The Catholic Church of St. Catherine is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Russia. On December 12, 1705 Peter the Great signed a charter that would allow the construction of Catholic churches in Russia. The church itself (though not the building with which it is today associated) was founded in 1710.
In 1738 Empress Anna granted permission for the church to erect a structure on Nevsky Prospekt, the main street of St. Petersburg. The project, however, met continued problems. The initial designs were based on work by Domenico Trezzini, the architect who designed the Peter and Paul Cathedral and was then deceased. His designs, however, were abandoned in 1751. In the 1760s, the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe drew designs for the church, but he returned to France in 1775 and it fell to the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi to complete the church. On October 7, 1783, the church was completed. Because the Empress at the time was Catherine II of Russia (also known as Catherine the Great), the church was named after St. Catherine of Alexandria.
St. Catherine's is connected with many important personalities of Imperial Russia. In 1798, Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland was buried at the church (in 1938, after 140 years in the crypt, he was returned to Poland), as was, in 1813, the French general Jean Victor Marie Moreau. One parishioner of the church was Auguste de Montferrand, who would go on to build the Saint Isaac's Cathedral. Auguste de Montferrand married in the church and later had a wake here before his wife took his coffin back to France. Even in Imperial Russia, several well-known aristocrats had accepted Catholicism.
The church was run by different monastic orders in its history. Originally run by Franciscans in 1800 Emperor Paul I turned the church over to the Jesuits. In 1815, the church was run by Dominicans, and finally in 1892, the church ceased to be governed by an order and fell under the auspices of Diocesan priests, though a Dominican community remained at the church. On the eve of the
Under the Soviets, the activities of the church were repressed. The rector of St. Catherine's Church, Monsignor Konstantin Budkevich, was shot in the Lubyanka Prison on Easter Sunday, 1923. The church, however, remained open until 1938. In 1938 the church was closed and ransacked. Artifacts, icons and books from the church's splendid library were thrown out to the street. The church was further damaged by a fire in 1947, that destroyed the internal decorations of the church and its organ.
For 30 years, the building was used only as storage space for the nearby 'Museum of History of Religion and of Atheism' located in former Our Lady of Kazan Church. In late 1970s plans were made to rebuild the church as an organ hall for the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. These plans were never completed, however, as the building was again ravaged by fire in 1984. Instead the government used the building as offices and apartments.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Catholic Church in Russia began to operate once more in the early 1990s. The first stage of restoration was finished by October 1992, with a temporary altar in place for worship. In October 1998 a Chapel of the Annunciation was opened. The main altar was completed and blessed in 2000. The restoration of most of the church was completed in 2003, and the central gates were opened.Restoration of the interior of the church is ongoing.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.