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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Church on the Spilled Blood

St. Petersburg Church on Spilled Blood as seen 
from the Griboedov Canal

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg, Russia.

Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.

The Church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal. The embankment at that point runs along either side of a canal. On March 13, 1881 (Julian date: March 1), as Tsar Alexander's carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. The tsar, bleeding heavily, was taken back to the Winter Palace where he died a few hours later.

The church’s fascinating, colorful appearance is the result of the numerous materials used in its construction. Much like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the church is a challenge to the visual senses–there is so much to see. For example, the bell tower is covered in 144 mosaic coats of arms, representing the regions and towns of Russia.

HDR image of Church of the Savior on Blood

The five domes are covered in jeweler’s enamel, and glazed ceramic tiles cover much of the exterior. The intricate design and detail of the church are an interesting contrast to the simplicity of most of the rest of the buildings in St. Petersburg.

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics—according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. 

Mosaics in the interior

The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.

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