Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg: resembling the Roman temple

Maria Selezneva | Live the World

November 23, 2022

If you decide to take some photos of the Singer House on Nevsky Avenue or touch griffins’ wings for good fortune on the Bank Bridge, you’ll inevitably come to see Kazan Cathedral, one of the most prominent cathedrals in Saint Petersburg. Its unusual look of a cathedral resembling the Roman temple catches attention at once. That’s precisely how Emperor Paul I of Russia planned it to be, as well as quite a big square in front of the cathedral.

What was before

© istock/romanevgenev

Initially, on the place where now the Kazan Cathedral stands, there was a baroque church with a wooden cupola. In 1737, the church became home to one of the versions of the ‘Our Lady of Kazan’ icon, one of the most venerated icons for Russian Orthodox people. Years after, the church hosted the wedding of Emperor Paul I of Russia. Also, many Russian army celebrations took place there. The plans were to renovate the church and give it a more visible and solemn look.

But, after his travel around Europe, Paul I was so amazed by the beauty and greatness of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome as well as the square in front of it, that he announced a contest to renovate the church he married in. He wanted to see it transformed into something as grand and bright as St. Peter’s Basilica was. The construction of the magnificent building with collonade consisted of 96 columns which building started after the death of Paul I in 1801, and lasted for ten years. In 1811, the Kazan Cathedral was inaugurated, and the previous church was dismantled.

The image

© istock/blinow61

People who lived here at the beginning of the 19th century, considered Kazan Cathedral to be a place for celebrating the victory of the Russian Empire in the Patriotic War of 1812, or the French Invasion. Many war trophies related to Napoleon troops stored there, and Mikhail Kutuzov, an outstanding Russian military officer famous for its contribution to Russia’s victory, was buried in Kazan Cathedral as well. Now, images of Mikhail Kutuzov and Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly, who was another bright commander during the Patriotic War of 1812, are immortalized in two monuments in front of the cathedral. Both statues were inaugurated in 1837.

The interior of the Kazan Cathedral suffered a lot after the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 15 years, the cathedral was turned into the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. Religious services resumed only at the beginning of the 1990s. Also, many consider this cathedral to be the model for the famous Helsinki Cathedral, which is an iconic symbol of the Finnish capital.

© istock/adisa

Nowadays, the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg is the place to admire both internally and externally. For example, inside there are 56 Corinthian columns, and on the outside, there is a square with fountain and lilac bushes to be enjoyed during spring. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in front of this cathedral resembling the Roman temple, watching people go by, and just feeling happy in this city.

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