During the Soviet era, many churches, cathedrals, and religious places all over Russia destroyed or their subject changed into something else. The Alexander Nevsky cathedrals in Moscow, Tiflis, and Tver, the Old Trinity Cathedral in St. Petersburg, and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow were among the demolished cathedrals in Soviet era. Extremely few numbers of these religious places rebuilt after their demolition, but, one of the famous examples of them is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is located at the southwest of the Kremlin, north of the Moskva River, and at the heart of the city. This 103-meter high structure is the tallest Orthodox Church in the world. Although the cathedral suffered a lot through the time, with the help of the people, the new cathedral rebuilt on its original place in Moscow, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The first thought about building the cathedral dates back to when Alexander the First decided to build a monument to all the lives lost during the Napoleon invasion, and also as a symbol for his gratefulness to God for saving Russia from the dark days that shadowed its land. The first accepted plan of the cathedral by the Tsar was the Russian architect Karl Vitberg’s design which was an example of neoclassical architecture with many Freemasonic symbols all over it. At first, the highest point in Moscow which is the sparrow hills was chosen to be the construction site of the new cathedral, but because the ground was quite weak for bearing the huge cathedral’s structure, and also the death of the Alexander the First, the project temporary suspended. Nicholas the First who was not a fan of the new cathedral’s design, especially the Freemasonic symbols fired Vitberg and assigned his trusted architect, Konstantin Thon as the new chief in command. Thon’s design of the new cathedral was followed in the method of Russia Revival architecture and the style of Turkish Hagia Sophia’s architecture which was approved by the Tsar in 1832. The Tsar chose a site near the Kremlin to build the new cathedral, but the construction was not started until 1839.
The construction of the cathedral started in 1839 but continued for over forty years. During this time, several artists including Sorokin, Surikov, and Kramskoi oversaw the painting and interior design of the cathedral. Tchaikovsky wrote the overture 1812’s symphony with the completed cathedral in his mind but forced to perform its debut in front of the unfinished cathedral in 1882. There are several unique and valuable paintings and materials including some rare granite and marble used to design the interior of the cathedral. There was also a two-story gallery built within the church on which the first floor was dedicated to the patriotic war of 1812 and the second floor obtained by the choirs. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour finished in 1883 and opened to the public a day before Alexander the third crowning ceremony.
Following the revolution in October 1917, an official state's order from the Soviet government established from 1921 to 1928 that many churches, cathedrals, and religious places at local, district, or national level were ordered to be destroyed or turned into something non-religious. After the death of Lenin, Joseph Stalin took the power and chose the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour as the Soviet Palace. A palace which was meant to be the symbol of the Soviet Union and its glory. He even planned to install a gigantic sculpture of the former leader of the Soviet Union to replace the current massive golden dome of the cathedral. In the 1930s, the Soviet financial was not sufficient, so the financial committee requested to use the pure gold that used to build the dome for covering the financial problems which were not rejected by the government. Finally, in 1931, the destruction order was given and the cathedral demolished, but the process of unloading the area lasted for a year. However, for several reasons such as financial problems, the Second World War, and many others the Soviet Palace was never built on the former cathedral’s site. Some pieces of the valuable stones that used to build the cathedral utilized again to build famous palace look alike metro stations in Moscow. The only pieces of one-day tallest Orthodox Cathedral of the world that remained are the reliefs of the cathedral which is now displayed at the Donskoy Monastery. The demolished cathedral’s site which always filled with flooded Moskva River's water turned into the largest open-air pool named Moskva Pool, in 1958.
The Orthodox Church of Russia allowed to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour again, in 1990. At first, Alexi Denisov assigned to design and build the new cathedral, but after many disagreements with the administrator’s office in Moscow, he got fired and replaced by Zurab Tsereteli. There were many funding issues for rebuilding the new cathedral in 1992, but after the contributions of over one million Muscovites, the fund for the new project was provided, and the construction began in 1995. In the new cathedral's design, there was a great hall below the church for gatherings. There was also Alexander II and Nicholas II's statue monument constructed on the east side of the cathedral. A large pedestrian bridge that overpassed the Moskva River and ended at the foot of the new cathedral was also constructed in 2003.
This large cathedral, which is the tallest Orthodox cathedral in the world, is one of the main destinations of many tourists in Moscow. Since it’s only a few hundred meters away from the Kremlin, it features in almost all the Moscow tours’ programs as well. The cathedral was rebuilt following the original design from the 1830s, but, it also features modern technology as well. Besides the architecture and the interior of the new cathedral, there are other attractions such as the iconography, paintings on the walls and ceiling, and St. Philaret’s grave. Overall, considering the cathedral is located at the heart of the city, near the famous Kremlin, visiting the place in your travel to Moscow would be both interesting and useful, notably for the people who love the Russian architecture and history.
Cathedral of the Christ the Savior is only one of the major attractions of Moscow, you can find more information about them on our weblog at the Star Travel Group, especially the article about the 'Moscow Attractive Places.'