The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main Russian Orthodox cathedrals.
The church was built in memory of Alexander II who was assassinated in 1881.
Alexander II died of wounds inflicted in an attack by the terrorist group People’s Will. Immediately, his heir, Alexander III, declared his intention to erect a church on the site in his father’s memory, and moreover to have this church built in “traditional Russian” style – in distinction to what he saw as the contaminating Western influence of Petersburg.
Construction began in 1883 and was completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907.
It has a similar façade to St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Its peculiar multicolored exterior makes it stand out from St. Petersburg’s typically strict architectural proportions and color combinations.
Architecturally, the cathedral differs from Saint Petersburg’s other structures. The city’s architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to
medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism.
The Church contains over 7500 square meters of mosaics—according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day – including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel – but the church’s chief architect, Alfred
Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known. An elaborate shrine was constructed on the exact place of Alexander’s death, garnished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones.
The intricately detailed mosaics depict biblical scenes and figures, with fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
The construction was funded by the imperial family. Estimates suggest that the construction cost 4.5 million rubles
The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood took 24 years to construct and, after early Soviet vandalism, 27 years to restore. People would even joke that as soon as the construction trestles
outside it were removed, the Soviet Regime would fall. It may have been a coincidence, but the reconstruction that finished in 1991 was followed by the famous events which put an end to the
During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
The Church of the Resurrection provides a stark contrast to its surroundings of Baroque, Classical and Modernist architecture.