the street from this magical building. This was a corner shot. Check out my YouTube channel; Sebastian's Script for detailed video of interior. Favorite city period, this is just another jewel.
Sandro Leo (3 years ago)
Quiet November evening. Fresh and free, every step echoes in my heart, and the majestic view of St. Isaac's Cathedral makes my every cell tremble. It can not be put into words, it is not to draw in the picture, these need to breathe and experience this moment of happiness! Hello, Peter! I can feel you at your feet!
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Holy Trinity Column

The Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc is a Baroque monument built in 1716–1754 in honour of God. The main purpose was a spectacular celebration of Catholic Church and faith, partly caused by feeling of gratitude for ending a plague, which struck Moravia between 1713 and 1715. The column was also understood to be an expression of local patriotism, since all artists and master craftsmen working on this monument were Olomouc citizens, and almost all depicted saints were connected with the city of Olomouc in some way. The column is the biggest Baroque sculptural group in the Czech Republic. In 2000 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

The column is dominated by gilded copper sculptures of the Holy Trinity accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel on the top and the Assumption of the Virgin beneath it.

The base of the column, in three levels, is surrounded by 18 more stone sculptures of saints and 14 reliefs in elaborate cartouches. At the uppermost stage are saints connected with Jesus’ earth life – his mother’s parents St. Anne and St. Joachim, his foster-father St. Joseph, and St. John the Baptist, who was preparing his coming – who are accompanied by St. Lawrence and St. Jerome, saints to whom the chapel in the Olomouc town hall was dedicated. Three reliefs represent the Three theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Love.

Below them, the second stage is dedicated to Moravian saints St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who came to Great Moravia to spread Christianity in 863, St. Blaise, in whose name one of the main Olomouc churches is consecrated, and patrons of neighbouring Bohemia St. Adalbert of Prague and St. John of Nepomuk, whose following was very strong there as well.

In the lowest stage one can see the figures of an Austrian patron St. Maurice and a Bohemian patron St. Wenceslas, in whose names two important Olomouc churches were consecrated, another Austrian patron St. Florian, who was also viewed as a protector against various disasters, especially fire, St. John of Capistrano, who used to preach in Olomouc, St. Anthony of Padua, a member of the Franciscan Order, which owned an important monastery in Olomouc, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a patron of students. His sculpture showed that Olomouc was very proud of its university. Reliefs of all twelve apostles are placed among these sculptures.

The column also houses a small chapel inside with reliefs depicting Cain's offering from his crop, Abel's offering of firstlings of his flock, Noah's first burnt offering after the Flood, Abraham's offering of Isaac and of a lamb, and Jesus' death. The cities of Jerusalem and Olomouc can be seen in the background of the last mentioned relief.