When traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia the following cathedrals are a must see on any travelers list to the region. These five cathedrals are scattered throughout the city of St. Petersburg and well worth visiting with some dating back to the 1700's, these top spots overload the senses with a history, spirituality and beauty not seen elsewhere in the world.
Many of these churches still offer regular services, liturgies and prayer while also standing as living museums which will educate and enlighten any visitor.
1. Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral
The royal burial vault and the city's talisman founded way back in the year 1712, Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral is of course St. Petersburg's oldest and tallest church situated in the historic part of the town.
The cathedral boasts a gilded spire reaching a height of 122.5 meters and can be sighted from many points throughout the city of St. Petersburg. In order to preserve the historical significance of the area, construction of taller buildings in the city cente is currently forbidden by law. Let's hope it stays that way.
Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral - View over the River Neva
Peter the Great, the first Russian emperor and founder of St. Petersburg demanded the main cathedral of the new Russian capital to be taller than that of the Belfry of Ivan the Great in the Kremlin, which was the tallest landmark of the old capital.
Even before the cathedral was completed he ordered the new royal burial vault be established within its walls, not in Moscow. Most of the Russian emperors are buried inside the walls of the cathedral, beginning with Peter the Great himself to Nicholas II, who was brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
2. The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ on Spilled Blood
One of the most fascinating places I visited in St. Petersburg, this temple is commonly known as the Church of the Savior on Blood. Architects designed the cathedral to mirror that of the design of Moscow's medieval temples and the designs of the mosaics that decorate its interior were created by renowned artists belonging to the Russian Romantic movement of the late 19th century. The story although a tragic one, was established in 1883 and a memorial on the very spot of the fatal terrorist attack on Czar Alexander II.
Church Of Christ On The Spilled Blood Entry Facade
Inside the cathedral, the walls are covered with over seven square kilometers of mosaics. The eyes of Jesus Christ in the mosaic beneath the central dome appear to be watch you as you move throughout the internal spaces of the structure, no matter what part of the cathedral you are in. Opposite the altar, a canopy made of jaspers encapsulates a fragment of the cobblestone pavement onto which Czar Alexander II was thrown by the explosion of his assassin's bomb.
The resting place of assassinated Czar Alexander II.
3. St. Isaac's Cathedral
The sheer size of the cathedral is almost an overwhelming experience to behold and is one of St. Petersburg's most photographed landmarks. The golden dome of Europe's third highest cathedral is visible from dozens of kilometers away. The cathedral took over 40 years to build between the years 1818–1858.
There are a total of 262 steps on the staircase leading to the colonnade of the cathedral and are well worth climbing if you have the energy. The colonnade encircles the dome at 44 meters or 144 feet above the ground, approximately the height of a modern 16 storey building.
To enter the colonnade, a separate ticket is required. These can be purchased at the museum ticket office or from a vending machine near to the entrance. Between the months of June to August during the 'white nights,' celebrations, the colonnade is open to visitors until four in the morning.
Damage to the pillars of St. Isaacs Cathedral sustained during the Siege Of Leningrad.
4. Kazan Cathedral
Forming an imposing semicircle around the Kazan Cathedral, the colonnade resembles that of St. Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican, but its real purpose is to mask the fact that the real facade is turned away from Nevsky Prospect, the city's main avenue. The cathedral open every day in the morning, and admission is free due to the number of active church services held there daily.
Kazan Cathedral at night.
A year after the consecration in 1811, the church was proclaimed a memorial to Russia's victory over Napoleon. Statues of the two most prominent military commanders of the war were installed at the square in front of the cathedral. The western side features the monument to Barclay de Tolly, and the eastern side has the monument to Mikhail Kutuzov, immortalized as one of the characters in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
5. Smolny Cathedral
Smolny Cathedral is located outside of the historical center of St. Petersburg and can be quite confusing to get there as the name 'Smolny' denotes not only the cathedral but also the headquarters of St. Petersburg's administration which is located in the neighboring building.
Smolny Cathedral Credit: Lori/Legion-Media
A standout feature of the cathedral's architecture is the absence of any main facade, as each wall of the building is a facade, making the cathedral look equally ornate from all sides, even when viewed from the modern residential area on the opposite bank of the Neva River. The color of Smolny adjusts to the color of the city sky depending upon the weather conditions.