St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg is the building surprising by all means. This temple museum at the same time conducts both tours, and church services, and each its square meter is stylized by frescos, a noble and semiprecious stone, painting and gold. The cathedral is considered to be one of the most original, beautiful and large-scale dome constructions, and the sizes concedes unless, to St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome and the Saint church of Maria in Florence. If you want to touch a sacrament worshipping, to see with your own eyes great works of masters of the last centuries, to lift up eyes to an enormous dome and to admire a rich and refined decor of the temple surely go to Isaac's to an excursion!
The building of cathedral is at St. Isaac's Square in St. Petersburg at the Admiralty metro station. It is easy to reach from the subway. You need to pass two quarters on the left and at once you will get to the temple. Also you can walk from the Sennaya Square, Sadovaya and Spasskaya stations. All of them come to Sennaya Square. Than pass on Grivtsov Lane to the coast of Moika and turn on the left, through 100 meters you will reach the cathedral.
The cathedral works every day except Wednesday from 10:30 till 18:00. Cash desks are open till 17:30. Also during the period from April 27 to September 30 special evening tours from 18:00 till 22:30 are conducted.
St. Isaac's Cathedral is the biggest temple in St. Petersburg and one of the highest dome constructions in the world. The history of cathedral began in far 1710 when the first wooden church of Saint Isaac of Dalmatia was created. He was the Saint from Byzantium in whose day of remembrance Peter the Great was born. Over time the wooden building decayed and it was replaced with stone which also did not undergo testing time.
The third building of Isaac's was built in the second half of the eighteenth century, but almost right after consecration it was recognized as improper to the general architectural registration of the city, and Alexander the First ordered to reconstruct cathedral. It took 40 years, but the result was worth it. The cathedral with a gilded dome and rich furniture became a wreath of an architectural thought to those days and it still impresses with the amazing beauty and the extensive sizes. The temple can accommodate 12,000 people.
After the revolution the temple was partially ruined, a lot of gold and silver utensils was stolen. And in 1928 the services in cathedral completely stopped and the antireligious museum opened. Then the war during which the cathedral wonderfully almost did not suffer and helped to save a set of works of art came.
In 1948 the temple received the museum status, and in 1990 church services on Sundays and holidays were resumed in it. This tradition remained until now. Also tours, concerts and other festive actions are held in the building.
As well as the majority of temples, Isaac's is a five-domed cathedral which main dome consists of three parts. Diameter of the top dome is the whole 25 meters, and on porticoes around a drum of the dome there are 72 columns from a granite monolith. At construction of this cathedral of a column of such weight for the first time could lift on height more than 40 meters. The dome is gilded by pure gold. About 100 kilograms of precious metal left on a covering. Belfries are on the corners from the building and in everyone bells from alloy of silver, copper and tin are established. In the northwest bell tower the bell weighing 30 tons with images of governors of Russia is established.
For construction of the cathedral more than 40 breeds of minerals were used. The cap is decorated with granite; the walls are made of marble. Columned porticoes are decorated with statues of apostles, and figures of angels turn around the main dome. All pediments of the building are decorated with high reliefs with bible motives of work Soared.
The temple deservedly carries a rank of the informal museum of a stone. External walls of the building are sheathed by the Russian, French and Italian marble. Walls are decorated from within by green and yellow marble, turquoise, a jasper, porphyry and a great number of others valuable and semiprecious stones.
The big dome of cathedral is decorated inside with a colourful painting made by Bryullov "the Mother of God in glory", and under a dome the silvered pigeon as a symbol of the Holy Spirit soars.
The temple is decorated by tens of frescos, art paintings and mosaics of work of the famous masters, such as Vasin, Shebuyev, Bruni and Bryullov. Mosaics from 20 types of a decorative stone occupy the huge space and amaze with the complexity. The paintings illustrating biblical scenes and life of Saints impress with specification and a subtlety of work.
