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Church on Spilled Blood
Sankt Peterburg

 
Picture and Hyperlink - Church on Spilled Blood.

Whilst this awesome building is not actually on Nevsky Prospekt, it provides a memorable and breathtaking spectacle when first viewed from the bridge over the Kanal Griboyedova.

Built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, the foundation stone was laid in 1883 and it took nearly a quarter of a century to complete. With its distinctive cupolas the Muscovy design is unique in St. Petersburg and provides a dramatic contrast to the Neo-Classical architecture which dominates the city center.

 
The preferred Russian name for this great church is [Храм Спаса па Krovi] Khram Spasa na Krovi, but each English-language tourist publication seems to list it under a different name. The moniker of "Spilled Blood" is most popular in preference to the likes of the Church of the Resurrection, Church of our Savior on the Blood, Cathedral of the Ascension, Resurrection of the Christ, or Assumption, Church of the Redeemer, or any permutation of the above.
All architects were invited to submit plans for the building of this permanent monument and the definitive designs of Alfred Parland (1842-1920), [Russian despite the name] were accepted after he won the competition set up by Alexander III, which stipulated that it had to be in the 'purely Russian style of the 17th century'. He built the church in conjunction with the archimandrite Ignati Malyschew, who had studied architecture at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts before becoming a monk at a nearby monastery.
From 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 ten years.

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 assassination attempt against himself. In the early 1940's a Russian Workers Social Democratic committee decided to demolish the building, but ironically it was saved by the onset of the Blockade which gave the city more important matters to consider. In 1967 the descendants of the mad Bolsheviks again proposed demolition of this increasingly popular monument to Christianity, but sanity ruled and by 1969 a preservation order was made on the building and responsibility for its upkeep was handed to the Museum of Religion based in St. Isaac's Cathedral.

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 Wednesdays)

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