Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
Whilst taking a stroll along Nevsky Prospekt, the main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg, one cannot fail to notice the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. Built between 1801 and 1811 by the architect Andrei Voronikhin, the cathedral was constructed to an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain.
The cathedral was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church. Some art historians assert that Emperor Paul I intended to build a similar church on the other side of Nevsky Prospect that would mirror the Kazan Cathedral but his plans failed to materialize. Although the Russian Orthodox Church strongly disapproved of the plans to create a replica of a Catholic basilica in Russia's then capital, several courtiers supported Voronikhin's Empire Style design.
Patriarch Kirill celebrates a divine liturgy marking the 200th anniversary of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in 2011
After the war of 1812 (during which Napoleon was defeated) the church became a monument to Russian victory. Captured enemy banners were put in the cathedral and the famous Russian Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who won the most important campaign of 1812, was buried inside the church.
On February 21 1913 a solemn religious service was held in the cathedral to mark the 300th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. It was attended by Tsar Nicholas II, his family and relations, as well as the elite of the Russian state, the State Duma, marshals of the nobility, representatives of the urban estate, and peasant elders made up the throng of four thousand. The Russian newspaper, Novoe Vremia reported, "It was all brilliance, the brilliance of the ladies' diamonds, the brilliance of the medals and the stars, the brilliance of the gold and silver of the uniforms." [Source: Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, Volume Two by Richard S. Wortman. Princeton University Press (2000) ]
The cathedral was named after the "miracle-making" icon of Our Lady of Kazan, probably the most venerated icon in all of Russia. The church housed this precious icon until the early 1930s. The Bolsheviks closed the cathedral for services in 1929, and from 1932 it housed the collections of the pro-Marxist Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, which displayed numerous pieces of religious art and served anti-religious propaganda purposes.
Services were resumed in 1992, and four years later the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Now it is the mother cathedral of the metropolis of St. Petersburg. In 2011 the cathedral marked its 200th anniversary. The interiors have been undergoing restoration work in an effort to restore this historic and holy cathedral to its original.
The cathedral's interior, with its numerous columns, echoes the exterior colonnade and is reminiscent of a palatial hall, being 69 metres in length and 62 metres in height. The interior features numerous sculptures and icons created by the best Russian artists of the day. A wrought iron grille separating the cathedral from a small square behind it is sometimes cited as one of the finest ever created.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 May, 2013