Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Moscow, Russia

One of the most imposing and controversial buildings in Russia, the resurrected Cathedral of Christ the Saviour has had a short but turbulent history. It was originally commissioned after the defeat of Napoleon, but work did not begin on its construction until 1839. Designed by the great St. Petersburg architect Konstantin Ton, who was also responsible for the Grand Kremlin Palace and the Kremlin Armoury and whose church designs pioneered the Byzantine-revival style, the cathedral was erected, for maximum effect, on the embankment only a few minutes' walk from the Kremlin. Sadly, this entailed the destruction of the medieval Alekseevskiy Convent, a course of events which lends an intriguing irony to the cathedral's own fate.

The enormous - and extremely expensive - cathedral was eventually consecrated in 1883, and its vast copper domes dominated the Moscow skyline. However, the cathedral had taken almost as much time to build and to decorate as it would remain standing in its original incarnation. For fairly obvious reasons, it was singled out by the Soviet government for destruction and, in 1931, blown to pieces to make way for a proposed Palace of Soviets, one of the most influential pieces of architecture never to be built. The design approved by Stalin would have stood over 400 meters high, with a vast statue of Lenin at its peak, and, although it was never built, the blueprint was nonetheless the forefather of the Seven Sisters, the magnificent Stalinist skyscrapers that lower over central Moscow. Only the foundations had been laid when the Second World War brought an abrupt end to such an ambitious project, and Stalin's successor, Nikita Khruschev, had no stomach for such grandiose displays of hubris. The project was abandoned, and the site turned over to become an open-air swimming pool, the largest in the world, which was kept at a temperature of 27°C all year round. The result was a thick covering of fog that shrouded a number of gruesome deaths (and murders) among the swimmers.

The symbolic significance of the site was reaffirmed after the fall of the Soviet Union, when ambitious Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov joined forces with the Orthodox Church to resurrect the cathedral in a $360-million reconstruction project. Completed in 2000, the new cathedral is loosely based on Ton's original designs, but constructed with modern building materials and fitted out with all mod-cons including air conditioning, telecommunications facilities, elevators and underground parking. Visitors can only see the cathedral as part of an organized tour, one of the highlights of which is the panoramic view from the 40-meter-high observation platform.

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Founded: 1839-1883
Category: Religious sites in Russia

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Florian Lemke (8 months ago)
This church has an amazing view point in the heart of Moscow. You will be able to get up by elevator and go down by stairs. This place is not recommended if you are in a wheelchair. Even though they bring you up with an elevator there are more steps to climb.
BLUE SEA SALT (18 months ago)
Welcome to the biggest orthodox church of Russia. The entry to the church is free. The observation deck is charged at 400rub as on 2021 which includes elevator facility to the top only. The lady outside the church selling tickets is very friendly and helpful. The church is definitely a piece of architectural symbol. A finely crafted,well maintained structure. Amazing roof height and a brilliant view to the city from its four observation terraces. From religious perspective it is definitely very calming for people of all ages to visit and feel connected to god.
Peter Gautam (2 years ago)
Go early in the morning for great iconic views of central Moscow from the bridge in front of it.
Metehan Demir (2 years ago)
Very nice place to visit. You can take good photos. Outside and inside the building is amazing. I highly recommend!
leonard Hurley (2 years ago)
A short few years ago I went with a group from Ireland on a nine night trip to Russia including Moscow and St Petersburg. Russian writers, composers and its rich and varied history always fascinated me. I had to wait almost fifty years to make this visit. There were many highlights including beautiful churches, palaces, sightseeing trips and cultural events. But what left the most memorable mark was the obvious devotion of the ordinary people in the stunning beauty of Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow and the many other churches we visited in Russia.
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