Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is one of St Petersburg’s most impressive churches. With multi-coloured onion domes reminiscent of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is a breath-taking sight both outside and within its ornately decorated walls.

History of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Officially called the Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, initial construction on the church began in 1883, when Emperor Alexander III commissioned it to commemorate his father, Alexander II. Alexander II was actually assassinated on the site where the church was built in 1881: anarchists bombed his carriage, and he died hours later from his injuries, thus lending the Russian Orthodox cathedral its alternative name referring to spilled blood.

Completed in 1907 during the reign of Nicholas II – and running an estimated 1 million roubles over budget – The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is an incredible mixture of colours and design. Unlike most of the buildings in St Petersburg, it is not built in a Baroque or neoclassical style, but rather a more medieval Russian one. Inside, the Church Of The Saviour On Spilled Blood is densely adorned with 7000 square metres of vivid mosaics created by world famous Russian artists such as Mikhail Vrubel and Viktor Vasnetsov.

The church was looted and damaged quite severely during the Russian Revolution of 1917: the new Soviet Government closed the church to the public in 1932. During the Secodn World War, it was reopened to be used as a morgue throughout the Siege of Leningrad, and was later used as a storehouse for potatoes. Evocative photos show the land surrounding the church being used as a vegetable garden during the war. During this period, some nicknamed it the Saviour on Potatoes.

It was only in the 1970s that the church was reopened and in 1997, after 27 years of renovation, that it was returned to its former glory. The church has never been reconsecrated, meaning it is effectively simply a mosaic museum.

The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood today

Today, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is one of St Petersburg’s most popular tourist attractions and rightly so: the ornate mosaics are truly remarkable and photographs will never do them justice. Unsurprisingly, it can get very busy, so go later in the afternoon if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds. Expect to spend an hour or two here enjoying the fabulous interiors. Closed Wednesdays.

Getting to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

The church is located at the west end of the Mikhailovsky Garden: it’s hard to miss. The nearest underground station is Nevsky Prospekt, on Blue Line 2: it’s a 5 minute walk north along the canal to reach the church itself. If you want to approach the church in its full majesty, come through the Mikhailovsky Gardens, from the entrance on Sadovaya Street.


Church of the Savior on Blood

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (Russian: Церковь Спаса на Крови , Tserkovʹ Spasa na Krovi) [a] is a former Russian Orthodox church in Saint Petersburg, Russia which currently functions as a secular museum. The structure was constructed between 1883 and 1907. It is one of Saint Petersburg's major attractions.

The church was erected on the site where political nihilists assassinated Emperor Alexander II in March 1881. The church was funded by the Romanov imperial family in honor of Alexander II, and the suffix "on [Spilled] Blood" refers to his assassination. [1]


The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood

This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia's disastrous defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. In 1861 he freed the Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) from their ties to their masters and undertook a rigorous program of military, judicial and urban reforms, never before attempted in Russia. However, during the second half of his reign Alexander II grew wary of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Alexander II was finally assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage.

The decision was taken to build a church on the spot where the Emperor was mortally wounded. The church was built between 1883 and 1907 and was officially called the Resurrection of Christ Church (a.k.a. The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood ). The construction of the church was almost entirely funded by the Imperial family and thousands of private donators. Both the interior and exterior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists of the day (V.M. Vasnetsov, M.V. Nesterov and M.A. Vrubel). Interestingly, despite the church's very obviously Russian aspect, its principle architect, A. Parland, was not even Russian by birth.

The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. It remained closed and under restoration for over 30 years and was finally re-opened in 1997 in all its dazzling former glory. The view of the church from Nevsky Prospekt is absolutely breathtaking.

NOTE: Translations of the church's name vary between guidebooks and include The Church of the Savior on Blood, The Resurrection Church and The Church of the Resurrection of Christ.

Location: Naberezhnaia Kanala Griboedova. Reopened in late August 1997 after almost 30 years of restoration.


Church of the Resurrection (Savior on the Spilled Blood)

The cathedral was being built from 1883 to 1907 on the place, where a tragic event had happened. On 1st of March 1881, Emperor Alexander II, who had been going to the parade of troops on the Field of Mars, was mortally wounded here. His son, Alexander III, ordered to build a church on this spotto hold regular services for the assassinated father. That is why the name of the Savior on the Spilled Blood was assigned to the cathedral, although it is officially called the Church of the Resurrection.

Not only Russians, but also residents of other Slavic countries donated money for the construction of the church. On the walls of the bell tower, there are more than a hundred mosaic coats of arms of cities and towns, provinces and counties that participated in fundraising. Here is also the coat of arms of the House of Romanov.

The bell tower cross is crowned with a gilded royal crown - a sign that the greatest contribution was made by the members of the imperial family. A total of 4.6 million rubles were spent on the construction.

