All St. Petersburg Churches and Monasteries
The Churches and Monasteries of Petersburg... Their destiny, since the moment of the foundation of the city, has been inseparably linked with its fate. Nearly simultaneously, with the establishment of the fortress on Hare Island, Peter I founded there the church honoring Saint Apostles Peter and Paul.
Among the first buildings in the city’s oldest squares appearing near the fortress there was the Holy Trinity Temples played the main part in the formation of the city’s artistic appearance, in particular, in the first decades of its construction. Their spires and domes, rising into the sky, remained the only height dominants for two centuries and added unique charm to the Neva banks. Ecclesiastic edifices became the components of the ensembles of Nevsky, Voznesensky and Liteiny Prospects, Vladimirsky, St.Isaac’s and Sennaya Squares, many embankments. They enriched the comprehension of a street, noticeably increased its space impact. It was in the same way that a Baroque or Empire belfry of an estate church became a sign of suburban landscape.
The churches, domed like the heavens and pillared like the firmament, blaze with Byzantine splendour.
Alexander Scott, Through Finland to St. Petersburg, 1914
Best home and European architects — D. Trezzini, B.-F. Rastrelli, S. I. Chevakinsky, I. Ye. Starov, A. N. Voronikhin, V. P. Stasov, Au. Montferrand, K. A. Ton, A. M. Gornostayev, A. A. Parland, V. A. Kosyakov, S. S. Krichinsky and others — participated in temple constructions. St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, the Smolny Resurrection and St. Nicholas’ Naval Cathedrals, the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Alexander Nevsky I.aura, the Kazan, Trinity (Izmailovsky) and St. Isaac’s Cathedrals, the Temple of the Resurrection of Christ ( ’Our Savior’s on the Spilled Blood’), the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral created by them are the excellent samples of not only Russian, but also world’s architecture. Contemporaries were deeply impressed by the magnificence and splendor of those constructions. It is enough to remind the verse by an outstanding Russian poet F. I. Tiutchev:
Standing over the Neva,
I saw the gold cupola of Isaac the Giant
Shine in the mist
Of the frosty fog.
The beauty of the temples’ exterior appearance matched the richness of their inner decoration. Icon-stands were created by skilled carving and chasing craftsmen, paintings and icons — by best artists, statues — by most experienced sculptors. Many icons, for example, were executed by Andrey Rublev, Simon Ushakov, G. I. Ugryumov, A. Ye. Yegorov, V. K. Shebuyev, A. I. Ivanov, D. G. Levitsky, V. L. Borovikovsky, O. A. Kiprensky, K. P. Bryullov, F. A. Bruni, A. G. Venetsianov, V. M. Vasnetsov, V. P. Vereshchagin, М. V. Nesterov, and other masters of fine arts.
In church sacristies ancient sacred vessels, gold and silver crosses, antique Gospels, etc. were kept. Many cathedrals were the collections of precious historic relics — military trophies, obtained by the Russian troops in the wars with overseas invaders. Ecclesiastical music written by D. S. Bortnyansky, P. I. Turchaninov, A. F. Lvov, М. I. Glinka, N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, P. I. Chaikovsky, A. T. Grechaninov, S. V. Rakhmaninov, A. D. Kastalsky and other composers was heard under church vaults.
It was a temple that occupied a special place in the life of petersburgians, as well as of all the Russians, though. In a temple a person was drawn into ecclesiastic Sacraments, that is baptism, wedding, etc. It was within its walls that he or she gave vents to their feelings in repentance, praying Our Lord to forgive the sins. They came into a temple to plead the God of the assistance to rebuff any bad movement in the soul and to carry out an important deed. Thanks to a temple and a divine service in it people comprehended the essence of the Holy History, events, the sense and character of the evangelic precepts. At last, people were bid farewell to in a temple, when a burial prayer was served.
Christian holidays played a most responsible part in the life of petersburgians. The most eminent was Easter, the Day of the Resurrection of Christ, the holiday of the part in Easter night processions organized along the city streets.
