The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is a cathedral in Moscow, Russia.
A building, much like a person, can be unique and possess a fate all its own. The life of some buildings is uncommonly successful and happy, some have an even and peaceful keel, while the life of other buildings can only be described as dramatic. The life of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is striking, impetuous – and truly tragic.
The idea of constructing the Cathedral arose during the Napoleonic invasion, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812, and was linked to Russia’s victory in that war, one which not only determined her future but also played a great role in world history.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was built as a national monument to express the nation’s gratitude to Christ Jesus for saving Russia.
The enormous – and extremely expensive – cathedral was eventually consecrated in 1883, and its vast copper domes dominated the Moscow skyline.
There were more than a 1,000 square meters (10,763 square feet) of Carrara marble, lots of paintings from the best Russian painters.
It was singled out for destruction by the Soviet Leader, Joseph Stalin and, in 1931, blown to pieces to make way for a proposed Palace of Soviets, one of the most influential pieces of architecture never to be built.
Palace of Soviets would have stood over 400 meters (1312 feet) high, with a huge statue of Lenin at its peak.
Only the foundations had been laid when the WWII brought an abrupt end to such an ambitious project.
The abandoned site of the Palace was empty for almost two decades, but in the ’50s, the Soviets converted it to the world’s largest open-air swimming pool named Moskva Pool. It existed from 1958 to 1995, and was open all year long.
In 1990, the Russian Orthodox Church received permission from the Soviet government to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
More than one million Muscovites donated money, so in 1995 the Moskva Pool was destroyed, and they started to build the new Cathedral.
The Cathedral was rebuilt after the collapse of the Soviet Union in a symbolic move that cost $360 million.
The rebuilding project was run jointly by the city government of Moscow and the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Both the Mayor and the Patriarch were eager to demonstrate to the people their ability to symbolically affect a reversal of years of Soviet influence over the city and the Church, respectively.
The new cathedral loosely followed the original plans.
The architect was Aleksey Denisov, but he was replaced by Zurab Tsereteli, who changed the marble reliefs to bronze ones.
The complete Cathedral of Christ the Savior was consecrated on Transfiguration Day, 19 August 2000.
Made of white marble and granite with glittering golden domes, the Cathedral once again stands as the most impressive ecclesiastical building in Moscow and is considered a symbol of revival and hope, and is the tallest Orthodox church in the world with an overall height of 103 meters (338 feet).
All around the huge building are scenes of religious or historical significance. Particularly interesting are the statues of the various Russian patron saints and battle scenes from the War of 1812 (for which the church was fist commissioned).
The interior decoration is breathtaking, the cathedral being adorned with elaborate frescoes which extend over the entire surface of the walls.
The design documentation reveals that the main iconostasis was the organizing principle for the Cathedral’s interior space. Thanks to serious scholarly investigations it was possible to restore the main iconostasis with maximal authenticity.
In 2000 the cathedral was the venue for the Canonization of the Romanovs when the last Tsar Nicholas II and his family were glorified as saints.