The cathedral differs from other buildings in St. Petersburg by its architecture. There is more than 7,500 square meters of mosaic inside, which, according to the restorers who worked on it, is more than in any other cathedral in the world. Its walls and ceilings are entirely and elaborately covered with mosaics, mostly depicting biblical events and personalities, imageshave very fine patterned borders that clearly separate them from each other. This mosaic interior was created by artists V. Vasnetsov, M. Nesterov and A. Ryabushkin

For the decoration of the church domes, copper details covered with colored, durable and frost-resistant enamel (an area of 1000 square meters) were used. The height of the highest dome is 81 m. Along the entire perimeter of the building, there are 20 granite boards on which the deeds of Alexander II are described in gilded letters. From the side of the Mikhailovsky Garden, the church is surrounded by a lacy cast-iron fence with a floral pattern, made according to A. Parland's design.

After the revolution, the cathedral of the Savior on the Spilled Blood was closed and was not renovated for a long time. There even were rumors that it was decided to demolish it. But in 1970, it became a part of the State Memorial Museum «St. Isaac's Cathedral», which allocated 80% of its funds for restoration. In 1997, the Savior on the Spilled Blood opened its doors to visitors as a museum that contains a huge collection of mosaic icons (over 7 thousand square meters).


The Church at a glance

From the outside, St Petersburg's Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, known locally as the Spas na Kravi, is a magnificent construction reminiscent of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. Vivid colours and copper onion-domes give the textured façade a fairytale feel.

Inside, the walls and ceilings are completely covered in over 80,000 square feet (7,500 square metres) of intricately detailed mosaics portraying different Biblical scenes. Its bright colours and flashes of gilt are perfectly in keeping with the striking style of Medieval Russian architecture.

One of the most intriguing parts of the church is the chapel of Alexander II, built to mark the exact spot where the Tsar was murdered.


History of the Cathedral

The history of the church begins with a sad event. On March 1, 1881, the emperor Alexander II was mortally wounded. He was revered by the people as the Tsar Liberator who, besides many other reforms, implemented the abolition of serfdom which gave personal freedom to 23 million peasants and opened the way to the economic development of Russia.

The very next day it was decided to build a temporary chapel on the site of the death of the emperor. It was built in April 1881 and stood until 1883. However, Alexander III, the son of the deceased emperor, wished to build not a chapel but a memorial church and announced a competition for a cathedral project.

The competition for the best design was attended by famous architects of the country. But Alexander III rejected all the projects as they were created in the “Byzantine style”. He expressed the wish for the church to be built “in the purely Russian taste of the seventeenth century”. Recalling the epoch of the first Romanovs, the building would symbolize the unity of the king and the state, the faith and the people. That is, the new church could become not just a memorial to the slain emperor, but also a monument to the Russian autocracy in general.

Only from the third attempt the project of Alfred Parland, professor of the Academy of Arts, was chosen. The solemn laying of the church took place in October 1883. Before this, a fragment of the channel grate, granite slabs and part of the cobblestone pavement, stained with the blood of Alexander II, was removed, put in boxes and transferred to storage in the chapel. It took 24 years to finish the building.

The Savior on Blood (another name is Church on Spilled Blood), built at the site of the murder of Emperor Alexander II, was solemnly consecrated on August 19, 1907. Immediately after the consecration, at noon, the first solemn liturgy was served.

The cathedral was funded by the state and was not designed for mass visits. The entrance to it was by passes. Separate services dedicated to the memory of Alexander II were performed there, daily sermons were given.

With the advent of Soviet power, the flow of state funds for the maintenance of the church ceased. In the 1920s, the Savior on Blood, like almost all Russian churches, was plundered and deprived of most of its liturgical objects.

In 1930, the church was closed, and in 1938 the Soviet government decided to demolish it. But with the beginning of the Second World War, the demolition was postponed. During the blockade of Leningrad, it was turned into a morgue. After the war, the church was rented by the Maly Opera Theater which used it as a storage warehouse for its decorations.

In 1961 an unexploded German bomb was found in the central dome of the church. Unnoticed by anyone, the bomb stayed in rafters for 18 years and was accidentally discovered by climbers of the restoration workshops. On examination, it turned out that it was a 150kg high-explosive projectile capable of obliterating the church and its surroundings. Works on its disposal were carried out by six people. It was a unique operation, which required from its participants not only skill, but also uncommon composure and courage. The projectile was removed, taken out of the city and destroyed.

Since 1968, the cathedral came under the protection of the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Monuments. In the 1970s, works were carried out to prepare the building for restoration of its interior decorations. The restoration itself began only in the early 80s. The scaffolding around the cathedral stayed for a very long time. People used to say that the scaffolding would stand as long as the Soviet government does. It’s probably a coincidence, but the scaffolding was dismantled shortly before the August events in Moscow in 1991, after which the USSR ceased to exist.

After the renovation and 90 years after consecration, on August 19, 1997, the memorial museum was opened to visitors.

In 2004 the Church of the Savior on Blood was re-consecrated, and the first liturgy took place in it. Since 2010, regular services began to take place.