Fortunately there are some things which successfully resist this tide of innovation and preserve the distinct features of a past age. In all countries edifices consecrated to religious uses rank high among the possessions prized not only by those who erected them, but more and more as the years roll on, do they become precious to succeeding generations. Whether the shrine be within the grand nave of a Gothic cathedral, or in the vast temples In St- of Egypt, or the minareted mosques of Petersburg Mohammedanism, it is sacred & precious to its own devotees and defended with their heart's blood from the sacrilegious hands of the unbeliever. Therefore the people of the nineteenth century are still blest with the presence of many monuments of faiths once living, and even now able to elevate the thought and chasten the imagination of the children of to-day. The atmosphere of the Russian churches adds to this sense of reverence, a feeling of solemnity amounting to gloom. Upon their intrinsic historical and architectural importance there is superimposed a mysterious obscurity, a twilight of the soul which comes under the spell ; an over whelming impression as of some unseen power, a crushing weight of possible anguish and terror as if this indwelling God were the God of the dead rather than of the living. The ornamentation of the interior is of the richest, both in material and in color, and it is in the soft gloom of these over-decorated and much-en cumbered churches that the Russian taste and temperament are most prominently displayed. The imagination is touched with an utterly different impression from that produced by even the grandest cathedrals which represent the more advanced Christianity of Europe.
A Fortnight in St. Petersburg, 1899 Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat
Another thing should be mentioned: the Church itself went to the suffering, the sick, the unhappy. It rendered them assistance within its powers, it consoled and Their wards were dozens of thousands of people needing emergency help.
As it is known, F. M. Dostoyevsky was a deeply religious man. ’Believe to the end’, he wrote, ’if it happened even so that everything on earth went perverted, but only you stood faithful, even then make a sacrifice and extol the God, you, the only one left.’ Among the temples in Petersburg, most haunted by Dostoyevsky, were the Resurrection and St. Vladimir’s Churches. His wedding to A. G. Snitkina took place in the Holy Trinity (Izmailovsky) Cathedral on February 15, 1867. She recollected that the writer liked to pray ’in calmness, without any witnesses’. ’Once’, there wrote Anna Grigoryevna, ’I ... found him in the corner of the cathedral so immersed into praying and in affectionate mood, that in the first moment he did not recognize me.’
I can scarcely refrain from again referring to the ﬁne fantasy played by many-coloured domes against the blue sky. The forms are beautiful, the colours decorative. The city in its sky outline presents a succession of strange pictures, at one point the eye might seem to range across a garden of gourds, at other positions peer above house-tops groups which might be mistaken for turbaned Turks; and when the sun shines vividly, and throws glittering light on the "patens of bright gold," over these many-domed churches, a stranger might almost fancy that above the city ﬂoated ﬁre balloons or bright-coloured lanterns.
J. Atkinson, St. Petersburg
Some lines in his novel ’Crime and Punishment’ are devoted to St. Isaac’s Cathedral. In 1873 Dostoyevsky joined the Society of Ecclesiastic Enlightenment Adepts, visited its conferences and sessions.
’Beauty will save the world’, said the writer. The absolute ideal creating the intimate feeling of this all-defeating beauty and keeping the soul off destroying selfishness was, as Dostoyevsky thought, the personality of Christ, as, to his opinion, it embodied the features of highest human development in its fullest scope. He was going to write a book about Jesus Christ, but death impeded the implementation of the project. Even more famous representatives of intelligentsia deeply believing in God could be named. And it was by far not occasional. For centuries the Holy History fed writers’, artists’, composers’, architects’ creative endeavor. They saw their main mission in confirming Christian ideals: love and kindness, peace and justice. At last literature, painting, music, architecture served higher art — the art of Christian life, the art of human transfiguration, the art of spirituality.
The twentieth century became the time of hardships for Russia. After the 1917 revolutionary shocks the Church survived most severe prosecutions. Within five or six years nearly all temples of Petrograd were closed, hundreds of clergymen were arrested, dozens died the death of a martyr.
In 1922 the authorities conducted a large-scale confiscation of church valuables. The thoroughly planned plunder of the city’s temples resulted in the loss of numerous church decoration pieces of high artistic value, partly turned into scrap, partly melted, partly sold at a song to various foreign collectors and institutions. Such sacristies as St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Alexander Nevsky Laura, the Kazan Cahedral and St. Isaac’s Cathedrals, the Trinity St. Sergius’ Wilderness could not avoid desecration. In early 1930ies the Church underwent a new wave of prosecutions. It was accompanied by the mass passing of ecclesiastic edifices over to various enterprises and offices, with many old temples destroyed. For five years odd twenty seven cathedrals and churches of high historic and artistic value were eliminated. Among them there were the Resurrection Church built with the participation of A. Rinaldi, the Church of the Intersession of Our Lady constructed by I. Ye. Starov, St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Kronstadt and the Church of St. Apostle Paul erected to the designs of A. D. Zakharov, St. Sergius’ Cathedral and the Znamenskaya Church raised by F. I. Demertsov, the Church of St. Apostle Mathew, in many aspects bearing the influence of B.-F. Rastrelli’s architectural style. The remnants of the ancient Holy Trinity Cathedral founded in 1703 on the occassion of the foundation of Petersburg were also swept.