Sep 06

St. Isaac’s Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Isaac)

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is named after the saint to whom it is dedicated: Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, and it is located in Sankt Petersburg, being the largest Orthodox cathedral found in this specific town.

The church was erected by the order of Tsar Alexander I, but the actual building process took quite some time to be initiated, mainly because the designs which were presented before the commission appointed to supervise the project were deemed unworthy. The architect to receive the job was Auguste de Montferrand, but even his design was received with immense criticism. Montferrand’s plan consisted of a gigantic structure with 4 identical porticos, but this was not what the commission had in mind.

They considered the design to be quite dull in its repetitiveness and this definitely did not inspire grandeur, which was what they were looking to achieve through the cathedral. Even if the edifice was to be colossal in size this did not necessarily mean that it was to be the epitome of greatness. This was quite a dispute in this regard, so the Tsar himself intervened in the matter and appointed Montferrand to supervise the construction of the cathedral.

Thus, the project was under way. However, the edifice did not see the light of day until 40 years had passed – this being the timeframe in which it was built (beginning 1818 and being finished in 1858). The history of the cathedral is very interesting, the church having witnessed different political regimes, time in which its appearance and scope had changed. For instance, when the Soviet Union was in power, any depiction which was religious in nature was destroyed. In fact, in 1931, the building was transformed into an Antireligious Museum.

As a consequence of this shift, the dove sculpture – the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but also of peace and conciliation – was removed, so as to make room for Foucault’s pendulum. This device was used to demonstrate in the simplest way possible that the earth is indeed round. The symbolism behind this? The Soviets felt the need to erase all remnants of religion, or more accurately of blind belief in something that cannot be demonstrated, and replace these with something palpable, logically explained.

In 1937, this antireligious museum was turned into a museum for the cathedral and the collections it contained were transported to another museum, the Museum of the History of Religion, where they could integrate themselves into the historical path traversed by religion as a whole, or better still, by the way in which religion was perceived throughout time.

The edifice was once more turned into a cathedral when the communist regime fell. Thus, the museum which was housed here was closed and the cathedral began being used for religious purposes. However, the religious activity is conducted solely in the left segment of the cathedral, the main edifice being used only during feast days.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral stands out due to the fact that it comprises several unique elements of architecture. At the exterior, the first thing that draws one’s attention is the columned structure – there are 112 pillars with Corinthian capitals which are formed out of red granite. There are 48 statues in total in the structure of the edifice, divided equally between the rotunda (the circular ground plan) and the roof.

The main dome is another point of interest as it is elevated at more than one hundred meters, it is gilded in pure gold and there are 12 statuettes depicting angels which adorn it.

The interior of the cathedral is beautifully adorned with statues made out of multicolored granites and marbles which have been brought from all over Russia. The massive doors at the entrance are made out of bronze, while the iconostasis is enclosed by means of 8 pillars made out of semiprecious stones. The paintings adorning the interior of the cathedral were masterfully created by Karl Bryullov. However, these depictions did not survive the dire conditions found inside of the cathedral in terms of humidity and cold. Montferrand decided not to have the paintings redone as these were bound to suffer the same faith with the passage of time, instead he had them meticulously replicated in the form of mosaic works. However, the job was left unfinished even to this day.

Aug 23

The Bolshoi Theatre (Teatrul Bolshoi)

It is literally impossible to be unaware of the great Muscovite theatre, the Bolshoi Theatre. It is renowned throughout the world so it is only natural to schedule a tour at this great edifice on your visit to Russia.

The architect behind the project, Joseph Bove, has designed the edifice in the neoclassical style and at present, the artistically crafted theatre can be seen on the 100-rubble banknote.

The main building had been subjected to several renovation processes since its appearance, but the constant work conducted on the edifice goes to show that the Moscow administration has recognized the importance of the edifice and the significant role it plays in the cultural life of the city, and of the entire nation for that matter. So it is of no surprise that the theatre has become a landmark of Russia.