The temple decorates more than 300 sculptures and reliefs created by the famous sculptors of last centuries. The show is impressive and mysterious. Everywhere you face strict but kind eyes of aged men and Saints.
Near the iconostasis you can see the true pride of Isaac's. It is the majestic columns from malachite and lapis lazuli from Badakhshan. Altars in the temple three is mainly devoted to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, the right one is devoted to the great martyr Ekaterina, and left one to Alexander Nevsky. The main altar is decorated with white marble and malachite, and behind it the multi-coloured stained-glass window "The Christ's Revival" created in Munich sparkles.
This exhibit reached our days from a socialist antireligious era. The pendulum was suspended to a dome on a cable and demonstrated that the earth rotates, moving on a special scale during the day (in a day it returned to an initial position). The pendulum was removed when its bearing structure became unreliable, but it is still to be stored in the museum and is exposed as an exhibit. By the way, the fact that on the equator and poles the pendulum does not move at all whereas in other points of the globe it moves is interesting.
Tourists can rise by a colonnade of cathedral and from height of 43 meters to look at a surprising panorama of the city. The legend goes that if to rise by a colonnade, having counted steps, to make a wish, and then during descent to count steps again, and there will be the same amount as at rise, then your desire will surely come true.
In the cathedral there are three couples of doors created from a tree and bronze. All of them are decorated with plots from life of apostles Pyotr and Pavel, Saint Isaac of Dalmatia and Nikolay Mirliiysky.
In 1707, Peter I ordered to put a church in young and still under construction city. It was built in honour of Saint Isaac of Dalmatia. He was a Saint considered by Peter I as his heavenly patron and in whose day of remembrance the emperor was born. The church was constructed hastily of the crude wood impregnated with ship pitch. Exactly here in 1712 Peter I and Ekaterina the First got married.
On the place of the decayed wooden building the second church was put in 1717, but already from a stone. The new building was architecturally similar to Peter and Paul Cathedral with a high spire. However, the calculation of load of soil was wrong, and the coastal soil at Neva began to sink strongly under the weight of the building, making cathedral unstable and unsafe. In 1735 the nature struck one more blow to the building. The lightning got into it and strongly damaged the design. Then the emperor requested the architect Savva Chevakinsky to estimate a condition of cathedral, and the master honestly told that this place does not suit for construction, and it is necessary not only to build cathedral from scratch, but also to move to another place, far away from the coast. Then the history of modern St. Isaac's Cathedral began.
In 1761 when it was planned to build the new building of cathedral, the architect appointed was Chevakinsky. Unfortunately, preparatory work strongly dragged on, and the architect resigned, and he was succeeded by Antonio Rinaldi. Solemn laying of cathedral happened only in 1768, and Rinaldi directed construction till the death of the empress Ekaterina the Second. And afterwards he even departed from affairs and left the empire. The building remained constructed only to eaves, and Pavel the First appointed Vincenzo Brenna responsible for completion of works. Vincenzo made the cardinal changes which did not do good to the project.
Marble which was used for facing of walls was decided to be given to the Mikhailovsky Castle, and the cathedral was completed with bricks. As a result, the strange facade in which simple and unpretentious bricks were based upon the marble basis turned out. The building was consecrated after all in 1802, but quickly came to a conclusion that it does not fit into a ceremonial image of St. Petersburg in any way.
The emperor Alexander the First held a competition on reconstruction of cathedral in 1809 and in 1813, and was dissatisfied with offers of most of architects just to demolish cathedral and to construct a new one on its place. Therefore, the emperor entrusted the engineer Augustine Bettencourt to create the project, and Augustine in turn charged this business to an absolutely young architect August Montferrand. Laying of cathedral happened in 1819, but construction took more than forty years which around six left on completion of the project of Montferrand.
