St Sampson's Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in St. Petersburg. Rumor has it that it was in St. Sampson's Cathedral that Catherine II of Russia secretly married Grigory Potemkin in 1774.
The original wooden church was built in 1710 to honor Sampson the Hospitable. It was on the feast day of that saint that Peter the Great defeated Charles XII of Sweden in the Battle of Poltava. The existing church was built under Empress Anna to a design by Pietro Antonio Trezzini. It was consecrated in 1740. The tent-like belltower was built at a later date. The original church had only one dome; the four subsidiary domes were added in 1761.
The church was considerably renovated as part of the battle's bicentennial celebrations. A Rastrelliesque chapel was constructed on the grounds, and Peter I's address to his soldiers at Poltava was inscribed on the wall. It was at that time that the church was elevated to cathedral status. The parish was disbanded by the Soviets in the 1930s, and the building was converted into a warehouse. It was restored in the late 1970s and reopened in 2000 as a museum attached to St. Isaac's Cathedral.
The grave yard which surrounds the church has been filled for centuries. Some of the city's first foreign architects, including Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond and Domenico Trezzini, were buried there. The tomb of Artemy Volynsky and Pyotr Yeropkin (both executed exactly 31 years after the Poltava victory) is made by Alexander Opekushin (1885). The statue of Peter the Great in front of the cathedral was designed by Mark Antokolsky. It was removed by the Soviets and restored in 2003 as part of the city's tercentenary celebrations.
On 5th February 2017 the cathedral was transferred from the state to the Russian Orthodox Church at a ceremony in the cathedral.
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).