The Kazansky Cathedral is one of the finest architectural ensembles in Saint Petersburg. It was designed and built in 1801-1811 by Andrei Voronikhin. The architect has created a magnificent edifice (height – 71.6 meters, length – 72.5 meters), with its main building facing onto Nevsky Avenue. The cathedrals with its semi-circular Corinthian colonade (96 thirteen-meter-high columns) is the dominant feature in one of the most elegant squares of the city.
Huge bas-reliefs, approximately 15 meters long and almost two meters high, depicting Biblical subjects, grace the two butt-ends of the building facing onto Nevsky Avenue. The bas-relief above the left butt-end of the building was executed by the famous Russian sculptor Ivan Martos on the subject Moses Parting the Waters, the one above the right butt-end is a depiction of the Brazen Serpent by the sculptor Ivan Prokofiev.
In the niches of the northern portico (facing onto Nevsky Avenue) bronze sculptures have been mounted: Prince Vladimir (in the period of his rule in Kiev, in approximately 988, when Christianity was adopted in Russia) – sculptor Stepan Pimenov; John the Baptist – sculptor Ivan Martos; Alexander Nevsky – sculptor Stepan Pimenov; and St. Andrew – sculptor Vasily Demut-Malinovsky. The bronze doors of the northern portico, consisting of ten multi-figured compositions taken from the Bible are particularly worthy of attention.
After St. Isaacs the other important church is the Our ??Lady of Kazan on the Nevski 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)
This is an exact copy of the doors created in the mid-15th century by the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Giberti for the Florentine Baptistery. It took Giberti 27 years to create his work of art. Michelangelo said of these doors that they were splendid enough to serve as the gates of Paradise. Gypsum models of the doors were preserved in St. Petersburg in the Academy of Arts and from them the founder Vasily Yekimov made the doors of the Kazansky Cathedral.
As I was about the churches, I settled to see at once that of Kazan, which is the Notre Dame of St. Petersburg. I approached it by the double colonnade, modelled after that of St. Peter at Rome. The view of the interior surpasses, which is not usual, the descriptions given of it. Outside all is brick and plaster; inside all‘is bronze, marble, or granite; the gates of brass or solid silver; the pavement of jasper; the walls of marble.
Alexandre Dumas, Eighteen Months at St. Petersburg
The cathedrals 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.
The miraculous image of the Virgin of Kazan made ??in 1579 and sent to St. Petersburg in 1821, is seen on the iconostasis, covered with fine gold and precious stones valued at more than 100,000 rubles (400,000 francs). The huge sapphire was donated by the Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna (daughter of Emperor Paul). The other paintings are the work of Russian scholars.
St Petersburg Guide, Jean Bastin, 1874
In front of the main, western, entrance to the Cathedral from Plekhanov Street, is a small semi-circular square girded by a railing, designed by Andrei Voronikhin in 1811-1812. Its fine vertical posts and the middle part are decorated with rhombic insets. Together with the ornamental friezes they form two bands uniting the wide open-work wrought-iron sections into a single semi-circle 171 m in length. The square’s old fountain, composed of large granite slabs and designed by the architect Thomas de Thomon, catches the eye. Constructed in 1809, the fountain originally stood at the side of the road to Tsarskoye Selo (now the town of Pushkin). It was brought to its present site in 1935.
After Russia’s victory over Napoleon in 1812 the cathedral became a unique monument to Russian military glory. 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, which is the local Atocha here. There are the flags, fortress and city keys, captured from the enemies and delivered to Russia. This church based on that of St. Peter in Rome, although not nearly as large. Byzantine paintings on its walls are covered with gold, silver, emeralds, diamonds and rubies. The head of the black image is all that appears in such profusion of jewelry. Silver, solid gold and the vast amount of precious stones were a gift from the Don Cossacks in time of the Empress Catherine II.
Obras Completas, Juan Valera, 1865
In 1837, when the 25th anniversary of the rout of Napoleon’s troops in Russia was celebrated, statues of Mikhail Kutuzov and Mikhail Barklai de Tolli were erected in front of the cathedral. These statues were the work of the sculptor Boris Orlovsky and the architect Vasily Stasov.
Barklai de Tolli is depicted in a somewhat static pose, deep in thought, his right hand holding his cloak flowing from his shoulders and his lowered left hand gripping his field marshal’s baton. Kutuzov is portrayed in a more dynamic pose with his drawn sword in his right hand and a field marshal’s baton in his left, showing his troops the way to attack. Napoleon’s standards with their broken staffs like at the warriors feet.
September 11, 1917: Bread — only one slice ! Fete-day, but very few pe0pie at tke Kasan Sobor (cathedral in the Nevski) — sure sign of the general unrest. Myriads of candles burning before the Kasan icon.
The Russian Diary of an Englishman, 1917