Cathedral of Christ the Saviour at dusk
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Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Russia > Moscow

Cathedral's destruction

It is hard to believe, but the Cathedral gracing Moskva river's bank today is barely 2 decades old. The original Cathedral standing in its place was destroyed in 1931 as Stalin wanted to make room for the Palace of the Soviets - the new hub for the Communist Party with a huge statue of Lenin standing above it.

The Second World War broke out as construction only just began and was therefore immediately postponed. The construction site was taken apart with the foundations put towards anti-tank barricade production.

The site remained empty until 1960 when the iconic open-air swimming pool "Moscow" was erected which remained in place until 1994.

The reconstruction of Christ the Saviour Cathedral

The Cathedral's rebirth started in 1994 as the project was part-funded by the Government and part by donations (1 in 10 Muscovites donated for the cause). First led by Denisov, the construction was soon taken over by a highly influential Zurab Tseretelli who has had a hand in most of Moscow's recent large-scale construction projects.

The cathedral took a little over 5 years to complete as work went on non-stop. Every part of the Cathedral was rebuilt as closely as possible resembling the original with the exception of the museum, the 'Lower' Cathedral underground and the replacement of large white medallions above the doorways with bronze ones.

The Cathedral was reopened on the 31 December 1999 and formally reinstated in August 2000. Since then, it has operated as Russia's prime Orthodox Cathedral and remains the seat of the Partiarch of Moscow and All Russia - head of the Orthodox Church Synod.

The first Cathedral

The decision to build the original Cathedral of Christ the Saviour came immediately after the defeat and retreat of Napoleon's troops in December 1812. The then Tzar Alexander I signed a decree to construct the Cathedral as part of the reconstruction of the city from the ruins that Napoleon left behind.

In 1814, an open tender was announced for the Cathedral's design with a view to construct it within 10-12 years. Surprisingly, many of Europe's best architects lost out to Karl Magnus Vitberg, a young Russian architect of Swedish origin. With plans of a grand Cathedral three times bigger than the current one formalised by 1817, construction began on 12 October - the fifth anniversary of Napoleon's departure on Moscow's Sparrow Hills.

Unfortunately, despite a high inital tempo, the Cathedral's construction never took off with no progress during the first 7 years. As Nicholas I came to power in 1825, the construction was halted. By 1831, a new architect Konstantin Ton was appointed and a new construction on the present site started in 1837. The classical Byzantine style proved somewhat controversial with Vereschagin (Russian artist) pointing out starking similarity with the Taj Mahal.

Construction, however, went on for a further 45 years until 1881 and the Cathedral was consecrated 2 years later.

Opening Times

Throughout the Year

  • Sunday: 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM
  • Monday: 01:00 PM to 05:00 PM
  • Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM
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Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Ulitsa Volhonka 15


Russia 109019