All about the Kazan Cathedral (Saint Petersburg)

Kazan Cathedral

The style of most Russian churches inspires us with their grandeur and their striking colours. Yet Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg astounds us instead with its magnificence. It has a huge semicircular colonnade, consisting of 56 columns with capitals, with just one dome jutting skywards. It all makes a great stylistic impression on visitors to the city.

Fascinating Facts

  • Andrei Voronikin, the cathedral's architect, had planned to create two colonnades, instead of one. We still don't know for certain why the second went unbuilt.
  • Emperor Paul I was the client for the project – and ordered that the new cathedral should be St. Petersburg's equivalent of St Peter's in Rome.
  • The style of the interior decorations and wall-paintings is carried out in the style of Renaissance masters. The project recruited such highly-respected painters in St. Petersburg as Karl Bryullov.

History

As a royal project, Kazan Cathedral was built relatively quickly, by standards of the day – from 1801 until 1811. It was built to provide safe-keeping for the Ikon of the Blessed Virgin of Kazan, which Peter the Great had brought to St. Petersburg, and made it the symbol of the Royal House of Romanov.

The ikon had been kept in the Nativity Church of the Virgin. It was in that very church that baptisms, weddings and funerals of the royal family were held. Yet the church lost its lustre and appeal over time in St. Petersburg, and paled in magnificence in the face of the city's magnificent palaces. By the middle of the 18th century, Emperor Paul I ordered that the church should be taken down, and replaced with a grandiose cathedral on the same site. The most important criterion which the Emperor stipulated, was that the new cathedral should, in every possible way, resemble the Basilica of St Peter's in Rome.

Voronikhin's designs were chosen – even though he was a former serf. The designs found favour with His Majesty – except that the cost estimates were far higher than the Royal Treasury could meet. Nevertheless, the new cathedral quickly became the centrepiece of the city's main avenue, Nevsky Prospect.

What To See

  • The Ikon of the Blessed Virgin of Kazan – the Holy of Holies among the cathedral's treasury. It is a Likeness Ikon, made from the original found in miraculous circumstances in the city of Kazan, in 1579.
  • The military trophies of the Russian Army – captured in battle from different cities and campaigns. Following victory over Napoleon, the cathedral acquired new significance as a site for celebrating military glory.
  • The Great Colonnade, composed of 96 columns of rose-coloured granite.
  • The tomb of Field-Marshall Kutuzov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces during the campaign against Napoleon.
  • The statues of Russian generals Kutuzov and Barclay-de-Tolly.
  • The granite fountain in front of the cathedral, relocated here from Tsarskoe Selo.
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