A Brief Tour of St Petersburg’s Orthodox Cathedrals Part 4
Some of Russia’s most magnificent churches are found in St Petersburg. And among its most outstanding examples are the city’s Orthodox Cathedrals.
Built at the height of the Russian Empire’s wealth and power, these impressive buildings were designed by the city’s greatest architects, and no expense was spared in their construction or decoration.
In this latest article, we look at two more of these fascinating buildings, namely…
Cathedral of St Sampson the Hospitable
One of St Petersburg’s oldest and most revered churches, this beautiful azure-and-white cathedral with its striking bell tower was built to commemorate Russia’s victory at the Battle of Poltava. It’s both an active church and a museum run by St Isaac’s Cathedral, with a fully restored and richly decorated interior containing several historic works of religious art.
The Cathedral’s history can be traced back to 1709, when Peter the Great ordered the construction of a wooden church on this site to honor Russia’s victory over the Swedes at the Battle of Poltava, which fell on the feast day of St Sampson – 27 June. One of the city’s first cemeteries was established next to the church and became the final resting place for some of St Petersburg’s most prominent foreign citizens.
The stone cathedral and belltower replaced the wooden church in 1740. Initially built with only one central dome, the cathedral was altered in 1761 with the addition of four smaller cupolas in traditional Russian style.
In 1909, on the bicentenary of the victory at Poltava, a memorial plaque was placed on the sidewall of the belltower engraved with Peter’s speeches before the battle in memory of those who died. A statue of Peter was erected opposite the cathedral.
At the end of the 1930s, the cathedral was closed, its interiors ripped out, and the building turned into a warehouse for storing vegetables. The monument to Peter the Great was moved to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. However, in the 1970s, the Cathedral was taken over by the St Isaac’s Cathedral Museum, completely restored, and used to display historic works of religious art and church decoration.
Today, the Cathedral is still owned by the state, but since 2002 has been used for religious worship as well. In 2006, a copy of the monument to Peter the Great was erected in front of the cathedral.
The cathedral has plenty of information available and helpful personnel. Services are held on weekends and holidays.
You’ll find it at 41 Bolshoy Sampsonievsky Prospekt, the nearest metro Vyborgskaya. It’s open daily from 11.00 am to 7.00 pm. Admission is free, and an audio guide is available for a small fee. The church is wheelchair-accessible.
Cathedral of St Andrew the First-Called
A late baroque masterpiece, this beautiful pink-and-white cathedral dates back to the very first years of the city and is one of the finest buildings on Vasilevsky Island.
Named after the Apostle Andrew, whom Peter the Great considered his personal protector, and who became the patron saint of Imperial Russia and the Russian Navy, this late baroque cathedral stands in a particularly picturesque part of Vasilyevsky Island.
Peter himself ordered the building of the original Church of St Andrew, but it wasn’t until 1732, under Empress Anna Ioannovna, that a single-story wooden church was built on the site. The church was struck by lightning in 1761 and burned to the ground. The replacement stone cathedral was only finally consecrated in 1781.
The Cathedral of St Andrew was closed after the Revolution and given to various organizations, including the Institute of Ethnography. During the Siege of Leningrad, the Cathedral was severely damaged, but its famous iconostasis was partly saved, carefully hidden behind false paneling.
Now returned to the Orthodox Church, the cathedral has been fully restored, with pride of place given to several 18th-century icons, including two of St Andrew.
You’ll find the building at 11, 6-aya Linia Vasilevsky Island, the nearest metro station Vasileostrovskaya. Open daily from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm. Services are held daily, and the cathedral has its own choir school, meaning you will often get the chance to hear Orthodox choral singing inside.