Cathedrals and Churches, Saint Petersburg
Saint Isaac's Cathedral is a beautiful and impressive building in the heart of Saint Petersburg.
Saint Isaac's was originally the city's main church. It was constructed between 1818 and 1858,by French architect Auguste Montferrand.
Under the Soviet government, the building's interior was stripped of all religious images. It was like this when we visited in the eighties. In 1931, the cathedral was turned into a museum. A huge Foucault pendulum was installed in the centre of the cathedral to help visualize Copernicus’s theory. We were able to see this pendulum when we visited. With the fall of communism, the museum was removed from the cathedral and religious services were resumed once more.
St. Petersburg has many churches all around the town. Most of them are Russian Orthodox Churches, but other denominations can be found as well.
Especially the wide Nevsky Prospekt is lined with churches of all denominations and therefore Alexander Dumas called it "the street of religious tolerance".
During Soviet times many churches were closed and used as warehouses or for any other non-religious purposes. Make sure to check the inside of some churches, but respect the local customs.
The absence of "classical" orthodox churches (with the notable exception of the Church of the saviour on spilled blood, which due to this feels kind of artificial) in the center is maybe the most striking feature in a russian town.
Kazan cathedral was inspired by St Peter in Rome, St Peter and Paul cathedral designed by an italian architect, St Isaac by a french one. Add to this a lutheran church, an armenian church and St Catherine Church (latin catholic) along Nevski prospect (due to the embassies present during 200 years in the city) and you will feel as in Europe.
To really see the classic five onion domes, you need to go outside of the center, either the monastery of Alexander Nevski or just north of Fontanka...
Fondest memory: All the more striking is then the interior of the churches, either with mosaics and icons or the atmosphere in Kazan cathedral when the icon of Our Lady of Kazan is exposed and you can feel the religiousness surrounding you and the queue of people coming to express their devotion...
A unique and unforgettable experience...
St Petersburg is a fantastic city. One just has to scratch all his/her courage together and dare to discover this huge city.
However I want to stress an important matter. The awarness of travelling abroad. As it is widely known there is still an enormous gap between western and former soviet living standards. As globalisation and americanisation proceeds inhabitants of less developed areas make it a point of focus - to achieve the same level.
Now as a western traveller (even as a student) you may experience a two class differentiation - locals and tourist. Practically this means two prices!
Fondest memory: So i.e. an entrance ticket fo a church for a tourist may be ten times the price as it is for locals.
Is this right? Is this a moral or economic question? This to decide I leave to you, just be aware of it.
Another feature to note in Russian Orthodox churches are the many many rows of icosn.
When you look at the altar at the east end of the church, you will see 4 rows or 4 tiers of icons. The top row contains the Old Testament Prophets and at th top is the Holy Cross.
There are so many churches, cathderals, and there is even a mosque and a Tibetan Buddhist temple. The mosque is much more interesting than the temple.
The churches are terribly awesome; many have just been restored and some only open as a 'museum' to the public.
Foreigners have to pay for entrance to most churches, it cost around 100 -250 rubles and extra between 50-100 rubles to take photos in the churches.
Russian churches are mostly Russian Orthodox (the parish priests must be married so that to understand the life of family people but not the head of the Orthodoz church). Also all Russian orthodox churches has a East--West direction, with the main entrance of the building at the west end.
This symbolizes the entrance of the worshipper from the darkness of sin which is the west into the light of truth which is the east.
Also special to the Russian churches, are the beautiful onion shaped domes, not one but many many domes. These domes are colourful, and also some of them have a Cross on top, symblosing salvation.
So when you enter from the west, the extreme end is the east, is the Holy Altar.
Also you will notice the importance of icons. If the church is say Church of St Basil, you will see the picture of the icon on the right side of the altar. Russian Orthodox churches have lots of icons all over the church, be it on the wall, ceiling every where.
Favorite thing: The 21.8m-high golden dome dominating the St Petersburg skyline is Sir Isaac's Cathedral, the last neo-classical structure to be built in the city. French designer Ricard de Montferrand kick-started proceedings in 1818, but construction took so long (the cathedral wasn't finished until 1858) that Nicholas I was able to extend the original designs to include even more extravagance. The granite was ordered from Finland (and delivered in specially built ships and railways), 100kg of gold leaf were used for the dome and the end result - a lavish interior of marble and mosaic - is a must-see. You can climb up the 43m-high colonnade for breathtaking views of the city.
CATHEDRAL OF KAZAN
Kazan Square, 2. Metro: Nevsky Prospect
The Kazan Cathedral has been built on Nevsky Prospect especially for the Kazan icon of Mother of God, the main sanctuary of the city. At the time of St. Petersburg's foundation, the archpriest of Voronezh Mitrophanius has prophesied that the image of Mother of God of Kazan would become a source of protection for the city. While the icon remains in the city, no enemy will every be allowed to enter it. And indeed, St. Petersburg has never been conquered in any war. In 1920 the Cathedral was closed for church services, and the icon was carried over to the Cathedral of St. Vladimir, where it is still kept.
HOLY RESURRECTION CHURCH
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection
Smolenka River Embankment, 29. Metro: Vasileostrovskaya
Tel: 350-5301 [help]. Fax: 350-2892
Just walk through it's centre. For example from the Palacesquare (Hermitage) along the Nevskii Prospekt. At Kazan-cathedral go left along the canal to colourful Spasnaya. Over Marskovo-fields and the Troitskii-bridge you enter the Peter & Pavel-fortress and out it on the other side. Again a bridge (what do you want, the city has hundreds of them) onto Vasilevskii-island. Nautical Museum, Rostra-columns and Kunstkammer and again over the Lt.Smit-bridge. Towards the St.Isaak-cathedral and through the park along the Admiralty back to the Hermitage.
Fondest memory: Sitting in the sun in font of Saint Isaak's cathedral together with my Irina, that I met here for the first time in person.
Favorite thing: Visit the churches and cathedrals. For a country that had religion outlawed for decades, the Russian Orthodox churches are plentiful and beautiful. They were quite run down when I visited but hopefully have been restored since.
I haven't been inside, but from the outside it looks very impressive.
Just imagine: until 1989 there was a museum of atheism in this cathedral!!! Our guide told us that she had to study atheism in university as well. She told us later that this subject brought her to a strong belief in god - not what the politicians intended, I guess.
what I remebered about this cathedral is again that when it was built some workers had to prepare the roof with quicksilver. Quicksilver makes golden roofs shiny for a long time. Two weeks later they died because they were intoxicated by the quicksilver...
Not a nice memory - I know, but it shows how little a man's life was worth compared to the desire to show-off of a king's, tsar's or government's power by that time.
However, the cathedral is definitely worth entering. It was constructed by a French architect and has very nice paintings in the ceiling, the world's largest door made of wood, etc.
Fondest memory: CENTER of PETERBURG. If you just came to Peter and do not know where to go and to do, i offer you to walk for a walk.. It is can be not so easy, but you'll find so many nice huge buildings, and small old streets.. We went by 'Goroshevaja' street(wchich means pea street), and i was so surprised because of so many small shops, and narrow pavements. .It was only one block from the main street, but so different..
Just strolling around the streets in St.Petes in the sun with an ice cream. You never knew what you'd find around the corner. The buildings are in need of maintenance and are falling to pieces, but the character and atmosphere of the place is genuine - get there before it turns into just another Western commercialised city.
This is the Smolney Cathedral.