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:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.