The most recent restoration work was initiated in 2005 and it took 6 years to be completed. The work undertaken by the contractor consisted of restoring the high acoustical quality of the edifice which had been lost when the soviet regime was instituted and Russia was traversed by an outburst of social and political change. It was during this refurbishing work that the Bolshoi Theatre regained its majestic decorative architecture.

The company which administered the theatre came into being in the 18th century (1776), but the performances were not hosted in a grand edifice, which could proudly bear the name of theatre. In turn, the cultural events were held in a private house. It was not until 1780 that the company acquired the Petrovka Theatre and extended its area of interest so as to include plays and operas.

But this location was bound to change in 25 years’ time as the theatre caught fire and was severely damaged, in as much as it had to be rebuilt from the ground. The new edifice was constructed in 1824 in Theatre Square, under the supervision of Andrei Mikhailov, the architect to develop the plan for the new theatre.

The name attached to the theatre was meant to reflect the importance of the purpose it held in the Russian community. For one, it should be mentioned that theatres were seen as being the epitome of cultural life, especially those which housed opera and ballet performances. Thus the name given was of “Grand Theatre” which in Russian translates as the Bolshoi Theatre.  The reason for which this occurred was that the two types of artistic performances were regarded as being noble, exceeding the plays (comedies, tragedies or dramas) in the degree of artistry used in putting the enactments on stage.

The Bolshoi Theatre, the national theatre of Russia, has always been regarded as an icon of Russia and it is no wonder that it had preserved this status throughout time. It is within its walls that the cultural life of Russia was formed and carried out, having maintained the traditions of Russia alive.

But most important, the theatre strives to offer continuity in the sense that all the changes that occur, from a cultural point of view, are outlined within the performances held at Bolshoi. This means that while the classical pieces are still performed on regular basis, being masterfully executed by true artists, contemporary pieces are also presented. Only the best productions will take the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre so if you have the opportunity to visit, and even more importantly, to attend to the opera or the ballet acts put together both for connoisseurs and common audiences, you should not miss out on it. The fact remains that the artistry with which the people on stage present themselves will definitely impress even those who are not knowledgeable of this art. The fact remains that beautiful things will always entice the eye.

If we have captured your attention and you are already taking into consideration the idea of visiting Moscow and this specific tourist attraction, then you will be pleased to hear that some of the tickets to the performances (20%) are reduced so as to be accessible to everyone. Another aspect of general interest is that the Bolshoi Theatre contains 2 stages: the main one and the new one.  As you have probably already guessed, tickets for the performances held on the main stage are more expensive than those from the new stage. This structure of the theatre gives the company the opportunity to address several matters, allowing it to hold performances concomitantly and thus offer some variety to its audience.

There is only one way in which the theatre can be described and that is as a “living and breathing organism.” Why? Because its evolution goes hand in hand with the evolution of the society, and not just the Russian society. The artists and the pieces presented at Bolshoi Theatre have different origins and the reason is simple: the company is dedicated to culture in general, and to Russian art in particular, pinpointing the cultural evolution of the world.

Aug 02

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Petru si Pavel)

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral is located in Sankt Petersburg and it is the oldest and tallest cathedral in the city. In fact it is the second highest edifice in St. Petersburg, if you are to take into account the television tower.

But what makes the cathedral an important tourist attraction are the historical events it had been a witness to, some of which are tightly connected to the House of Romanov, the second and last dynasty to rule over Imperial Russia. Furthermore, the cathedral is the resting place of almost all the Russian rulers since Peter the Great.


The construction work

The cathedral goes back since the period in which Sankt Petersburg was founded. Initially, the house of worship was a wooden construction, erected one month after the city was established. In 1712, the Italian-born architect Domenico Trezzi designed a plan for the cathedral in which stone was used as the primarily material. The construction work was initiated soon afterwards, but the final result was not to be seen for 20 years. The cathedral was sanctified on the 29th of June, 1733.

The architectural design definitely contrasts the traditional style used in constructing Orthodox churches as it is a reflection of the Early Baroque. The architect drew inspiration from the protestant churches located in the western part of the continent and thus came up with the quadrilateral structure, the specific shape of the belfry and the needle-like tower which seems to pierce the sky.


