- Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood
The church stands on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated on 1st March 1881. The building of this temple-monument begun in 1883, and was consecrated in 1907. The building itself is a veritable textbook on the history of Russian architecture from the end of the 16th Century and the beginning of the 17th Century. Here you will also find the world's largest mosaic covering over 7000m²and a multi-hued marble floor. The Saviour on the Blood currently operates as a museum.
The territory adjacent to the cathedral is one of the oldest areas of St. Petersburg; an historic downtown, which was formed in the first third of the 18th century. It was during this period that the city's communications system was formed with Bolshaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa and Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa serving as thoroughfares between the Royal Stable and Nevsky Prospekt. Because the church is located in the very heart of the city, its surroundings are of highest value. The historical and cultural environment here is extremely rich, represented by such treasures of world spiritual culture as the Russian Museum, the Maly Opera Theatre, the Grand Philharmonic Hall, and churches of various confessions. The Cathedral is probably the only building in the city that stands out so much in its architectural and spatial environment with its silhouette, composition, and rich decor.
The cathedral boasts a luxurious and opulent decor, ornamental architraves, frames, corbels, ceramic tiles, and coloured glazed tiles. Five cupolas of the church, some 1000 square meters in area are covered with jewelled enamel. The belfry is decorated with mosaic coats-of-arms of cities and regions of the Russian empire.
It would seem that the peculiar architecture and decor of the Church of Resurrection would become a dissonant element in the environment. However, it entered quite harmoniously into the city landscape, mostly due to reconstruction in this part of St. Petersburg.
The Church of Resurrection had never been conceived as purely a centre of religious life. Even church leaders viewed the church as more as a memory and a symbol. In the early 20th century, the church was not seen as an active church as everyone understood its exclusive artistic value.
- Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Unfortunately, the church wasn't always valued in such a prestigious way. On October 30, 1930 the Central Executive Committee ordered to close the Church of Resurrection. Over a long period of time this cathedral and monument, which first had been a court church and then a congregational church, was not needed as the centre of spiritual education, as it had once been.
In November 1930 former political prisoners were ordered to manage the church but they were incapable of keeping it in good order. Over a certain period of time the cathedral stood vacant. The new masters of the land believed that the Saviour on Spilled Blood was of no historical or artistic value and a campaign started that called for its demolition.
In November 1931 the Regional Committee for Cult Affairs decided that that the Saviour on Spilled Blood Cathedral should be disassembled in parts. After remaining on the agenda for some time the resolution was later cancelled.
However 7 years later the issue rose again. The demolition was planned for 1941. It seemed that the fate of the church, just like the fate of many other churches in Russia, was decided. But just after Russia entered WWII demolition experts were sent to battle, right before they were set to begin. During the blockade, the Saviour on Spilled Blood served as a morgue where bodies of famished Leningraders were delivered.
At one time the church was even used as a vegetable storage, and earned a comical name of 'Saviour on Potatoes'.
After the war the cathedral was leased by Maly Opera Theater who made it into a stage set storage. Damage to the building continued. The building stood with broken windows, gaping holes in the roofing and the cupolas and smashed mosaics.
1956 was another critical year in the fate of the church, when the city authorities once again decided to demolish the church in order to build a new street. The new campaign of tearing down religious buildings continued for over ten years.
It was only in 1968 that the Cathedral was granted protection. In 1970 the director of St. Isaac's Cathedral and Museum, G.P. Butikov, persuaded the city bosses and the officials of the Ministry of Culture that the church had considerable historical and artistic value. He also petitioned to make the church a branch of his museum, carry out restoration and, in the future, open a museum there.
By this time the Church of Resurrection was in a critically dilapidated condition and required immediate restoration.
Restoration could not begin without an initial large volume of construction and engineering operations. Simultaneously the research staff of the museum studied archival materials on the Saviour on Spilled Blood not only in Leningrad, but also in Moscow, Sverdlovsk, and Barnaul. To determine the state of the decor of the church and offer recommendations on restoration, contracts were settled with institutes and research laboratories.
The physical restoration started only in 1980. The first stage of restoration was completed by August 19th, 1997, when Saviour on Spilled Blood Cathedral and Museum opened its doors to visitors.
The exposition of the Saviour on Spilled Blood serves as a media for learning Russian history and culture. The objective of the museum is to present the historic and artistic value of the Cathedral, and make our contemporaries feel a part of Russian historical and cultural tradition.
The Cathedral of Resurrection is the only surviving monument to Alexander II in the city. So not only is it a beautiful artistic monument but it also stands as an extremely meaningful historical one, which is what the exposition tries to teach the public.