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Church on Spilled Blood
The construction of the Cathedral of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood began in 1883 on the spot, where emperor Alexander II was assassinated on the 1st of March 1881by a member of a terroristic organisation “People’s Will”. Alexander III, the son of the Tsar-Liberator, wanted to commemorate his father’s personality thus he launched a contest for the best prject of the cathedal. The main requirement of the emperor was that the altar should be built on the very spot where the blood of Alexander II had stained the cobblestones – hence the church’s unusual name and the fact that it juts out slightly into the Griboedov Canal. Though this cathedral, deliberately designed by architect Alfred Parland to resemble St.Basil’s in Moscow, commemorates such a tragic event, its nine-cupola building strikes with its bright, multi-coloured beauty, looking just like a gay toy in comparison with elegant and sophisticated St. Petersburg architecture of the neighboring mansions.
Cathedral''s construction and its further decoration, carried out by both Russian and foreign architects and artists, lasted over quarter a century (it was completed in 1907 during the reign of Nicholas II) on the money donated by russian provinces. That is why on the outwalls of the temple, which are richly decorated with tiles, glazed bricks and paving-tiles, can be seen the coats-of-arms of many Russian cities and towns. Both outside and inside the Cathedral is adorned with mosaics (over 7,000 sq.m): mosaics of exceptional beauty representing the plots taken from the New Testament; located over the Southern and the Northern entrances to the church, were made to Victor Vasnetsov''s outlines; mosaic depiction of the Resurrection of Christ, located on the Northern facade in the "kokoshnik", specific Russian temple decoration element, was made to the outline of Michael Nesterov, author of the vernicle on the Western facade. The interior decoration mesmerises with lavishness of decoration. Breathtaking mosaics as well as different varities of marble and other semi-precious stones which adorn the walls of the temple are abound to impress every visitor.
After the revolution in 1917 this church went through a testing time; in the 30ies when religion as a phenomenon was banned the Regional Committee for Cult Affairs decided that that the Savior on Spilled Blood Cathedral should be disassembled in parts, by chance this plan was not fulfilled. During the Siege it served as a morgue where bodies of famished Leningraders were delivered. After the war the cathedral was leased by Maly Opera Theater which converted it into a stage set storage. It was only in 1968 that the Cathedral was granted protection of the State Inspection of Landmarks of the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning and became the branch of St Isaac’s Museum.
Restoration itself started only in 1980.The first stage of restoration was completed by August 19, 1997, when Savior on Spilled Blood Cathedral and Museum opened its doors to visitors. The exposition of the cathedral is focused on architecture and the decor of the building.
A sample of "Russian style" architecture and decorative art at the edge of the XIX - XX centuries, Church on the Spilled Blood with its cupolas covered with glittering enamel and bells, the main of them weighting over 38 000 pounds, is surrounded by a fantastic Art Nouveau wrought-iron grille with twisting vegetal fingers.
However the Church on Spilled Blood should not be conceived purely as a memorial, it is a reflection of the whole epoch connected with the personality of Alexander II and just a monument of exceptional artistic value.