As someone who grew up during the Cold War and its aftermath, the splendor of Russia’s churches and palaces was a revelation. I read enough Tolstoy and Chekhov to know that religious institutions played a major roll pre-1917, but in St. Petersburg as in Moscow, their beauty and stature were impressive to behold.
On of the most imposing edifices in the city, The Resurrection Church was built in the late 19th century on the site of Emperor Alexander II’s assassination, hence the official name “The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood.” Its Russian style architecture was certainly inspired by St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, built 350 years earlier.
However, its grand interior with soaring ceilings is quite different and decorated entirely in mosaics that are wondrous in their color and detail.
Several days into our tour, we were able to recognize Smolny Cathedral as yet another example of Rastrelli’s genius (see also Winter Palace, Catherine Palace to name a few). The elegant building was originally planned as the central church of a monastery where Peter the Great’s daughter Elizabeth was to live as a nun; a plan she abandoned once her imperial predecessor was overthrown and she ascended to power.
Spires rise on the skyline throughout the city. The ones above belong to St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, known locally as the Sailors’ Cathedral (the green building in the background of the photo is the home of the Mariinsky Ballet.) St. Nicholas is the patron saint of seamen and the church was the Russian Navy’s main shrine until the revolution.
A cruise along St. Petersburg’s canals provides a wonderful vantage point from which to enjoy the beautiful Baroque architecture and get a feel for their strategic importance.
The artificial island known as New Holland was constructed in 1719 and served various naval-related and shipbuilding purposes over the centuries.
Currently, there are plans underway for an arts complex with commercial and residential properties as well.
No trip to St. Petersburg would be complete without a ride on the metro. The stations are remarkable, especially in contrast to those in other major metropolitan areas, and serve over two million passengers every day.
If there is only time to visit one station, go to Avtovo Station to admire its exquisite glass work decorated columns and beautiful light fixtures.
There is so much more to see and I hope these posts have whet your appetite — speaking of which, there is one more to come on the delectable dishes in Russia.