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

Website (optional)


Pedro said 2 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 (4 months 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 (5 months 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 (5 months 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 (5 months 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 (6 months 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

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.