The present Basilica of San Pietro di Castello building dates from the 16th century, but a church has stood on the site since at least the 7th century. From 1451 to 1807, it was the city's cathedral church, though hardly playing the usual dominant role of a cathedral, as it was overshadowed by the 'state church' of San Marco, and inconveniently located.
During its history the church has undergone a number of alterations and additions by some of Venice's most prominent architects. In 1558 Andrea Palladio received his first commission in the city of Venice from the Patriarch Vincenzo Diedo to re-build the facade and interior of St Pietro, but Diedo's death delayed the project.
After St Mark's Basilica became Venice’s official cathedral (it had previously been the private church of the Doge), San Pietro fell into a state of disrepair. It was firebombed during the First World War and only through the efforts of conservation organisations has it been restored to its former state.
The church exhibits a muted facade compared to other Palladian designs in Venice. It features a prominent set of four engaged columns with Composite capitals supporting the main pediment and entablature. This is then flanked by a double broken pediment.
The church has a large dome which indicates the church's eccleasiastical importance, sharing an affinity with San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore both churches designed by Palladio. The dome is supported on a drum which has rectangular windows cut into it to let light into the building.
The church's campanile is one of the most precarious in Venice.
The building has a large central nave with Latin aisles. The transept crosses the church, separating the nave from the presbytery. The crossing point is capped by a large dome. The Vendramin Chapel, located off the left aisle, was designed by the baroque architect Baldassarre Longhena, as was the high altar which he constructed during the middle of the 17th century. The organ was constructed by the Dalmatian craftsman Pietro Nachini who was working in Venice during the 18th century.
The church contains only a few notable works of art including SS John the Evangelist, Peter and Paul by Paolo Veronese and the altarpiece in the Vendramin Chapel by Luca Giordano. The church also contains the Throne of St Peter, a 13th-century seat cut from a funeral stone.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.