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.

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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

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User Reviews

Igor (36 days 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 (2 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 (2 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 (2 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 (3 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!
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