Chersonesus Cathedral

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The Vladimir Cathedral in Chersonese

The Saint Vladimir Cathedral is a Neo-Byzantine Russian Orthodox cathedral on the site of Chersonesos Taurica. It commemorates the presumed place of St. Vladimir's baptism.


According to legend and historic facts the baptism of Vladimir the Great took place in 988 in the Chersonese (or, as it was called by ancient Russians, Korsun), now - Chersonesos Taurica, a National Preserve near Sevastopol. In The Tale of Bygone Years by the monk Nestor the city's conciliar Church was mentioned: “in the middle of the city, where the inhabitants gather to trade”, which, as supposed, could be the probable place of this event crucial for the whole of Rus.

The idea to immortalize the place of the Baptism of the Holy Prince Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles was first represented in 1825 by the Black Sea Fleet Chief vice-admiral Alexey Greig. On his initiative excavations under the direction of K.Kruse were conducted in Chersonesos Taurica in 1827. As a result, the remains of the ancient Christian churches, including a cruciform basilica were found at the centre of the market square. In the 1830s the historians Frédéric Dubois de Montpéreux and N. Murzakevich made the conjecture that Vladimir the Great was baptized in this basilica. After that, all doubts about the place of the future Church were dispelled. In 1850 on the initiative of Innocent, archbishop of Tauric Chersonese, St. Vladimir's Cloister was founded. On August 23, 1850 the grand laying of the foundation stone of the Church in honor of Saint Vladimir took place.


The Vladimir Cathedral in Chersonese, decoration, icons

The author of the project of St. Vladimir Cathedral in Chersonese was academician David Grimm. According to his plan, the Cathedral had to be built in Byzantine style. The construction took 15 years and was finished in 1874-1876, with the assistance of engineer M. Arnold. It was one of the biggest cathedrals in Russia (height – 36 m, total area – 1726 sq. m, dome diameter – 10,5 m) and could accommodate up to a thousand people.

The decoration of the church began on the eve of the 900th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. It was not completed in time for this significant date, so on June 13, 1888 on the Memorial Day of Grand Prince St. Vladimir only the Lower Church in honor of the Birth of Mary was consecrated. That year the iconostasis carved out of wood was placed in the church and the interior work on the Upper Church under the direction of architect Nikolay Chagin began. The painting and icons for the central iconostasis of St. Vladimir Cathedral were made by academician Alexei Korzukhin. Furthermore, in the interior of the Cathedral works of the 1850s by academician T. Neff, painter F. Riss, and icons made by I.Maikov and E. Sorokin were also used. Works in marble, such as the iconostasis of the Upper Church, the mosaic floor of the Cathedral, and the marble balustrade along the solea, were carried out by Italian masters J. Seppi and brothers Baskarini. The consecration of the Cathedral took place on October 17, 1891, though the final decorative design was completed only in 1894.

As far back as 1859 the marble reliquary in the form of a Gospel with relics of Grand Prince St. Vladimir was passed from the Small Church of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to Chersonese. After the building of St. Vladimir Cathedral, his relics were placed in the Lower Church near the ruins of the ancient basilica. At the Upper Church altar is situated the list from the miracle-working Korsun icon of the Mother of God, which, according to legend, was brought from Chersonese by Vladimir the Great. Altogether, the relics of 115 saints were passed to Cathedral.

Interior of St. Vladimir Cathedral


The bell of Chersonesos with St. Vladimir Cathedral in the background

During World War II the cathedral was destroyed. Work on its restoration began in the late 1990s. The project of reconstruction was carried out by the Kiev Institute “UkrProjectRestoration” under the direction of architect E. Osadchiy. From 2002 Vladimir Cathedral was painted by artists from St. Petersburg, Kiev and the Crimea, who recreated the lost paintings of academician A. Korzuhin. The following monumental compositions can be seen on the walls of the Cathedral: “The Holy Spirit” (authors – L. Steblovska, E. Revenko), “The Baptism of Christ” (author – A. Dmitrenko), “The Transfiguration of Christ” (authors – L. Dmitrenko, N. Dmitrenko), and “The Lord's Last Supper” (A. Pigarev, K.Popovskiy). The icons for the marble iconostasis of the Upper Church were painted by the young artists A. Dmitrenko and N. Dmitrenko.

The consecration of the high altar of Vladimir Cathedral in Chersonese took place on April 3, 2004, and a week later the Easter liturgy was celebrated.

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Coordinates: 44°36′44″N 33°29′36″E / 44.61222°N 33.49333°E / 44.61222; 33.49333