The great majesty of the Nikolo-Bogoyavlensky cathedral makes it one of the most important sights of the city, as well as a memorial to the victories of the Russian fleet. The naval theme is highlighted by the blue-coloured walls, which combine harmoniously with its white columns and golden domes. The original appearance and interiors of the 18th century have been preserved – exactly as the Tsar himself or the Russian archbishops would have seen them over 250 years ago.
- Even during the days of Tsar Peter the Great, the church celebrated major state events and military victories. The church was used to hold services of thanksgiving for these victories, and military parades were held at the church. From the days of Catherine II, naval victories were celebrated at the St Nicholas Naval cathedral.
- In memory of naval victories between 1770 and 1790, Empress Catherine the II ('the Great') donated ten Russian ikons to the church, each in its own special gold casing. Each of these ikons recalled a specific naval battle which had taken place on the Saint's Day in question.
- The Nikolsky Cathedral stood out strongly against the background of St. Petersburg's architecture of that era. It was a time when all churches were built along the lines of Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul – with its single dome and spire. However, the Nikolsky Cathedral has five domes, and in architectural terms could be seen as a return to the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The whole existence of the city of St. Petersburg is inextricably linked to the sea. The city's whole life was bound up with the sea, while the city's street plan layout was dominated by the central location of the shipyards – the Admiralty. Adjacent to the shipyards was the naval colony, where most of those who worked to create the new Russian fleet lived. The district also had a small chapel, dedicated to St Nicholas – the time-honoured protector of mariners and seamen. This small chapel was the only one on the huge area beyond the Moika – which was perhaps why it was so richly decorated.
Later, on the same spot, a wooden church appeared – and then in 1752 Empress Elizaveta gave orders to build a stone church. Its construction was completed in 1762. This new church outdid the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul for its scale, and it became accepted as a symbol of the prowess and honour of the Russian fleet.
What to see
- The ikon of St Nikolai the Miraculous, the patron saint of sailors – which is the most greatly-venerated relic within the church.
- The memorial tablets showing the names of sailors who perished at sea, and members of submarine crews.
- The richly-decorated ikonostasis, or ikon-stand, along with the rest of the church's interior decorations that preserve its 18th-century interiors.
- The small gardens around the church make a pleasant spot for a stroll – a 'green oasis' in the middle of the urban life of the city.