The Miracle Behind One of St Petersburg’s Most Famous Landmarks

Photo of the Kazan Cathedral
The Kazan Cathedral as a neoclassical, stately building, modeled on the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican

Strolling down Nevsky Prospekt, there’s no shortage of amazing things to see and do. But surely one of the most eye-catching buildings you’ll see en route is the majestic Kazan Cathedral. Dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, it’s a truly stunning demonstration of Russian religious architecture. But the original church which occupied this iconic location wasn’t quite so imposing. Here are a few facts and figures…

  • Between 1733 and 1737, architect Mikhail Zemtsov built a small church and a bell tower with a tall spire on the spot where the current cathedral stands, dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. By the end of the century, it had fallen into disrepair.
  • Paul I wanted to build a new church in its place, like St Peter’s in Rome (he was hoping for a union of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches). But he didn’t live to see his project put into practice: it was carried out by his son, Alexander I, shortly after Paul’s death. Construction began in 1801 and lasted ten years.
  • According to legend, in the late 16th century, a little girl living in Kazan had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told her to go to a burnt-down house and find an icon in the ashes. An icon of the Virgin Mary was found, which began to work miracles. In 1612, it accompanied Prince Dmitri Pozharsky’s men when they liberated Moscow from the Poles. After that, it was kept in the Moscow Kremlin. In 1710, Peter took it to St Petersburg, and in 1737 it was placed in the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin. When the icon was moved to the new cathedral, the latter was called after it.
  • After Russia’s victory over Napoleon in 1812, the cathedral became a monument to Russian military glory. It was from this cathedral in 1812 that Field Marshal Kutuzov, the commander of the Russian forces, set off to join his army. The standards taken as trophies and the keys from the fortresses captured by the Russian forces were displayed here. The cathedral now holds the grave of Mikhail Kutuzov, who died in 1813.
  • In 1876, the Kazan demonstration – the first political demonstration in Russia – took place in front of the church. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the authorities closed the cathedral, only for it to reopen as the pro-Marxist ‘Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism’.
  • Services resumed in 1992, and four years later, the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Today, it functions as the mother cathedral of the metropolis of St Petersburg.

No visit to St Petersburg is complete without a tour of this wonderful building. And there’s no one better to visit it with than the Russian National Tourist Office. Check out our website today, and get the most from your trip to this fascinating city with RNTO.