Architectural design

The walls of the cathedral consist of ornamental columns, while the windows are artistically adorned with angel heads. In constructing the bell tower, the architect used the multi-layers technique and added the gilded needle atop the construction. This one-of-a-kind development, the needle, was created by Dutchman German von Bolis, who added a further detail on top: a flying angel that holds a cross in its hand. There is no difficulty in understanding the meaning of the representation. The needle is reflexive of the transcending experience one undergoes while embracing religion. The needle pointing upward is a symbol of this uplifting experience.


A new detail was added to the bell tower in 1720, but this had no religious meaning attached to it. The clock we can see today was purchased from Holland for the price of 45.000 rubles, which was quite a large amount of money for that particular time.

The interior of the cathedral is a true work of art. The iconostasis is really impressive, and how else could it be taking into account that more than 40 architects from Moscow used their artistic creativity to create this unique piece. The first part of the 18th century brought about further improvements. The interior walls were covered with paintings which illustrated different biblical scenes.


But the past of the cathedral is sprinkled with tragic events. The bell-tower is considered impressive, especially due to the needle which finishes it, but because of this tall structural design, the tower was subjected to the devastating effects of bad weather conditions, more precisely, of lighting. The tower burned to the ground in 1756. But while everything else was turned to ashes, the iconostasis managed to survive the terrible fire, having been removed from the cathedral in due time. The reconstruction work was not initiated until 1766, when Catherine the Great gave order for the edifice to be recreated in the exact same manner. But it took another ten years until the finished tower was revealed to the public.

The bell tower is definitely the main attraction of the cathedral and it is no wonder since it is an architectural emblem. The tower is part of the imperial catacombs – these are located on the ground floor, and it also consists of a platform upon which visitors can ascend and admire the view. These are organized on an hourly basis, beginning at 12:00 and ending at 18:00.


There is a story concerning the edifice that might catch your attention. In 1997, when the angel atop the needle was being cleaned, the renovators encountered a message in a bottle which had been written back in 1953. The persons in charge of the renovation work from the ‘50s were apologetic for having performed a hasty and a bit of a sloppy work. The explanation is that the Soviet prime minister at that time, Nikita Khrushchev gave order for the angel to the restored quickly so that it would be ready for the city’s 250th anniversary. Allegedly, the renovators from ’97 had continued the tradition, leaving a note for the generations to come. However, the text was not made public.

Jul 25

Novodevichy Convent (Manastirea Novodevichy)

The Novodevichy Convent is situated on the bank of Moscow River and consists both of a monastery and a cemetery.

The convent dates back from the 16th century (1524) when it was founded by Tsar Vasily III as a means to commemorate the Muscovite-Lithuanian War through which the Russians managed to capture the city of Smolensk from Lithuania – which was a major trading center at that time. The construction was meant to serve both as a religious site and as a fortification. This was obvious from the thickness of the walls as well as from the strategic location chosen to erect the edifice.


Due to the fact that it was constructed by the order of the Tsar, the convent occupied a higher position among the religious edifices and was designated mainly for noble women. In fact, it was oftentime used to imprison the women of royalty who would defy the tsar. Just to give an example of how disobedience was punished, it is worth mentioning that both the first wife and the half-sister of Tsar Peter the Great were confined here.

The original structure did not survive the passage of time, so the building that stands before the beholder dates from a later period, more exactly from the 1680s. This marks the year when the monastery was subjected to massive restoration work.


After the Russian Revolution of 1917 the convent was closed and in ’22 it was transformed into a museum. This turn of events was actually beneficial because it ensured the survival of the edifice in a period when Russia was traversed by warfare.

The convent was one again restored in the 1960s and even to this day it has maintained the status of museum which was given at the beginning of the 20th century. However, there are nuns dwelling here, thus maintaining the convent alive.

