The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
It is long since been tradition in Russian architecture to erect religious buildings in honour of historic events. The Church in the Name of the Resurrection of Christ on the Site of the Mortal Wounding of His Honoured Majesty Alexander II, so the church’s canonical title reads, stands on the exact spot where the emperor was fatally injured on 1 March 1881 by a bomb thrown by the radical, Ignaty Grinevitsky. It is more commonly known as the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood.
It would be more accurate, however, to call it the Church of the Resurrection on the Blood, since it was consecrated in the name of the Resurrection of Christ rather than in the name of Christ the Saviour. This striking edifice is one of the few remaining examples of the late 19th – early 20th century religious architecture in Russia and today represents a commemorative monument of both historic and artistic value. Built in 1883-1907 by the architect Parland, this church was designed in the spirit of 16th-17th century Russian architecture and resembles St.Basil’s Cathedral in the Red Square in Moscow. Most of the money for the church was donated by the royal family and thousands of private investors.
The Church of the Resurrection of Christ has a single altar and three apses. The square body of the church is crowned with five cupolas: the central one sits atop a pointed roof and is surrounded by four onion-shaped domes. On the west side, a two-storey column-like bell tower adjoins the main body of the building. The church stands at a height of 81 metres and has a total area of 1,642.35 square metres. The Church on the Spilled Blood owes its architectural uniqueness and unusual structural design to the criteria that were laid down with regard to its creation.
The interior of the church is stunning for its profusion of Italian marble and rich assortment of Russian semiprecious stones as well as its textures and shades, not to mention a riot of mosaics, bronze and silver. The stone ornaments were created by master craftsmen from the Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Kolyvan lapidary workshops.
The magnificent marble tiles on the floor of the church – the work of Italian masters – cover an area of 608 square metres. The domes of the church are covered with gilded or enameled sheets of brass. The decorative enamel covers an area of 1,000 square metres – an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of Russian architecture.
After the October Revolution of 1917 the church met the sad fate of most churches in the country. “The Savior” was closed for services in the late 1920s, then briefly used for an exhibition of revolutionary propaganda and soon started to fall into decay, being deprived of adequate maintenance. Several times it was suggested that the church be torn down, for it stood as an “inappropriate” symbol of Christianity amidst the largely atheistic country. It is by a true miracle that the church was saved. Since 1970 the church has been managed by the staff of the St.Isaac’s Cathedral. A long careful restoration began, which lasted for over 25 years.
Now with scaffolding already removed, the bell-tower dome gilded, and the interiors carefully restored, the church opened its doors to visitors. The official opening took place in August, 1997 and you can now see this jewel in the crown of St. Petersburg in its stunning beauty.