Two Centuries and Three Lives
of Kazan Cathedral

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan on the Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg (early 20th century)

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A divine liturgy led by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill in St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral opened ceremonies marking the 200th anniversary of one of the top Orthodox cathedrals in the city that has been the capital of Imperial Russia for 186 years until 1917.

The ceremonies were timed to coincide with the Nativity the Mother of God, a major Orthodox feast celebrated on September 21. The icon of the Mother of God of Kazan is one of the most revered icons in Russia. A copy of this miracle-working icon adorns the Kazan Cathedral. A majestic-looking giant single-dome church overlooking the Nevsky Avenue, it was actually built as a home for this icon, Archpriest Pavel Krasnotsvetov told reporters.

"The cathedral was built specifically for the Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, the image that has never left the city since its founder, Emperor Peter I. The cathedral prospered from 1811 till 1930 when it was abused and turned into a museum of atheism. The 90s of the past century saw the beginning of its rebirth and rise to prosperity."

The Kazan Cathedral was built on the orders of Emperor Paul I as a replacement for a small church where the sacred icon was kept. Construction began in 1801 and lasted 10 years. Emperor Paul wanted the cathedral to look like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Planned in the shape of the Latin Cross, the more than 70-m-high temple is lavishly decorated with bas-reliefs and sculptures. There is a semicircular colonnade, 100 m long, lining up the façade. The dome is 17 m in diameter. Russian Architect Andrei Voronikhin became the first to use a metal structure for dome design. The finishing materials used in the façade and the interior include grey granite, pink marble, sparkling black quartz, ochreous dolomite, jasper and crimson porphyry.

Conceived as a church, the Kazan Cathedral became a monument to the Russian military glory. Trophies seized during the war against Napoleonic France in 1812-1814 - banners, marshal’s batons, keys from fallen French fortresses – were brought here for everyone to see. The trophies included more than 600 kg of silver looted by the French and recaptured by Russian troops, from which a 1.5-ton iconostasis for the Kazan cathedral was made. Inside the cathedral is the tomb of the legendary Russian field marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who led the Russian troops to victory in 1812.

The bicentenary ceremonies will continue for four days and will culminate in a military band parade and a spectacular pyrotechnical show on September 24. The cathedral’s dome will be strewn with white chrysanthemum-shaped fireworks from a helicopter.

Interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. Artist: Luigi Premazzi 1814-91.

Sources:The Voice of Russia
21 September, 2011