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Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan

Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan

One of the most magnificent St. Petersburg temples, the Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan, was erected in 1801-1811 in order to house the venerated holy relic of the Romanovís House - the wonder-working icon of our lady of Kazan, hence the name of the cathedral. Russian architect A.Voronikhin who was commissioned to fulfill the project had to take up a real challenge. The problem was that according to the church canons, the altar is to face eastwards, hence the main entrance and the facade must face westwards. Taking this fact into consideration Nevsky Prospect was to front the side facade of the cathedral, and not the main one. Voronikhin resolved this difficulty by creating the semicircular colonnade made up of 96 Corinthian columns hewn from Karelian granite, which later as well as the cathedral were elevated on to a granite socle with wide staircases. That is how the main entrance appeared to be not on the Nevsky side, but contrary to outward appearance, around the corner to the west, where another planned semicircular colonnade was aborted by the Napoleonic invasion of 1812. It happened so that the construction of the cathedral was completed almost simultaneously with a crushing defeat of the French troops, thus it was decided to dedicate it to the Russian Military Glory.

Russian soldiers brought French banners and keys from French towns and fortresses to the Cathedral, the importance of which as a memorial to the heroes of the Patriotic War was emphasized by the monuments to Field-Marshals M.Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolli put up in front of the cathedral in 1837. These statues together with wings of the colonnade formed a square in front of the Nevsky side of the cathedral, where the public garden with a granite fountain (1809, architect Thomas de Thomon), transferred here from the Tsarskoselskaya road in 1934, was set up in 1935-1936. In front of the main, western entrance to the cathedral there is another square embraced by the monumental cast-iron railing of exquisite design.

In comparison to the world-famous St.Isaacís cathedral, one of the highlights of Saint-Petersburg, the exterior decoration of the Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan was kept to a minimum. Itís easy to miss bas-reliefs at either end of the colonnade, depicting Biblical subjects, as well as the unique bronze statues of Alexander Nevsky and prince Vladimir, John the Baptist and St.Andrew hidden in the porticos. The bronze doors facing the Nevsky prospect are worth inspecting at close quarters: these doors are exact copies of the Florence Baptistery doors, accomplished in the 15th century by Lorenzo Guiberti and highly appreciated by Michelangelo, who compared them to the ďgates of paradiseĒ.The interior decoration of the cathedral, consisting of 56 monolithic red granite columns and a mosaic floor composed of multifarious Karelian marbles, is bound to produce an unforgettable impression on you. Outstanding Russian artists of the beginning of the 19th century (Borovikovsky, Shebuyev, Kiprensky, Yegorov, Ivanov and other) participated in the cathedral''s interior decoration.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, a brilliant sample of High Classicism, was closed by the Bolsheviks in 1929, so all religious services were banned. Since 1932 it housed the collection of the Museum of History of Religion and Atheism, which displayed numerous pieces of religious art and served anticlerical propaganda purposes. Nowadays the cathedral of our Lady of Kazan is the main functioning Orthodox cathedral. Funds of the Museum of Religion and Atheism were moved to the mansion on Pochtamtskaya street, but relics of the Patriotic war of the 1812 remained in the cathedral, and, of course, one can make bow to the tomb of M.Kutuzov, located at the very place of his worship to inspire the Russian troops victory over Napoleon. In 1999 Saint Patriarch Alexis II returned status of the mother church to this magnificient cathderal.

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