Category Archives: History


Exterior. Cathedral of Saints Peter and PaulThe CATHEDRAL OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL was the second church in St. Petersburg. The first church was a wooden building consecrated in 1704. But it was never meant to last. Peter the Great wanted a cathedral to rival any building in Western Europe and brought in architect Domenico Trezzini to build a Baroque structure laid out on a rectangular base. Trezzini was working in Copenhagen when Peter brought him to Russia in 1703. Prior to his arrival, Trezzini was familiar with Lutheran churches but had no knowledge of Orthodoxy. Consequently, Trezzini included a preaching pulpit that has never been used.

Cathedral of Saints Peter & PaulWhen I entered the building, I first noticed golden fixtures and a greenish hue. The second impression, of course, was of crowds of people.

The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, completed in 1733, is very much Peter the Great’s church. His tomb and that of his second wife Catherine (later Catherine I) is at the front of the Screen of Icons. On the right side of the screen is a large icon of Jesus, with an Imperial crown and a face that resembles Peter’s face. On the left, is an icon of the Virgin Mary, who resembles Peter’s wife.

Chapel of St. Catherine, the MartyrThe cathedral is also the final resting place of almost all the Romanovs (excluding Peter II and Ivan VI). The last imperial remains belong to Nicholas I and his family and are housed in the Chapel of St. Catherine, the Martyr. The remains include those of four servants found with the family. These were interred in 1998. However, at the time most of the remains were found, those of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Marie were missing. These were found later, but aren’t in the chapel. The church didn’t accept their authenticity.

The most recent, and probably the last, internment is that of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, wife of Alexander III. After the Russian Revolution, the tsarina fled home to Denmark where she died in 1928. In her will, she requested that her remains be returned to Russia and placed next to those of her husband, but not while the communists were in power. The remains were interred in 2006.


Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood

Alexander III built the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood as a memorial to his father on the very spot where the assassin fatally wounded Alexander II in 1881. Construction began in 1883 in the style of orthodox churches built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The structure sits along the Griboedov Canal which was narrowed so the church could be built on the exact spot where Alexander II was attacked. Cobblestones were pulled up and identified by number so they could be placed exactly where they were on the fateful day. There is also a portion of the original bridge railing. Outside is a golden canopy marking the spot.

The church was completed in 1907 during the reign of Nicholas II. From 1907 to 1917, weekly requiems for Alexander II took place. The church’s interior walls are covered by over 7500 square meters of breathtaking mosaics.

In 1932, the Soviets closed the church. During World War II, it was used as a temporary morgue during the Siege of Leningrad. Our guide mentioned that after the war, the Soviets wanted to tear down the church in order to widen the canal, but specialists informed the government that there was no way to save the priceless mosaics created by Russian craftsmen. The government responded by turning the cathedral into a warehouse for the Small Opera Theater.

In 1970 the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood became part of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral Museum (more on that next week), underwent a complete restoration and opened to the public in 1997.

Photos by Author

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul

Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood


Palanga is on the shore of the Baltic Sea and the busiest summer resort in Lithuania. In addition to seaside activities, Palanga is famous for its Botanical Garden and the Amber Museum located within a Neo-Renaissance palace museum completed in 1897. The garden covers just over 247 acres with forests of pine and fir trees,… Continue Reading


Like other Baltic States, Latvia first appeared on European maps after World War I when Russia relinquished several nations. During World War II, the Soviet Union held Latvia until the Germans took over. After the war, Latvia again fell under Soviet control, finally gaining her independence in 1991. Since that time, Riga has become a… Continue Reading

Tallinn, Estonia — “Postively Surprising”

We don’t hear much about the Baltic States, so I thought it might be useful to look at a map before visiting Tallinn, Estonia. The states on this map are Finland, The Russian Federation, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania spent much of their history dominated by regional powers, primarily Russia and… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: Two Novels of Forgotten Women

THE HANDFASTED WIFE It’s 1065 and Edith Swanneck is worried, because “These days everyone talked of how important a church wedding was, a priest listening to vows exchanged in the church porch and then blessing the marriage.” [Handfasted Wife, Chapter 1] Edith Swanneck didn’t stand on the church porch with her husband Harold Godwinson. They… Continue Reading


Summer will soon be upon us — the time of year when many of us will be seen in swim wear or, as it used to be called, bathing costumes. Summer wasn’t always synonymous with a seaside vacation. A convergence of factors in the mid-nineteenth century introduced the annual ritual to American life. Railways made… Continue Reading

Visit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook PageVisit My Facebook Page