The memory of Emperor Alexander II is deeply revered in the cathedral. On the day of his tragic death, episcopal worship is held with a special commemoration of the murdered Sovereign.


Church of the Savior on Blood

The Church of the Savior on Blood is in St. Petersburg, Russia. The church was previously known as “Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ” and “Church on Split Blood”. The “blood” in the name of the church refers to the Emperor Alexander II of Russia who was assassinated on this site.

The construction of the church began in the year 1883 during the reign of Emperor Alexander III as an honor for his father Emperor Alexander II. There were delays in building the church, but in the year 1907 construction was completed. The church is very close to the Griboedov Canal, with a history beyond the construction:

Emperor Alexander II was passing through this area and a conspirator threw a grenade at the emperor but missed. Within in a few minutes he threw another bomb at the emperor where the conspirator has been killed along with the emperor during the explosion. Later the church was built on the same site where the emperor died.

The church is a unique construction among the other cathedrals in St. Petersburg and it is a combination of Neoclassical and Baroque styles. The church has over 7500 sqm of mosaics and the interiors of the church has been designed by Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, Mikhail Vrubel, Mikhail Nesterov and Viktor Vasnetsov. The ceilings and walls feature a number of mosaics displaying the Biblical scenes.

Nowadays the church is recognized as the Museum of Mosaics and is a major tourist attraction in St. Petersburg.


A visit to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

This amazing church was built on the spot where Tzar Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After he assumed power in 1855, Alexander II initiated a number of political, judicial and urban reforms. All of this happened in the wake of Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War against the British Empire, France, and Ottoman Empire, he knew something needed to change and he set this in motion. In 1861 he freed Russian serfs from their ties to their masters and started setting some military reforms in motion.

He knew about the dangers he was putting himself into after surviving a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Everything came to an end in 1881 when he didn’t survive a bomb attack at his royal carriage by the anarchist group People’s Will.

Immediately after his death, his heir, Alexander III, declared his intention to erect a church on the site where his father died. In his father’s memory, he would build a traditional Russian church since he felt like St. Petersburg was being contaminated by Western influence.

Several designs were rejected until Archimandrite Ignaty gave the job to Alfred Parland. When you visit the church you can see it drew heavy inspiration from the St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and the Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev. Construction began in 1883 and the construction was completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907.

Nobody knows for sure how much it was spending to build the church but estimates say around 4.5 million rubles, most of it was provided by the Imperial Family with support of many private donors.

After the attack that took Tzar Alexander II life, a temporary shrine was erected on the site while plans for a permanent memorial were undertaken. Since the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is prominently situated along with the Griboyedov Canal, the canal had to be narrowed down since the church needed to be on the exact spot where the assassination took place.

Inside the church, you can see an elaborate shrine showing the exact place of Alexander’s death. Embellished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones, it contrasts heavily with the simple cobblestones of the old road exposed on the floor of the shrine.

No baptisms, no funeral services, no weddings or other traditional church services were held in the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Alexander III didn’t plan this to happen. He built this church as a memorial to his father. This is why the only services held in there were weekly requiems and sermon readings that attracted a large number of people.


Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Church of the Resurrection, also known as the "Savior on Spilled Blood", was built in memory of Alexander II who was assassinated in 1881. The church stands in the very place where a bomb was thrown into his carriage by a young man who opposed the Tsar's reforms.

Alexander II was among the greatest Russian tsars, one of the main accomplishments of whom was the emancipation of serfs in 1861, which brought an end to the de facto slavery of the Russian peasantry, five years before the emancipation of slaves in the US.

The Cathedral of the Savior on Spilled Blood attracts people with its five onion-domes exuberantly decorated and covered with jeweler's enamel. It has a similar façade to St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow and its peculiar multicolored exterior makes the church stand out from St. Petersburg’s typically strict architectural proportions and color combinations.

It took around 24 years to construct such a majestic edifice as the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and, after early Soviet vandalism, 27 years to restore. People would even joke that as soon as the construction trestles outside it were removed, the Soviet Regime would fall.

It may have been a coincidence, but the reconstruction that finished in 1991 was followed by the famous events which put an end to the Communist regime.

The highlight of both the interior and exterior of the Cathedral are its mosaic collection based on the paintings of Vasnetsov, Nesterov, and Vrubel. With a total area of 23130 square feet, it is one of the largest mosaic collections in Europe.


The church then and now

The building of a memorial church was initiated by the next ruler of Russia and son of the murdered tsar, Alexander III. Construction began in 1883 and was only completed in 1907, during the reign of Nicholas II. The funding for the church was provided by the imperial family, as well as many private donors. The church now boasts over 7,600 square metres (81,805 sq ft) of mosaics with designs like no other. Many famous painters took part in designing the interior, among them Viktor Vasnetsiv, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel.

The church withstood the Siege of Leningrad, despite being a prime target for German air-raids. During the Second World War, it served as a morgue and as a potato warehouse. Now the church is a museum and welcomes visitors year-round.


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