The third St Isaac's Cathedral
On July 15, 1761, the building of a new St Isaac’s was entrusted by a special decree of the Senate to the architect Savva Chevakinsky, who was then completing the construction of the Cathedral of St Nicholas of Myra, a remarkable example of Russian 18th century architecture. Chevakinsky chose the building a site much farther up the bank – the same, in fact, where the Cathedral stands now.
Antonio Rinaldis original design for St Isaacs
Catherine II, who came to the throne in 1762, approved the idea of re-creating the cathedral which was associated with the name of Peter the Great, and agreed with the site chosen by Chevakinsky, but she entrusted the task of planning and building the new church to another architect, Antonio Rinaldi. According to his design, the new cathedral was to have five cupolas of elaborate shape, and a tall stately bell-tower; a marble acing was to lend subtlety of color to its four façades. The building could have become one of the finest creations by the noted “master of marble façades” but the work moved very slowly, and Rinaldi, who was obliged to leave St Petersburg, did not see it completed. A model executed after Rinaldi’s design (in the museum of the Academy of Arts) gives an idea of the beauty of the cathedral as it would have been, had Rinaldi’s project been realized.
Vincenzo Brenna and St Isaacs Modifications
After Catherine’s death Paul I, dissatisfied with the slow rate of progress, instructed the architect Vincenzo Brenna, put in charge of the project, to complete the work with all possible speed. In order to do this Brenna was forced to distort Rinaldi’s design by reducing the proportions of the upper part of the cathedral and by building one cupola instead of five. The marble facing extended only to cornices, which left the brickwork of the upper portion of the building exposed. The church finished in 1802 was squat and clumsy, and the contemporaries found it ridiculous. The cathedral was felt to be so much out of harmony with the splendor of the capital that mere seven years later, in 1809, the question of rebuilding it arose again.