The monastic complex comprises several churches. The most relevant one is the Cathedral of the Virgin of Smolensk. This follows the architectural style of the Cathedral of Assumption, located in Kremlin, and consists of five colossal domes, an outstanding iconostasis which comprises 84 wooden piers, to which are added 16th and 17th century icons.


There is a legend according to which the cathedral was on the verge of being brought down in 1812, when Napoleon gave order to his soldiers to dynamite the edifice, but a courageous nun had prevented this from happening by extinguishing the fuse.

The Church of Assumption is located to the right of the aforementioned cathedral and the Church of St. Ambrose is located at the back. This later church is all painted in white and contains within its walls icons from the 18th century as well as an exhibition of clergy apparel.


The Gate-Church of Trasfiguration is situated at the entrance of the convent and it is representative for the Moscow Baroque architectural design. The southern gate is ‘guarded’ by the Gate-Church of the Intercession, an edifice consisting of three cupolas and a red and white façade.

As it has been mentioned the complex is officially known as a museum, so exhibitions are bound to be found here. The items on display are paintings dating from Antiquity, ceramic and wooden objects, different types of needlework, as well as an impressive collection of gilded, silver or bejeweled books.


The adjacent cemetery is actually a highly appreciated tourist attraction. Probably this is due to the fact that it resembles a park. There are small chapels every now and then and large sculptures.

In its initial phase, the cemetery was used solely for feudal rulers and for the high figures of the church. As time went by, other important figures started using the cemetery as their burial place, such as intellectuals or traders. Each historical period has its representatives buried Novodevichy Cemetery. Overall, more than 27.000 persons (political leaders, well-renowned artists, actors, authors, etc.) have found their rest here.

Visiting hours:
The museum is opened Thursday to Tuesday from 10:00 until 17:00, while the Convent is opened each day from 10:00 until 18:00.

Jul 17

Menshikov Palace (Palatul Menshikov)

The Menshikov Palace was named after the first governor-general of Sankt Petersburg, Prince Alexander Menshikov. The edifice dates from the beginning of the 18th century, having been erected in 1710 on Vasilevsky Island. Throughout time, the palace has been used for various purposes, both as dwelling and for administrative purposes. At present, the Menshicov Palace is part of the Federal Cultural Institution “State Hermitage.”

The architectural design of the Menshikov Palace is unique and this can be explained by the process of construction it underwent. The building work took a considerable number of years until completion and the design was conveyed by a team of European artists and architects: Giovanni Mario Fontana, Johann Gottfried Schadel, Domenico Trezzini, Carlo Bartolommeo Rastrelli, Georg Johanns Mattarnovi, Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond. But the palace was erected by the hands of Russian people, these having transposed the ideas on paper into the palpable construction one can admire nowadays.


The architectural design of the palace is a mixture of traditional Russian elements and novel features, imported from Europe, which consisted of the newest developments both in the structure and the design of buildings.

At the interior, the palace is decorated with paintings, molds, marble, vintage and modern Italian sculptures, textiles, tapestries, Russian and Dutch tiles. Although there is quite a variety of decorative elements, they are tastefully arranged so you don’t feel overwhelmed when entering a room.


The beautiful museum contained a numismatic collection, as well as statues, documents, books, and paintings and was considered the cultural center of Sankt Petersburg at that time.

But when Prince Alexander Menshikov lost his status, his possessions were impounded by the state and the palace came under the patronage of the First Cadet Corps.

The edifice was preserved to its original design as it was subjected to restoration during the 1970s. When this work was completed, the palace, now transformed into a museum, was opened for visitations from 1981 onward. The objects on display are not solely the private collections of prince Meshinkov, but include items belonging to the Imperial Family, as well as collections of the nobility.

Jul 05

The State Hermitage (Muzeul de Arta)

The State Hermitage, also known as the Federal Cultural Institution “State Hermitage,” is one of the greatest museam complex in Russia. The institution took form back in the 18th century (1764) when the Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, purchased from Berlin an impressive number of paintings from Eastern Europe (225 paintings of Flemish and Dutch origin).

