Wednesday, July 6, 2011


One of the first places we went to in Moscow was a Russian Orthodox cathedral with a very interesting history, Christ the Savior Cathedral. At 344 feet tall, it is the tallest Orthodox cathedral in the world.
Our tour group, listening to a lecture from our guide that we could hear through our individual receivers.

Beautiful gold-plated domes.  How do they keep them so bright?

This cathedral was commissioned in 1812 to celebrate Russia's victory over Napoleon, but construction was delayed until 1839, then was not completed until 1860. Interior embellishments continued for 20 years, and it was finally consecrated in 1883-- seventy-one years after it was announced.

Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, which celebrates Russia's defeat of Napoleon, fittingly debuted there in 1882.  I'm not sure how the cannon volley at the end was accomplished--inside or out?


In 1931, Stalin decided he wanted that prominent site for a monument to socialism: The Palace of Soviets.  He used dynamite to reduce the fabulous cathedral to rubble, then proceeded to dig a huge foundation for his new building, which he planned to be the largest building in the world and topped by a 300-foot-tall statue of Vladimir Lenin.


Stalin ran out of money, the nearby river flooded, and World War II brought a halt to further construction.  Nikita Khruschev came along and had a brilliant idea about what to do about the gigantic hole.  He turned it into the world's largest open-air swimming pool!  Our Russian guide remembered spending wonderful summer days there.


In 1990, BEFORE the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church received permission from the government to rebuild the Christ the Savior Cathedral. Money started pouring in from the citizens of Moscow who wanted to contribute to the building project, which was started in 1994 and completed just six years later at a cost of $360 million.

The new cathedral is almost a perfect replica of the original.  The most notable difference is the dramatic bronze figures on the exterior walls, which were marble in the original.  I have to say that these bronze statues were my favorite part of the building.  Unlike cold, white marble, they seemed to reach out to the world and down to visitors, welcoming all to this stunning tribute to both Christ and the spirit of the Russian people.

It was in this cathedral that Tsar Nicholas II and his murdered family members were beatified in the year 2000, and the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, lay in state here in 2007 before being buried at a nearby cemetery.

The front door was massive and also three-dimensional.  Imagine trying to open it!  (We went in through a more humble entrance.)

No photos were allowed inside, but I pulled some from the official website.  The interior was huge and bright and a riot of color, which we learned is often the case with Russian Orthodox churches. 


A footbridge was built across the river right behind the cathedral in 2004:
Bob crossing the bridge

View from the bridge looking back at the rear of the cathedral.
 Finally, as if there needed to be any more embellishments, several smaller and "more intimate" chapels were also built on the Cathedral grounds:

This was a breath-taking introduction to Russian architecture, and just a taste of what was yet to come.


  1. Amazing that this is a rebuilt. It's hard to imagine such a project being completed in such a short period of time in the US. I love the over-the-top inside paint job!

  2. Absolutely stunning photos, both inside and out. I'm so glad you included the interior photos along with the wonderful exterior photos you took!

  3. Wow. I love those cathedrals that make you tip back your head as you look at them--the grandeur and beauty of this place really come through. I can't believe that they rebuilt it so quickly, and like you, I like the bronzes on the outside.