The medieval Collegiate Church of Our Lady of Mantes is a large and historically important Catholic church constructed between c.1155 and 1350. Its grandeur, its quirky design and its strong associations with the Capetian dynasty make the church particularly interesting to architectural historians.
Construction of the present church began some time between 1155 and 1170, funded by income from the Commune and by the generous support of the Crown. Building work started with the raising and reinforcing of the ground along the north of the site, where the land slopes steeply down to the river. The design was on a grand scale but with a relatively simple plan, initially featuring neither transepts nor radiating chapels (though the latter were added later). The nave was completed up to the gallery vault level by around 1190. The high vaults were in place by around 1200 with the roof completed by 1240. The western facade was completed up to the base of the towers some time before 1225. The western towers are mainly 13th century work, except for the upper parts of the north tower, which was only completed in the late 15th century. Both towers had become dangerously unstable by the mid 19th century and were substantially rebuilt to a simpler design by the local architect Alphonse Durand. Its proximity to a strategic river crossing meant that the church was at the centre of heavy aerial bombardment following the allied invasion of France in 1944. In spite of this the church survived WWII relatively unscathed, even though most of the surrounding town was flattened.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.