Mästerby Church dates largely from the 13th century. The nave, choir and apse were built first, at the beginning of the century. In the middle of the same century, the tower was also built. The nave was made higher about a century later, and at this time both the nave and choir received vaulted ceilings. The church has remained relatively unaltered since the end of the Middle Ages. Only the sacristy is significantly later, added in 1790. New windows were also made in the 1860s.
The church is richly decorated with frescos internally. They range in period from the 13th to the 17th century. In the apse, some Romanesque paintings survive, notably a depicting of Mary, while some have been covered with other paintings in the 17th century. The vaults in the nave are decorated with frescos from the 14th century, and the walls of the nave furthermore decorated by the artist sometimes referred to as the Master of the Passion of Christ (15th century). Still other frescos, in the choir, probably date from the 16th century, while another set, again in the nave, is dated to 1633.
The baptismal font is from the 12th century, Romanesque in style and a work by the sculptor known by the assigned name Byzantios. The triumphal cross is locally made, dating from the 13th century. Other furnishings date from the time after the Reformation.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.