when the foundation stone was laid in October 1883 progress was a slow process.
The marshy ground demanded a solid basis and this preparatory work took
three years. Then almost another three to compact a granite basement and
build the foundation walls. The glazed brick and polychrome tiles are trimmed
with shining marble however it is the mosaics that are the real treasure.
Most of which were made by the Frolov brothers.
The flamboyant exterior
of the building is adorned with icons in a riot of color and becomes more
mind boggling the closer you get. Amongst this colorful exterior are 20
granite plaques recording the historic events of Alexander II's reign.
Inside there is almost 7,000 sq. meters of Italian marble and over 20
different Russian minerals, embellished with opulent mosaics based on
paintings by Nikolai Bruni, Mikhail Nesterov, Viktor (Vassili) Vasnetsov,
Andrei Ryabushkin and other religious artists of the late 19th century.
Christ and the Apostles are portrayed within the cupola, whilst the walls
and pillars are totally adorned with other Biblical scenes or images of
saints. Mosaics fill the niches, crevices and cornices and no surface
is left bare of embellishment.
The highest steeple
is 81m (265 ft) high and the bell tower seen on the left has 144 individual
mosaic coats of arms. These represent provinces, cities and towns of the
Russian empire and were intended to reflect the nation's grief after the
murder of their Tsar. Intricate detailing adorns every single surface
beneath the golden or varicolored onion-like domes and even the window
frames are flanked by ornately carved Estonian marble.
Alexander III did
not live to see the Eclectic monument to his father completed. Construction
ended three years after his demise and the internal decoration took another
It is said that the
followers of Lenin originally wished to demolish this monument to Tsardom
until it was suggested that because large buildings were scarce, it would
serve well as a warehouse and that is how it has spent half its life.
The Bolsheviks performed one of their many sacrilegious acts in 1931 by
opening a Museum of The People's Will in the church, which commemorated
the terrorist act which founded the building. Three years later it was
closed on the orders of Stalin, who thought it may promote terrorism or
an assination attempt against himself.
Since 1998 and subject
to no current restoration projects in areas of possible danger to the
public, the church is open as a museum from 11:00 to 18:00 Mon-Sun (closed