Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Cathedral Christ the Savior

The city of Moscow offer to visitors thousands of tourist attractions of great value, but as is the case with any big city, some place is always highlighted more than others, for its beauty or for its history and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is one of them.

The cathedral attracts thousands of faithful and tourists every year, when traveling to Moscow, it is always in the plans of the visits to go to this wonder.

Let’s learn the intriguing history of this masterpiece, going through its construction with difficulty in Tsarist Russia, blown up during the Soviet era and rebuilt after the fall and the end of the Soviet era.

Heritage of the Patriotic War 1812

The war with Napoleonic France left many traces in the history of Russia and in Moscow in particular, from there we find several places that commemorate the victory against the invaders. On the other hand, and in honor of the fallen in the Patriotic War, monuments and museums were also erected, and why not, a cathedral, we are talking about the Cathedral Cathedral of Christ the Savior that was erected as a symbolic cenotaph for those soldiers of the Imperial Russian Army fallen.

In December 1812, General Peter Kikin proposed in a letter to Admiral Alexander Shishkov to build a votive church in gratitude for the victory and in memory of the soldiers who died in the Patriotic War. Emperor Alexander I of Russia supported the idea, and on December 25, 1812, the supreme manifest of the construction of a church in Moscow was issued.

A broken start

One cannot speak about the Cathedral of Christ the Savior without mentioning the first project that failed for various reasons, the mega temple proposed by the Swedish Karl Witberg.

Karl Witberg won the international competition that was organized in 1814, there were architects from various countries who wanted to win the bid, including Andrei Voronikhin, Giacomo Quarenghi (Gvarengi), Vasily Stasov and other eminent architects from Russia and foreign countries. He was supposed to build a cathedral in the name of Christ the Savior within 10-12 years.

“I am extremely pleased with your project. You guessed my wish, satisfied my thoughts about this temple. I wished that it would not be a heap of stones, like ordinary buildings, but animated by some religious idea; but I did not expect to receive any satisfaction, I did not expect someone to be inspired by it and therefore hide my desire. And so I considered up to 20 projects, among which there are very good ones, but they are all very ordinary, you made the stones speak. “

Emperor Alexander I

Witberg’s project was really majestic as an idea: compared to the existing one, it was 3 times larger (height – 240 meters); it included a colonnade of captured cannons (600 columns), the Pantheon of the dead, as well as monuments to monarchs and prominent commanders. It was planned to build the temple on the Hill of Sparrows.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Karl Witberg's initial project
Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Karl Witberg

For the inauguration of the project; On October 12, 1817, there was an opening ceremony with the presence of Emperor Alexander I, personalities of all spheres and ranks, as well as almost the entire population of Moscow, about 400,000 person.

The cancellation of the first project

Without experience in directing projects of such magnitude, Witberg did not know how to control the first stages of construction and after 7 years the project made practically no progress.

In 1825 Emperor Alexander I died and in his place Nicholas I ascended the throne. The new emperor canceled the original project and Karl Witberg, in addition, those responsible for the construction were tried for breach of trust of the emperor and damage inflicted on the treasury.

The second project of the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow

Year 1831, the theme of the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior returned to be present in the debates and conversations of Muscovites; as a result, Emperor Nicholas I who liked the “Russian-Byzantine” style of temple architecture developed by Konstantin Ton, and by his personal order, Ton was appointed architect of the temple.

Konstantin Ton's project
Konstantin Ton

A new construction site was also chosen, this time not far from the Kremlin. The neighborhood located on the territory was bought and demolished; including the Alekseevsky Convent; whose abbess, according to Moscow legend, cursed the place and predicted that nothing would remain in it for long.

In August 1837, the day of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino; the temple was founded, but active construction began only in September 1839 and continued for another 44 years, including interior decoration and painting.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Konstantin Ton's project

Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow was consecrated on June 7, 1883 with a ceremony by Moscow Metropolitan Loanniky. The ceremony was attended by another emperor in the history of the construction of the temple – Alexander III; who ascended the throne shortly before the completion of the work, as well as members of the imperial family, the clergy and the Moscow nobility.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Cathedral of Christ the Savior 1930
Cathedral of Christ the Savior 1930

Soviet era

In 1918, with the results of the Bolshevik revolution; the Soviet government canceled through a special decree the financing of all temples and institutions related to any religion.

The costs of maintenance and repair of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow fell on the shoulders of private donors.

On July 13, 1931, a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR was held; as a result of the assembly a decision was made to demolish the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and build the Palace of Soviets in its place.

Demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow
Demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow
Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow

As it was difficult to dismantle the temple, and on December 5, 1931, the building was destroyed by two explosions.

1937, the construction of the Palace of Soviets began on the site of the temple; but the construction was never completed due to the outbreak of World War II. In 1960, and given the post-war circumstances at the economic level in particular, the project of building the Palace of the Soviets was abandoned and in its place an open-air swimming pool was installed, which was given the name of Moskva, and which existed until 1994.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Moskva Pool
Moskva Pool

The modern Cathedral of Christ the Savior

In 1989 the newly reborn Orthodox community held a “popular referendum”; during which thousands of Soviet citizens supported the idea of ​​restoring the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

On December 5, 1990, a foundation stone was laid at the site of the future construction. In 1992 a fund was opened to finance the reconstruction of the temple and in 1994 construction began.

The project for the reconstruction of the temple was the responsibility of the architects Mikhail Posokhin, Alexei Denisov and Zurab Tsereteli. Already by 1999 the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was erected as a conditional external copy of the destroyed original.

On December 31, 1999, the temple was opened to the public. On the night of January 6-7, 2000, the first solemn Christmas liturgy was celebrated inside.

In 2004, the Patriarchal Bridge was opened in front of the temple and connecting the Prechistenskaya, Bersenevskaya and Yakimanskaya embankments; starting directly from the terrace of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and the pedestrian bridge are some of the excellent tourist spots; where the travellers to Moscow can contemplate excellent views of the historic center of the city and the Moscow River.

Travel to Russia and visit the city of Moscow cannot be complete without a special visit to the temple and the patriarchal bridge; Contact us and we will organize tailor-made tours for you.

Join our tours in Moscow and enjoy this unique wonder.

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