This church, also known to locals as the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, was erected in Sankt Petersburg in the memory of Tsar Alexander II who was assassinated on the 1st of March, 1881. This decision was taken by his son, soon after the news of his father’s death reached him.
Visitors can immediately notice the imposing edifice which stands out from the surrounding buildings (which bear the marks of Baroque, Classical and Modernist periods) due to its architectural design. Alexander III wanted to construct the church while respecting the traditional Russian structural design, and not giving in to the western styles which seemed to have “polluted” the Russian town.
Alexander III analyzed various designs but none was to his liking. Eventually, Archimandrite Ignaty appointed Parland as the architect for the construction under discussion, but he decided to make the plan of the building himself. The project was inspired from St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and the Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev.
But the church did not serve the conventional purpose one would expect. Instead, Alexander III decided to organize special sermons and requiems every week in order to eulogize his father. Oddly enough, these religious services attracted big crowds.
The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was officially turned into a cathedral in 1923, but the edifice did not preserve itself as it was devastated after the Revolution. The damages were immense in as much as it was closed 9 years later and step by step it became a junkyard. The entire Sankt Petersburg buzzed over the idea that the church would be demolished. Even today, the edifice bears the marks of the second worldwide conflagration and the Siege of Leningrad.
This church of immense architectural value was destroyed almost in its entirety after the 2nd World War, when the Small Opera Theater started using it as a storage space. What remained from the original construction were 4 columns on which the mosaic representations were still noticeable and a segment of the balustrade.
Massive repair works were conducted after 1970, when the church became a subdivision of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral museum, and this institution funded the restoration. The “tormented” history of the church which saw periods of decay and rejuvenation came to an end in 1997 when the cathedral was reopened. The event was of massive proportions as thousands of visitors flooded the area in an attempt to cast their eyes on the new edifice for the first time.
The total costs of the restoration works was assessed at 3.6 million rubles, but in reality, the project exceeded this sum by 1 million rubles. The reason for this was the exquisite assortment of mosaics. There is a mosaic work that expands over 7500 sq. meters in which the assassination of Tsar Alexander II is connected to the crucifixion of Christ, as if both had suffered the same faith and under the same conditions.
The fact that the church was dedicated to the Tsar is obvious from the monument erected on the exact place where Alexander II fell to his death. This was created according to the structural plan developed by Parland and was finished in 1907.
The icons found within the church are varied in terms of the style used to create them. Some are representative for the academic style, some for the Modernist Age, while others bear the mark of the Byzantine painting style.
The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the emblem of nationalism. It refused to subdue itself to the Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles which dominated the area and decided to reflect the medieval Russian style instead.