In time, the musem expanded and increased the number of works of arts it possessed. At present, the complex consists of various buildings spread throughout Sankt Petersburg. From the 10 edifices which form the State Hermitage, 7 date from the 18th and 19th century and are cultural monuments. The Winter Palace, the Menshikov Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Restoration and Storage Center, The Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory are but a few of the edifices under the patronage of the State Hermitage.


The Main Museum Complex, as it is obvious from the name it bears, consists of the most important and largest collections of art works. The exhibitions are held in 6 different buildings, all located in the historical center of Sankt Petersburg. The pieces on display belong to the following categories: archeology, numismatics, and various works of art (scluptures, paintings, monuments) from Western Europe, countries in the Orient, Russia, as well as pieces dating from Antiquity.

In order to comprehed the magnitute of the collections, you should know that the museum complex holds within its walls approximately 3 million items. With such a collection it is no wonder that more than 2.5 million visitors, both from Russia and from abroad had come to the State Hermitage.



If you are not yet convinced whether or not you should visit the museum, maybe a short presentation of some of the works of art that exist here might help you make the right decision. The State Hermitage has a Military Gallery, which dates from 1826, and which Carlo Rossi (the man behind the project) had dedicated to the acts of bravery of the Russian soldiers that had fought in the Napoleonic Wars (1812). The Gallery contains 332 portraits of the generals who took part in the aforementioned wars, painted by George Dawe, of British origin, in collaboration with the Russian painters Alexander Polyakov and Wilhelm Golike.


The gallery was inaugurated on the 25th of October 1826, the exact same date (but different year, naturally) when the Napoleon’s army was expulsed from Russia.

A valuable painting found here is Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna and Child, which was purchased in 1865 from Count Litta, owner of a gallery in Milan. The Count wanted to sell a considerable collection of paintings, 44 in number, but the director of the State Hermitage selected just four from the list presented to him. The total price for the works of art reached 100,000 francs and while all of the paintings are valuable, the Litta Madonna, as it became known, was the most important of them all.


The Madonna and Child (Conestabile Madonna), painted by Raphael, was added to the museum collection in 1870. The Madonna with a Flower, by Leonardo da Vinci, is on display since 1914, when the Russian population engaged in a fund-raising to gather enough money to buy the masterpiece from Maria Benois. The painting was finally acquired for the sum of 150,000 roubles – the owner, having been moved by the Russians’ detemination to add the painting to the Collection of the State Hermitage, decided to sell it at a smaller price.

But the works of art on display are numerous and all of them carry an immense value. Not only connoisseurs, but also novices in the field of fine arts will recognize their worth.

Jun 15

The Red Square, Moscow (Piata Rosie, Moscova)

The Red Square is situated in Moscow, Russia, and it is “flanked” by the Kremlin, on one side, and the Kitai-gorod, a historical trade center, on the other side. Due to the fact that the most important streets and arteries derive from this square, it has led people to the accurate conclusion that the Red Square is the central point of Russia’s capital city, but also of the entire state.

The name of the square might be erroneously attached either to the color of the bricks which were used in constructing the square, or to the symbolical color of communism (‘red’). But in reality, the name of the square derives from the Russian word ‘krasnaya’ which has two meanings: ‘red’, on the one hand, and ‘beautiful’, on the other. However, this latter meaning is almost outdated.


The name was initially used in reference to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, but it was later on reassigned to the square located in close proximity of the aforementioned cathedral. The original name given to the square was Pozhar, which stands for ‘burnt-out place,’ but this is considered to have been changed to ‘Red Square’ sometimes in the 1800s.

There are many events which revolve around this piazza and because of this the square is included in a multitude of paintings, some signed by Konstantin Yuon, Vasily Surikov, etc. Just to name a few, the Red Square was the place where coronation ceremonies of the Tsars of Russia were officiated, and were public announcements and different types of formalities took place (official ceremonies).


