Church of the Saviour on Blood is one of the most recognizable buildings in Saint Petersburg. This colourful red-brick church intrigues with its design and its name. You have surely seen the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood while looking for photographs of the landmarks of Saint Petersburg. Let’s have a closer look at the story and architecture of the church.
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Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is a church, a museum and a monument at the same time.
From first sight, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood looks similar to Saint Bazil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Indeed, they have common features: similar red walls, multicolour domes, and complicated shapes. But the more you examine those two churches, the more you understand how different they are.
CHURCH OF THE SAVIOUR ON SPILLED BLOOD: MEANING OF THE TITLE
The Church of the Saviour on Blood stands on the site where on March 1, 1881, the attempt on the life of Emperor Alexander II took place. The Russian Emperor was mortally wounded and died a few hours later in the Winter Palace.
After the tragic event, the City Council of Saint Petersburg proposed building a small chapel in the area of the murder. However, the new Emperor Alexander III, the elder son of Alexander II, opted for the construction of a magnificent temple. He ordered to leave untouched the section of the pavement where the blood of his father was shed. Nowadays, we can see this part of the pavement inside of the church.
Thus, it is where the name of the church comes from. Indeed, the church stands on the spilled blood.
The height of the church is 81 metres. This number corresponds to the year when Alexander II died — 1881. Another emblematic number is 63. 63 metres is the height of one of the domes of the church. 63 is also the age of Alexander II the time of the attempt on his life.
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
In 1881, Alexander III announced a competition for the best project of the church. The future church should combine the main features of Russian churches’ architecture of the 17th century.
The competition attracted many famous architects of the time. The project of the architect Alfred Parland and archimandrite Ignatius won.
The church stands on the bank of the Griboedov Channel, near the Mikhailovsky Garden and Konyushennaya Square. The Church on Spilled Blood was not intended to be a public church. There were only sermons and services in memory of Alexander II. If someone wanted to visit the church, he had to obtain a special pass.
The construction took twenty-four years: from 1883 to 1907. It was Emperor Nicholas II who finished such a long-lasting building of the church monument.
Unfortunately, after the Revolution of 1917, the church turned into something purposeless and unfunctional. All religious traditions and places became prohibited. The church was used as a morgue and a warehouse. Its sumptuous decoration fell into disrepair. Only in 1968, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood officially became a museum. Long restoration works started.
The church reopened after restoration only in 1997. Since then, it became of the most known landmarks of Saint Petersburg.
ARCHITECTURE OF THE CHURCH OF THE SAVIOUR ON SPILLED BLOOD
The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is asymmetric and colourful. It differs from the classical architecture of the historical centre of Saint Petersburg. Emperor Alexander III was fond of everything Russian: Russian food, traditions, and architecture. That is why he chose the Neo-Russian style for the future church.
Take your time to explore the exterior of the church:
- The plinth of the church is covered with Serdobol granite. Inside of the niches, there are twenty commemorative plaques made of dark red granite. And on these boards with gilded letters, you will read the deeds of Emperor Alexander II.
- The walls of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood are made of red bricks. Intricate white stucco decorations around the windows look solemn. But the most exquisite decoration of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is mosaics. You will see them outside and inside of the church.
Coats of arms of Russian cities and counties decorate the upper part of the church. Moreover, there are icons depicting saints and Biblical events.
- The domes of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood have an onion shape. It is a traditional shape of Russian churches’ domes. Some domes are covered with bright multi-coloured enamel, others are gilded.
INTERIORS OF THE CHURCH OF THE SAVIOUR ON SPILLED BLOOD
Anyone who knows the sad history of the church expects to see a gloomy place of memory and sorrow. But unexpectedly, as visitors step inside, they find themselves surrounded by bright colours of precious stones and unique mosaics.
Interiors of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood strike with their magnificence. The bright mix of mosaic icons, precious stones, and gilded decorations underline the elitism of the church.
Noteworthy parts of the church:
The pride of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood are mosaics. The mosaics occupy more than 7000 square metres of the walls and ceilings. That is why we often consider the church as a “museum of mosaics”. Take your time to examine this masterpiece.
The altar of the temple was made in Genoa. It took a long time to find marbles of different shades: from dark red to almost white.
On both sides of the iconostasis, there are icon cases made of jasper and rhodonite. You will notice that some icons are missing. Unfortunately, they disappeared after the Revolution of 1917.
Another sacred part of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is the canopy. You will see it near the entrance to the church, right around the place where Alexander II was wounded.
The canopy rises above the fragment of the cobblestone pavement and a part of the canal fence. Those are stones on which the wounded Emperor fell. The stone baldachin has jasper grey-violet columns and a topaz cross.
More than 45 marble “carpets” cover the floor of the church. Each “carpet” pattern is unique.
ADDRESS, TICKETS & TRAVEL TIPS
Address: 2Б, Griboedov Channel Embankment,
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Closest metro station: Nevsky Prospect (exit to the Griboedov Channel)
Tickets: ticket offices are located near the entrance to the church. Ticket price — 450 Rub. (~6USD).
You can also buy tickets online at the official site of the museum.
Opening hours: 10:00 — 18:00. Wednesday is a day off.
From May 1 to September 30, you can visit the church in the evening. It remains open until 21:30. In the soft evening light, the interiors look magical. The evening ticket costs more (600 Rubles instead of 450) but it is worth it.