Kazan Cathedral (Our Lady of Kazan)
The large Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky in St Petersburg is dedicated to the icon of Our Lady of Kazan and is properly called Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral. In 1733-1737 the architect Mikhail Zemtsov built a small church and a bell-tower with a tall spire on the spot.
The church was dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. By the end of the century it had fallen into disrepair. Paul I wanted to build a new church in its place. “Don Quixote on the throne”, as many courtiers referred to him in private, was hoping at that time for a union of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. The new church, as he envisioned it, was to be like St Peter’s in Rome. He did not live to see his project put into practice. It was carried out by his son, Alexander I, shortly after Paul’s death. The building was entrusted to Andrei Voronikhin, who trained in Paris under Jean-Francois Chalgrin, creator of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Construction began in 1801 and lasted ten years.
Video Tour of the Kazan Cathedral:
Our Lady of Kazan Icon
According to the legend in the late 16th century a little girl living in Kazan had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told her to go to a burnt-down house and find an icon in the ashes. An icon of the Virgin Mary was actually found and began to work miracles. In 1612 it accompanied Prince Dmitri Pozharsky’s men when they liberated Moscow from the Poles. After that it was kept in the Moscow Kremlin. In 1710 Peter took it to St Petersburg, and in 1737 it was placed in the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin. When the icon was moved to the new cathedral, the latter was called after it.
The first appearance of this " miraculous" ikon is linked with the conquest of Kazan under Ivan the Terrible, in the sixteenth century, and also with the conversion of the Moslem Kazan Tartars.
Sonia Howe, Real Russians
Colonnade Based on the Colonnade of St Peter's in Rome
In plan the cathedral resembles a Latin cross 69 meters long. It is crowned by a high dome on a slender drum with a band of lucarnes and pilasters. The apse end faces east on to the canal. The cathedral’s north side faces Nevsky. It is adjoined by an impressive colonnade of ninety-six 13-meter-high columns arranged in four rows. Like the colonnade of St Peter’s in Rome it covers a broad semi-circular square.
The wings end in monumental porticos which also serve as passageways. A similar colonnade was planned for the south side too, but never built because of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. The attic is adorned with numerous bas-reliefs.
After St. Isaac's the other important church is the Our Lady of Kazan on the Nevsky Prospect. This is a tiny but precise and elegant reproduction of our St. Peters Church in Rome. There are two nice porticos with four columns on both sides, forming a nice smooth semicircle just like at St. Peters in the Vatican. So in the middle stands the church, with its central dome of graceful and elegant proportions.
Vincenzo Vannutelli (Cardinale)
Gates of Paradise
The north door, made of bronze, is a slightly modified copy of the famous Gates of Paradise in the Baptistry in Florence (with a different arrangement of the scenes and a different frame). Vasily Ekimov, the best foundry master of Russia, was responsible for casting and minting. On either side are statues of St. Prince Vladimir - Baptist of Russia (he made Christianity the state religion in Russia), and St. Alexander Nevsky - the great defender of Russian lands (sculptor S. Pimenov), Saint Andrew (sculptor: Demuth-Malinovsky), as well as of John the Baptist (the work of sculptor Ivan Martos).
Highly Artistic Interior Decoration
The cathedral's highly artistic interior decoration consisting of 56 monolithic red granite columns and a mosaic floor composed of multifarious Karelian marbles are bound to produce an unforgettable impression on you. The cathedral’s interior is the work of Vladimir Borovokovsky. Orest Kirpensky and other outstanding Russian artists of the beginning of the 19th century. Four immense candelabra of silver stand stand before the principal altar.
God's name is written within the Kazan Cathedral in precious stones, with a gilt glory all around it. The pulpit and the spot where the Em peror stands during the service (Russians hardly ever kneel) is of marble.
Edith Phillips, Russia
A Unique Monument to Russian Military Glory
After Russia’s victory over Napoleon in 1812 the cathedral became a unique monument to Russian military glory. It was from this cathedral in 1812 after a solemn service attended by the Imperial family that Field Marshal Kutuzov set off to the army. The standards taken as trophies and the keys from the fortresses captured by the Russian forces were displayed here. In the vault of the northern chapel by the wall (to the right of the entrance) lies the grave of Mikhail Kutuzov, the commander of the Russian forces, who died in 1813. He was buried on the stop where he prayed before he left to join his army in the field.
We have also seen the church of Kazan... There are the flags, fortress and city keys, captured from the enemies and delivered to Russia.
Juan Valera, Complete Works, 1864