Church of the Savior on Blood

Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction 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. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. 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 and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.

In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.

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Founded: 1883-1907
Category: Religious sites in Russia

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4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Zahid Iqbal (3 years ago)
This Church is one of the must visit place in St. Peters burg. This Church was built in memorial of Alexander II as he was assassinated at this place. If you are more interested of all the history and religion, then definitely recommend to go with a guided tour. In front of the Cathedral is a little marketplace offering different souvenir's and products
Anja Matthes (3 years ago)
The most beautiful part of this church were the millions of mosaics inside it. None of the pictures seemed to be painted. Every inch of the church is plastered in beautifully colored mosaics. Truly amazing.
John dCosta (PROTraveler.shop) (3 years ago)
This Church is one of the must visit place in St. Petersburg. This Church was built in memorial of Alexander II as he was assassinated at this place. There's tour guide available inside the Church in 10 different languages and it's very affordable. The entrance fee is less than $5(350 RUB). Unlike other religious places, there's no specific dress code to get in but it's recommended to dress in a modest way in order to pay respect.
Vasilis Kos. (3 years ago)
An outstanding church and monument of the Orthodox Christianity! A real miracle of art! It's amazing, both on the outside and the inside of it! But it's absolutely unacceptable, the fact that it's open as a museum too! You have to buy a ticket to get into it, and of course you can't pray, or light a candle, because simply there are no candles in it! This things happen only in the Vatican!
Roberta Coulter (3 years ago)
One of the most beautiful & elegant buildings/church I've ever been in. Reading the history behind this and how it was constructed is so intriguing. If you are ever fortunate enough to visit here, plan several hours, maybe even days to absorb it all.
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