St Nicholas's Naval Cathedral
St Nicholas's is the largest and last of Russia's naval cathedrals. During the construction of this great monument to those who have perished at sea, St Ioann of Kronstadt played a personal role. Today, this church is more than just a cathedral.
The model for the Naval Cathedral was the Cathedral of Sophia in Constantinople – modern Istanbul. In many ways
it is certainly smaller – yet at least in terms of its domes, it is higher.
The architect Vassily Kosyakov had planned to design the cathedral in the shape of a book – which tells the
story of Christianity, and of the fleet.
The cathedral was opened for worship in 1913. At that time, it was an example of the latest in technological
achievement. The basement has a vacuum-cleaning station, an installation for steam heating, ventilations, and
One of the cathedral's domes weighs 4840 kilograms. During the time when the Russian Church was repressed, the
soviet authorities could not succeed in demolishing it. Instead, it simply sagged onto the bell-tower, until the
time the cathedral was renovated. During the war, the cathedral bells were used to alert residents to the danger
The Naval Cathedral at Kronstadt is a memorial to all Russian seafarers lost at sea. It contains 130 memorial
lists, showing the surnames of over 12,000 sailors who died at sea in the pre-soviet period (1796-1913).
The idea of building a great Naval cathedral first appeared in the 1830s. However, it had to wait until 1897 until it received highest approval.
The location of the new cathedral was decided as Anchor Square. The crucial issue which the High Command demanded, was that the cathedral should be an orientation point for the sea. In April 1901, the project was undertaken by the architect V.A. Kosyakov.
Construction of the cathedral began in September 1902, and ceremonial laying of the cornerstone took place on 8th May 1903, in the presence of the Russian Emperor, Tsar Nicholas II. The cathedral was consecrated for worship in 1913.
During the years of the USSR, the cathedral fell into disuse. In 2002, the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexei II blessed the reopening of the cathedral. Three years later, the liturgy was celebrated for the first time in 75 years.
What to see
- The cathedral’s bright walls and golden domes lend it lightness, airiness and elegance. Its internal dimensions astound visitors with their height and space, while the floors are executed in multi-coloured marble.
- The ceiling of the great dome is 27 metres wide, and stands 52 metres above the ground. It is decorated with paintings, to look extremely large. The stained-glass windows and window spaces are the cathedral's hallmark – something that can rarely be found in any other Russian cathedral.
- The Upper Hall of the cathedral is especially interesting for its black marble tableaux, which bear the names of sailors who perished at sea between 1796 and 1917. It should be noted that these memorial tableaux are copies – the originals were lost during the years of soviet rule.
- The interior decor of the cathedral combines naval elements with the symbolism of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Regal Gates of the ikon-screen are adorned with the flag of St Andrew. One of the two doors is decorated with anchors, and the letters of Alpha and Omega – symbolising the beginning and ending of life on earth.
The Naval Cathedral is located in the St. Petersburg suburb of Kronstadt, on Anchor Square – Yakornaya ploschad 1. Open daily from 09:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Holy liturgy is celebrated twice per day – at 10:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.