The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour(khram Khrista Spasitela) in Moscow may be the largest Orthodox church in the world. The building is magnificent, but not as old as it looks: it was rebuilt in 2000 after the original was demolished by Stalin.
The idea for this church dates from the early 19th century. When the last of Napoleon's soldiers left Moscow, Tsar Alexander I signed a manifesto dated December 25, 1812, declaring his intention to build a cathedral in honor of Christ the Savior. The cathedral would "signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her" and acts as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people.
Plans were drawn and a site was chosen but before construction began, Alexander I was succeeded by his brother Nicholas. Profoundly Orthodox and patriotic, the new Tsar disliked the Neoclassical design that had been endorsed by his brother.
Alexander commissioned his favourite architect Konstantin Thon to create a new design, modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The present site was chosen by the Tsar in 1837; a convent and church already standing on the site had to be relocated.
Construction began in 1839 and the cathedral didn't emerge from its scaffolding until 1860; elaborate frescos by some of the best Russian painters continued in the interior for another 20 years. The cathedral was consecrated on the day Alexander III was crowned, May 26, 1883. A year earlier, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" debuted there.
After the Revolution, the prominent site of the cathedral called out for redevelopment by the Soviets, who planned to replace the church with a monument to socialism, known as the Palace of Soviets. It would rise in modernistic buttressed tiers to support a gigantic sculpture of Lenin, arm raised in blessing, perched atop a dome. On December 5, 1931, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was dynamited and reduced to rubble.
Funds for the largest building in the world remained unavailable, however. A foundation hole gaped on the site until under Nikita Khrushchev it was transformed into a huge public swimming pool.
With the end of the Soviet rule, the Russian Orthodox Church received permission to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (February 1990). A temporary cornerstone was laid by the end of the year.
A construction fund was opened in 1992 and foundations began to be poured in the fall of 1994. The lower church (Church of the Transfiguration) was consecrated in 1996, and the completed Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was consecrated August 19, 2000.
Quick Facts on the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
|Names:||Cathedral of Christ the Savior · khram Khrista Spasitela|
|Categories:||cathedrals; central plan buildings|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||55.744700° N, 37.605429° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Cathedral of Christ the Savior|
- The Rough Guide to Moscow, 4th ed. (April 2005), 128-29.
- The Cathedral of Christ the Savior - official website
- The Cathedral of Christ the Savior - Moscow-Taxi.com
- Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow - Byzantines.net
Map of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow
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