The Red Square had always played an important part in the history of Russia. During the communist age, the square was intensely used for military processions. An edifice that is reminiscent of the communist regime is the Mausoleum of Lenin, where the earthly remains of the former Soviet ruler rest in peace. Lenin’s body has been embalmed so tourists can actually gaze on the ruthless leader almost as he appeared before people in his lifetime. The mausoleum is part of the Red Square and it is a must-see location.

The 1930s were extremely relevant in the history of the square. Two important edifices were demolished (Kazan Cathedral and Iverskaya Chapel) with the purpose of enlarging the square so as to make it fit for imposing parades, but also to permit large military vehicles to traverse it. The good news is that the two buildings which were demolished had been reconstructed after the Soviet Union fell.


For the same purpose, Saint Basil’s Cathedral was about to witness the same fate. There is a legend according to which the person in charge of this project of expending the square, Lazar Kaganovich, brought the plan to Stalin in order to get his approval. But when Stalin saw the piazza without the cathedral, he said the now well-known quote: ‘Lazar! Put it back!’, as if he could not envisage the Red Square without that construction.        

The Red Square has been recognized for the great historical value it carries so it has been inscribed in the list of world heritages. Today, the square is a preserved monument, under the UNESCO National Cultural Heritage Law.

May 25

Kuskovo Estate (Mosia Kuskovo )

The Kuskovo Estate is situated in Moscow, in the Perovsky District, and dates back from the mid-18th century. This was the summer residence of the Sheremetev noble family, and it is one of the few manors of its type that have survived to this day. At present, the Russian State Museum of Ceramics has taken hold of the Sheremetev estate, while the park surrounding the edifice is one of the main recreational spaces in Moscow – being intensely visited by locals, and not only.



The estate is the result of the creative minds of architects F. Argunov, A. Mironov, G. Dikushin, and K. Blank, and consists of various edifices, among which we mention the Palace, the Church, the Hermitage, the Grotto, and the Italian and Dutch Houses – all of which have been preserved to this day. The Kuskovo Estate also comprises a beautiful park, designed after the French model, which consists of several meres, pavilions and statuettes made out of marble.

The architectural design of the palace is representative of Early Classicism, but Baroque details are also noticeable. The palace is actually made out of wood, the only exception making the ground floor which is constructed out of stone. The interior of the palace is maintained to its original 18th century design and visitors can admire a one-of-a-kind collection of paintings, among which we will find various representations of the Russian Tsars. These were actually presented as royal gifts to the Sheremetev noblemen.


The Grotto was constructed between 1755 and 1761, after the design of architect F. Argunov. The construction is truly impressive as it is beautifully adorned. The pavilion follows the Baroque architectural style and it is embellished by means of sculptures (in the niches) and lions’ heads above the windows. The façade of this construction is ornamented with special decorative stones (travertine) and colored glass. All these elements used in the construction and decoration of the edifice are meant to emphasize the architect’s vision: that the Grotto would be perceived as a symbol of aquatic and stone elements.


The Hermitage was designed by K. Blank and it was erected in one-year time (1765-1766). The baroque edifice was extremely intimate, as only a small circle of people could get access to it. The servants were not permitted to enter – but, in order to provide the noblemen with the necessary items, special machines were developed so as to transport these items (food, drinks, and the like). The Hermitage is actually one of the most impressive edifices of the 18th century which has managed to survive the passage of time.

The Kuskovo Estate was transformed into a State Museum in 1919. By 1938, it had been supplemented with an impressive number of ceramic works of art, in as much as at present, the Museum hold one of the largest collections of ceramics and glass. The objects are representative for various historical times – dating from the ancient times and going through all the periods until reaching contemporaneity.


But the items are not solely of Russian origin, the museum comprising different works of art from all over the world: Italy (tin-glazed pottery), Venice, England (glass), China (porcelains). The museum is also renowned for the inimitable Russian porcelains created between the 18th and the 20th centuries.

The park was developed over a considerable number of years (from 1750 up until 1780) and it followed the French garden design. This means that the park consists of immense parterres – formal garden construction which comprises sections of flowers, hedges and alleys, all carefully organized so as to form a unity. Other decorative elements noticeable in the park are sculptures, large vases, and various types of trees which are trimmed so as to create beautiful spherical arrangements.


