The church of St. Thomas is the main Lutheran church of the city since its Cathedral became Catholic again after the annexation of the town by France in 1681. The site on which the current church stands was used as a place of worship under the patronage of Thomas the Apostle as early as the sixth century. In the ninth century, Bishop Adelochus established a magnificent church with adjoining school, however both burned down in 1007, and again in 1144. In 1196, construction began on the façade of a new, fortress-like building with an imposing steeple, built in the Roman style. Interrupted several times, the building work was completed in 1521, in the style of the late Gothic.
In 1524, the church converted to the Protestant faith, a status which it maintained despite annexation of Alsace to the Catholic France. It still administers the primary and secondary schools École Saint-Thomas and Foyer Jean Sturm, as well as the Séminaire Protestant, a seminary located in the adjacent Baroque building.
The church is a five-naved hall church, the oldest on the territory of former south-west Germany. Inside it is approximately 65 metres long and 30 metres wide, with a height of 22m (30m under the late-Gothic cupola). There is a gallery on the left outer aisle, and chapels to the left and right of the apse.
The church is internationally renowned for its historic and musically-significant organs: the 1741 Silbermann organ, played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1778 and faithfully restored in 1979 by Alfred Kern; the French organist Louis Thiry recorded the Art of fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach on this organ. Another organ is the 1905 organ (installed in 1906) built by Fritz Haerpfer, following a design by Albert Schweitzer.
Monuments at the church date from between 1130 and 1850. Most famous are the richly decorated sarcophagus of Bishop Adelochus (1130) and the huge, late-Baroque mausoleum of Marshall Maurice de Saxe (1777), created by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. Among the many other remarkable monuments, the Renaissance tombstone of Nikolaus Roeder von Tiersberg (1510) is notable for its realistic depiction of his decaying corpse. Roeder had been the donor of the life-size Mount of Olives group of sculptures (1498) now to be seen inside Strasbourg Cathedral. Neoclassical sculptor Landolin Ohmacht is represented by two works, one of them dedicated to Jean-Frédéric Oberlin.
A late-Gothic representation of Saint Michael is, after the Saint Christopher in St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Wissembourg, the largest of its kind in France.
Of the medieval leaded windows, only the rose at the front of the church remains intact. In the nave, the upper parts of the windows are lavishly decorated with architectural and botanical motifs. The representations of saints that were originally found below were destroyed in the 16th century by Protestant iconoclasts. The choir windows are of a contemporary style.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.