The construction of Church of the Deposition of the Robe was begun in 1484 by masters from Pskov, most likely by the same group of architects who built the adjacent Cathedral of the Annunciation.
The church was built on the site of a previous church, built by Jonah Metropolitan of Moscow in 1451. The name of the church, variously translated as the Church of the Virgin's Robe, The Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe, The Church of the Veil or simply Church of the Deposition, is said to refer to a festival dating from the 5th century AD, celebrating when the robe of the Virgin Mary was taken from Palestine to Constantinople, where it protected the city from being conquered. For example, tradition says that during the Rus'-Byzantine War of 860 the patriarch placed the Virgin's Robe into the sea, causing a storm that destroyed the invading Rus' ships.
A four-level iconostasis, created by Nazary Istomin Savin in 1627, has been preserved in the church, and has frescoes painted by Ivan Borisov, Sidor Pospeev and Semyon Abramov in 1644. The church itself was built in the traditional Early Russian style. As with the Cathedral of the Annunciation, the intricate interior detail and ornamentation were characteristic of the Russian architecture of this period.
Originally, the church served as the private chapel of the Patriarch of Moscow, but during the mid-17th century it was taken over by the Russian royal family. The church was badly damaged in a fire in 1737 (the same fire that cracked the Tsar Bell).
Today, the church also houses a display of wood sculpture from the 14th to 19th century.References:
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.