The 1770s brought about the construction of another garden – this one developed as an English park – in the continuation of the already exiting French garden (in the northern side). This was an idyllic representation of nature as it consisted of pathways constructed in zigzag, foliage passageways, lawns and orchards of trees. But unfortunately, this park is no longer standing, the only remaining part of the English landscape garden being the Hermitage.

May 16

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior (Catedrala lui Isus Hristos Mantuitorul)

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is located in the Russian capital, Moscow, and it might just be the largest orthodox cathedral in the entire world.

This cathedral was the idea of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, who upon seeing the troupes of Napoleon leaving Moscow, decided to erect a cathedral and dedicate it to Jesus Christ for having protected the Russians from their invaders. Also, the cathedral was dedicated to the Russian troupes that have sacrificed their lives for their nation.


But even if the idea began to take form as the plan was developed and the location was selected, the cathedral did not see the light of day any time soon. The reason for this was that the successor of Tsar Alexander, his brother Nicholas, did not approve of the architectural design chosen for the edifice – which representative of the neoclassical period.

As a result, a new architect was appointed so as to draw a different plan for the cathedral. This task came to Konstantin Thon who drew his inspiration from the Hagia Sophia edifice, located in Constantinople. Even the site was changed. On the new selected location there were already  a church and a covenant, but the resolution in this case was to relocate the two edifices so as to make room for the grand cathedral.


The year 1839 marks the moment when the construction work for the cathedral began, but only the platform was developed in the years to come. The extensive work picked up its pace in 1860. And the next 20 years after this were dedicated to decorating the cathedral.

This consisted of elaborate frescoes which were done to the interior of the edifice by some of the most renowned Russian painters of that time. The cathedral was sanctified in the same day that Tsar Alexander III was crowed ruler over all of Russia – 26th of May, 1883.


But after the Revolution, the Soviets had developed a plan according to which the cathedral was to change dramatically, from an Orthodox house of worship to a monument dedicated to socialism which was to bear the name: the Palace of Soviets. The idea was to attach a colossal statue of Lenin on a dome of the edifice. Even if this project was never realized, the fate of the cathedral was doomed, as it was dynamited on December the 5th, 1931 leaving behind nothing more that ruins of a once glorious edifice.

But the near future did not see any prospect of rebuilding the cathedral due to a lack of funds. What was left behind in the place of the cathedral was a huge hole. There were no interventions conducted to the site until Nikita Khrushchev came to power. During his period, an immense swimming pool was constructed in place of the cathedral. But when the Soviet Union fell, there was a ray of hope that the cathedral would be rebuilt.


The Russian Orthodox Church got permission to start the reconstruction work for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February 1990. But the work did not begin until 1994 as there were insufficient funds to support this costly undertaking. The cathedral was officially completed in 2000, on the 19th of August, when it underwent its sanctifying ritual.

The new cathedral is reflexive of the former edifice, the architects doing everything in their power to create an accurate replica of the initial Cathedral of Christ the Savior. In order to do this, massive research work was done but even so, there are noticeable differences between the original construction and its present-day counterpart.


The first distinction is that the new edifice disposes of an annex right at its base. This section is quite large as it consists of the Church of the Transfiguration, the Hall of Church Councils, Dining Halls, offices for the personnel working at the church, and so on. Another discrepancy between the past and the present edifices refers to the materials used in the construction work. The present cathedral was constructed while using the latest technological developments and materials. Just to give some examples, the façade is covered with marble from Koegla, the staircases are covered in red granite while concrete was the main material used in the construction of the walls.


The edifice is enormous – as much as 10,000 people can fit inside the cathedral. It is no wonder that it is the largest cathedral on all of Russia. The interior decoration is breathtaking, the cathedral being adorned with elaborate frescoes which extend over the entire surface of the walls (which exceeds 22,000 m). One aspect worth mentioning is that the better part of the walls is gilded.