By hearsay, the clairvoyant predicted to the architect death upon completion of construction, and therefore he delayed the tragic moment as could. However, the prophecy after all came true. August died in a month after consecration of cathedral. There is also another version of death of the architect. During the consecration of the cathedral the emperor noticed that Montferrand did not bow to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, and in punishment for arrogance did not offer to the impudent fellow a hand and did not praise him for work. Because of this August died. He hasn't been able to endure a shame.
Actually the history was much prosier. The architect got sick with pneumonia, and received serious complications in the form of rheumatism. The next bad attack of a disease also became a cause of death. August asked in the will to bury him in cathedral, but the emperor did not allow it. So the widow of the architect took away his body to Paris to bury at the cemetery of Montmartre.
Technologies, absolutely innovative and courageous for that time were used at construction of new cathedral. At the expense of materials and the sizes the building was too heavy (300 thousand tons) for pliable marshy soil, and for its stability it was necessary to hammer nearly eleven thousand piles into soil. This process took not less than five years! Residents of St. Petersburg joked, a pier hammered one pile but it was gone, the second pile was hammered, but it also disappeared. Than a letter from America was sent informing that St. Petersburg spoiled all the pavement, and in the middle of the road continuous columns stand with a brand "Gromov & Co".
One more detail possible to be called a miracle of an engineering are the columns of cathedral. The granite breed for their construction got at coast of the Gulf of Finland near Vyborg. Bricklayers developed an original method of extraction of monolithic pieces of breed. They drilled in an opening stone, inserted stakes into them and beat them while the stone did not burst. They inserted levers with rings through which than passed the ropes and 40 people pulled them, breaking out blocks from a monolith. Delivery of stones to the city happened by train, though a railroad itself has not been created in St. Petersburg yet.
The technology of creation of statues and bas-reliefs by a galvanoplasty method became a global innovation. The invention allowed to establish multi meter statues at big height.
As well as all constructions of religious appointment, during the October revolution the temple was ruined and continued to be plundered for many years. 48 kilograms of gold and 2 tons of silver for needs starving were taken out from the building in 1922, and in 1928 cathedral was transferred for usage of State Administration for the Arts as the museum. In 1931 exactly here one of the first Russian antireligious museums started to work.
However, exactly this fact allowed the temple not to collapse under oppression of time and vandals. The building was protected, maintained purity in it, repaired when necessary and heated it so well that even in the winter it was possible to conduct tours.
Surprisingly, but in military years the temple was practically not damaged. Moreover, it gave the shelter and protection to a huge number of museum pieces and historical values! The dome of cathedral was covered with a camouflage by military climbers, and fascists used it as a reference point, but not as an object for bombings. Then it was decided to collect museum and state values which did not manage to evacuate in Isaac's cellars. They safely endured both bombings, and severe years of blockade inside. If to trust documentary photographs of 1942, in front of cathedral there was even a garden and people grew up cabbage there.
Of course, the temple did not manage to avoid damages completely. Traces from hit of a shrapnel are still visible on columns and the absence of the heating became the reason of damage of wall paintings. The work "Adam and Eve in paradise" by Bruni's was washed away completely at all.
Nearly a half-tons of gold, half-ton of lapis lazuli, one thousand tons of bronze and 16 tons of malachite was spent on finishing the cathedral Mosaic occupied nearly six and a half thousand square meters. The altar of the temple is decorated with the Ural malachite and lapis lazuli from Badakhshan. The floors, the walls and the columns are created from semiprecious shokshinsky porphyry, black slate and various marble. The iconostasis is decorated by eight malachite and two lapis lazuli columns.
At the time of the construction this cathedral became the most expensive in Europe. 2.5 million rubles were spent only on the base, and all construction together with finishing and painting demanded investments of 23 million rubles! When Nikolay the First saw expenses, he was totally taken aback and ordered to save at least on church utensils.
About 100 kilograms of gold was spent on gilding of domes of cathedral and the technology of putting gilding meant mercury use. Its evaporations killed about 60 masters devoted to the business up to the end.