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

Sethabutra Viraseranee (2 months ago)
Very beautiful church. I don't know how to explain but it was breath taking and so beautiful. Outside would be a large local market where you can enjoy shopping and some great coffee and ice cream.
Paulo Gustavo (2 months ago)
What and unique place! Stunning in all directions. Make sure to go inside and not only take pictures from the outside. Believe it or not some people forget that. Enjoy it to the MAX!
Eurico Reynolds (3 months ago)
Such a beautiful Church, probably my favourite one in all the World. All the walls are covered by icons made of small pieces of tiles, the details are amazing. Been there 2 years ago but it seams it was just yesterday. Really want to go back and visit the amazing place
Akash Senjaliya (7 months ago)
This is the type of architecture we expected to see here in Russia and it amazed us both inside and out. It is a pleasant walk along the canal and we saw a man feeding sparrows on his hand, which made our day. A simple pleasure. There are many stalls lined along the canal walkway selling Russian Dolls, Faberge Eggs, tat, etc. A must see when ih this Fabulous City.
Kavan Luke (8 months ago)
A very beautiful cathedral with great art! It is one of my favorite Russian landmarks that I have visited! If you are in St. Petersburg, go visit! You won't regret it!
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