The cathedral is open for visitation on a daily basis in the following hourly interval: 6:30 – 22:00. There is no fee charged for entering the holy place, but there is one restriction imposed to visitors – it is not allowed to take photographs of the interior.

May 10

The Winter Palace (Palatul de Iarna, Kremlin)

The Winter Palace was constructed between 1754 and 1762 and served the purpose of winter residence for the Russian Tsars – this is the reason for which the edifice bears this name.

The architect behind the project was Bartolomeo Rastrelli who designed the edifice in a Baroque style. The vividly colored palace (in green and white) has a total of 1.786 doors and 1.945 windows, 1.500 chambers and 117 staircases, so you can only imagine the immensity of the Winter Palace.



The Winter Palace has a quadrilateral structure, measuring 30 m in height and 250 m in length (the main façade). The exterior is still reflexive of the palace which was originally constructed, but the interior design has suffered modifications – nowadays different styles can be noticed within the chambers. Because of this, Budberg defined the edifice as a “19th-century palace inspired by a model in Rococo style.”


The edifice was the property of the Russian monarchs until 1917, when the population sieged the Winter Palace during the Russian Revolution. At this point, the edifice became the site for the Russian Temporary Government. But the palace once more changes hands as the Bolshevik forces begin their assault on the edifice, this action marking the beginning of the Socialist Revolution which took place in October, 1917.


Nowadays, the palace is part of the Hermitage Museum Complex which contains one of the largest collections of art from all over the world.

The palace underwent several renovation works throughout time. In fact, the edifice which presents itself in front of our eyes at present, is the forth “version” of the original Winter Palace.  In the later part of the 1730s, a fire of massive proportions took hold of the construction causing severe damages.

The Russian Tsar immediately gave order for the edifice to be “resurrected”, but the work was not complete until 1837, as constant transformations were inflicted. The palace was mean to accurately represent the strength and authority of Imperial Russia and it is precisely because of this that the palace has been designed at an epic scale.


Another event of high importance occurred in 1905 when a mass of protesters headed towards the Winter Palace with one purpose in mind – to shed the blood of the royal family. But the monarchs were no longer using the palace as dwelling, seeking retreat in a safer place where they could not fall to the angry hands of the demonstrators. But nevertheless, history recorded a bloodbath in that day – an event which has ever since been known as the Bloody Sunday Massacre.


The exterior of the Winter Palace consists of artistically crafted statues and stuccos which adorn the façades. The public had always been allowed to visit the main façades; it was the lateral ones which were not visible to the eye. These were veiled by massive stone walls and contained a beautiful garden in between them.


The main reception ballroom is the Nicholas Hall, named after Tsar Nicholas II. The interior design is distinguishable thought the tall windows which are separated one from the other by means of pillars. In fact, the palace has a multitude of porches, these being the only architectural designs that interfere with the otherwise symmetrical décor of the tall windows.

One thing that has changed constantly throughout time is the color in which the edifice was painted. The dual coloration mentioned previously (white and green) was conveyed during the improvement work conducted after WWII. The edifice was painted in green, while white was used to bring out the sculptural pieces and other objects of décor. Previously, the Winter Palace was painted in a paler shade of red.


As it has been said, the interior design combines a mixture of styles, manly Baroque and Neoclassical, with a hint of Rococo (as much as it was preserved during the constant renovations). There are only two elements in the entire place which have been preserved in their original form: the Jordan Staircase and the Grand Church.

The alterations conducted can be explained through the fact that Empress Catherine the Great (also known as Catherine II) was always following the latest trends and wanted to dwell in a modern palace which was accurately depicting the newest and most fashionable architectural styles. It is because of this that traces of Western Europe have managed to find their way to Sankt Petersburg.


Whether or not these modifications were to the detriment of the palace is debatable as each work has contributed to a certain extend to the rename conveyed at present to the Winter Palace. The “monument” palace has reached this status precisely due to the architectural and decorative transformations underwent by the edifice under different Russian monarchs.