The Naval cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Kronstadt is a Russian Orthodox cathedral built in 1903–1913 as the main church of the Baltic Fleet and dedicated to all fallen seamen. The cathedral was closed in 1929, and was converted to a cinema, a House of Officers (1939) and a museum of the Navy (1980). The Russian Orthodox Church reinstalled the cross on the main dome in 2002 and served the first Divine Liturgy in the cathedral in 2005, but since then it is opened only on special occasions.
The first Orthodox church in Kronstadt was built in 1728–31. The wooden church remained the main place of worship in Russia"s largest naval base until 1840, when the counterweights balancing the church bells broke through the rotting floors and seriously damaged the belltower structure. Emperor Nicholas I personally ordered the shutdown of the unsafe church and it was demolished in 1841. For the next half century worship was performed in temporary locations. A temporary wooden church built in 1861 was inadequate for the ten thousand Kronstadt seamen from the start.
Construction management, extremely centralised until the reign of Alexander II, was gradually decentralized in the 1880s–1890s. The right to initiate individual construction projects passed from the Emperor himself to imperial ministers and department chiefs. In 1896 admiral Pavel Tyrtov, director of the Imperial Russian Navy, started preparations to build a cathedral in Kronstadt in earnest. Tyrtov insisted that the cathedral be built on the site identified nearly two centuries earlier by Peter I and reasoned that it should not cost more than the new Kharkiv cathedral (200,000 roubles).
October 27, 1901 the 14,000 strong garrison of Kronstadt was summoned for the groundbreaking on Anchor Square. Earthwork and work on concrete foundations and a granite base continued through 1902; the walls were laid down in a massive ceremony May 8, 1903 with the Emperor in attendance. Despite social unrest that culminated in the Russian revolution of 1905, the cathedral was structurally complete in 1907. Anyway numerous amendments and changes were implemented by spring of 1909.
The cathedral operated as such for only 16 years. October 14, 1929 it was closed and valuables were nationalized to state treasury. A small portion of these relics were displayed at the Museum of Navy and the Russian Museum. In 1930—1931 the cathedral was defaced: its crosses and bells were toppled over and hauled to the foundries. One bell, weighing 4,726 kilograms (second largest) remained in place — either due to technical difficulties or deliberately, as an emergency alarm signal. Internal marble items, including the iconostasis and the memorial boards with names of the fallen seamen, were ripped out, broken or cut and reused for ordinary construction needs. A small number of memorial boards ended up in the Museum of Navy and were 'written off' in 1970.
In 1932 the cathedral hall was converted to a cinema, frivolously named New Star, but soon renamed to more appropriate Maxim Gorky; in 1939 the cinema was upgraded to a House of the Officers (akin to a community center) of Kronstadt garrison. During World War II it was closed; the dome received three direct artillery hits. Post-war 'reconstruction' of 1953—54 finally converted the cathedral to a functioning concert hall. This time, the builders added a suspended ceiling that isolated the hall from the dome; it remained in place as at end of 2007. Reduction of military personnel in 1960s made the concert hall redundant; in 1980 the cathedral reopened as a branch of the Central Museum of Navy.
The Church attempted to repossess the cathedral since 1990s. In 2005 the first Divine Liturgy in held the Naval Cathedral since 1929. As of September 2008 the cathedral is operational, but it is opened only on special occasions. The cathedral is undergoing extensive repairs and improvements, and was reconsecrated in April 2012. In his remarks, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said the cathedral looked 'better than 100 years ago.' Repairs are scheduled to be completed in 2013, in time for the cathedral"s centennial anniversary.References:
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