Church of the Savior on Blood

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The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Храм Спаса на Крови (Russian)
Храм Спаса на крови 7.jpg
Basic information
Location St. Petersburg, Russia
Geographic coordinates 59°56′24″N 30°19′43″E / 59.94000°N 30.32861°E / 59.94000; 30.32861Coordinates: 59°56′24″N 30°19′43″E / 59.94000°N 30.32861°E / 59.94000; 30.32861
Affiliation Russian Orthodox
Ecclesiastical or organizational status State Historical Museum
Status Secularized (1930's)
Website Savior on the Spilled Blood
Architectural description
Architect(s) Alfred Alexandrovich Parland
Architectural type Church
Architectural style Romantic Nationalism
Groundbreaking 1883 (1883)
Completed 1907

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (Russian: Церковь Спаса на Крови, Tserkovʹ Spasa na Krovi) is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg, Russia. It is also variously called the Church on Spilt Blood (Russian: Церковь на Крови, Tserkov’ na Krovi) and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ (Russian: Собор Воскресения Христова, Sobor Voskreseniya Khristova), its official name.

"The preferred Russian name for this great church is Храм Спаса на Крови (Khram Spasa na Krovi), but each English-language tourist publication seems to list it under a different name. The name "Spilled Blood" is most popular in preference to the likes of the Church of the Resurrection, Church of our Savior on the Blood, Cathedral of the Ascension, Resurrection of the Christ, or Assumption, Church of the Redeemer, or any permutation of the above."[1]

This Church was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. It should not be confused with the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, located in the city of Yekaterinburg where the former Emperor Nicholas II (1868–1918) and several members of his family and household were executed following the Bolshevik Revolution.

Construction and features[edit]

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.

The Church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal; paved roads run along both sides of the canal. On March 13, 1881 (Julian date: March 1), as Tsar Alexander's carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. The tsar, bleeding heavily, was taken back to the Winter Palace where he died a few hours later.

Detail of the richly decorated façade and onion domes

A temporary shrine was erected on the site of the attack while plans and fundraising for a more permanent memorial were undertaken. In order to build a permanent shrine on the exact spot where the assassination took place, it was decided to narrow the canal so that the section of road on which the tsar had been driving could be included within the walls of the church. An elaborate shrine was constructed at the end of the church opposite the altar, on the exact place of Alexander's death. It is embellished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones, making a striking contrast with the simple cobblestones of the old road, which are exposed in the floor of the shrine.

Architecture[edit]

Mosaics in the interior.
mosaic of Christ Pantocrator under the central dome
View from Griboedov Canal
Interior lit by natural light

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 meters of mosaics—according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. This record may be surpassed by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, which houses 7700 square meters of mosaics. 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 rubles 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.

Russian Revolution of 1917[edit]

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.

Modern times[edit]

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.

In 2005 the State Museum of St.Isaac's Cathedral began a new project for the recreation of the Holy Gates (permanently lost in the 1920s during the Soviet period). Entirely produced with enamels and based on the pictures and lithographies of the time, the new Holy Gates have been designed by V. J. Nikolsky and S. G. Kochetova, while famous enamel artist L. Solomnikova and her atelier have been assigned the task to produce the Holy Gates, whose reconsecration has been celebrated by Orthodos bishop Amvrosij of Gatchina on 14 March 2012, the 129th anniversary of Alexander II's assassination.[2]

Cultural references[edit]

The church from the park
The church at night

The church appears on the cover of the 2011 contemporary classical album Troika.[3]

References[edit]

External links[edit]