In Russia, the army, especially the navy had special respect among people and government from the beginning. The Orthodox Church which has many followers in Russia also owns that kind of respect. When these two merge, it's not hard to imagine how important that place would be.
St, Nicholas Naval Cathedral is located at the side of the Kryukov Canal on the west side of central Saint Petersburg. This place was where the seamen and sailors lived during Peter the Great's era. A new wooden church is built over the old chapel that was there before for those people. The name, St. Nicholas who is the patron of sailors and people who travel in the sea gave to that church for that same reason. Elizabeth of Russia was the one who directed to replace the wooden church with a stone cathedral.
Following Elizabeth's order, Russian architect, Savva Chevakinsky hired for the job. He designed the cathedral in style of late Baroque architecture and consecrated in the presence of Elizabeth herself, in 1760. This cathedral was two separate churches on is the upper church, and the other called the lower church. Since this cathedral always had a good relationship with the navy and even took its name after the patron of the seas, Catherine the Great officially dedicated this cathedral to the navy, in 1762. Today, the cathedral is one of the best and last remained examples of the late Baroque architecture in Russia.
The St. Nicholas Cathedral has five golden domes with a cross installed on top of each one of them. The white and blue colors of the building gave an imposing look to the cathedral. However, the four-story bell tower which built separately from the cathedral in 1758, along with its tall spire at the top gave the genuine character to the cathedral, and also shine in the commercial area of central Saint Petersburg as an individual.
Since the cathedral has two separate parts, the lower church on the first floor is dedicated to St. Nicholas and the upper church which consecrated in the presence of Catherine the Great is dedicated to the Epiphany, one of the main feast in the Orthodox Church. Though, the main shrine of the cathedral is an icon of St. Nicholas that kept at the lower church.
One of the significant attractions of the cathedral is the marvelous iconography which gave to the cathedral by Catherine the Great as a generous gift. There are also many items and symbols about the navy in each corner of the place. Memorials of the Russian Navy's lost souls such as the two famous submarines that sank with all of their crew can be found on the cathedral's walls. There are a few marble plaques in memory of those who died during the sea battles with Japan in 1905, hang on the lower church's wall. Also in 1989, a memorial for 42 marines who lost their lives in Norway's Coast erected in the cathedral.
This cathedral is one of the only cathedrals which never closed not even during the Soviet era and resumed to give church services all the time. Also, today as more than 250 years that past from the church's existence, the cathedral still performs the Navy's memorial and celebrations alongside the church's services. This cathedral has a capacity of 5000 people.
There are at least three genuine reasons for tourists to visit this cathedral. For the first reason, we can point out the astonishing architecture of the cathedral which is the best and last remaining example of the Elizabethan Baroque architecture in Russia and its bell tower that can attract any person to itself without a doubt. The next reason is the iconography, paintings, altars, and memorials in the churches which are impressive on their own, and for the last reason, the chance to learn about the history of the cathedral and its association with the navy. These reasons together would be enough motivation for anyone to at least visit this place once.
Russia has several more attractions that might interest you and other travelers, and if you want to learn more about them, you can visit the Star Travel Group website for more information, especially our guide about 'Russia Attractive Places.'