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Peter-and-Paul Cathedral

Peter-and-Paul Cathedral

"The construction of the cathedral consecrated in the names of Apostles Peter and Paul was supervised by an outstanding Swiss Italian architect Domenico Trezzini, the founder of the so-called ďPetersburg styleĒ. Assimilating traditions of Russian architecture Domenico Trezzini put up a number of magnificent buildings in Saint-Petersburg, but indubitably his unrivalled gem is the Peter and Paul Cathedral located in the very heart of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Being the cityís highest architectural structure (122,5 m.), the Cathedral is accomplished in early baroque style. Its golden spire crowned with a weathervane shaped like an angel became the symbol of Russiaís security on the banks of the Neva River and at the same time, it is an inseparable symbol of a modern city, the new Russian capital.

The interior of the cathedral is very much different from the one you can see in the Russian churches of the 14th-16th centuries. It resembles more a spacious gala hall flooded with light due to the large windows, which alongside with pink and green Corinthian columns, refined gilding, artificial marble pillars and pilasters are a far cry from the traditional Russian Orthodox church. Even the iconostasis that is the most sacred place in the church was considerably altered and designed as a three-spanned twenty meters high triumphal arch thus commemorating Russian victory over Sweden in the course of the Northern war (1700-1721). This masterpiece of gilded woodcarving was accomplished by Ivan Zarudny up to the design of Domenico Trezzini and executed in the 1720s by 46 Moscow craftsmen. A group of Moscow artists painted 43 icons of the iconstand. Most of canvases depict biblical kings and patron saints of the imperial family. An interesting detail is that the attires of Christ and Our Lady resemble the attires of Russian Tsars and Tsarinas which is indicative of divine origin of the tsarís power Ė the tsar was meant to be Christís ambassador on the Earth.

Itís also worth mentioning that Peter-and-Paul Cathedral is the only Russian cathedral with pulpit, which is an attribute of a Catholic church. All these details reflect Peter the Greatís idea that Saint-Petersburg was conceived to be a true European city.

Peter-and-Paul cathedral ranks highly among St. Petersburg churches not only as the principal cathedral of the city but also as the burial place of the Romanovís imperial family. After Peter''s death in 1725, for a period of two centuries all Russian emperors and empresses starting from Peter I to Alexander III and members of their families were entombed in the cathedral. The first to be buried in the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul (this wooden church was demolished when construction of the stone cathedral began) was Catherine, Peter I''s daughter who died in 1708 at the age of eighteen months. The only tsars, who were not buried here, are Peter II, Ivan VI. In the first half of the eighteenth century tombstones over the graves were made of white alabaster. In the 1770s, when the cathedral was reconstructed it was decided to replaced them with white Carrara marble ones, except for the tombs of Alexander II and his wife Maria Alexandrova, which are made of two semi-precious stones: jasper and rhodonite, thus commemorating the Tsar-Liberator for abolishing serfdom in 1862.

After the revolution of 1917, the whole family of Nicolas II was at first kept in the Alexander Palace under home arrest and then taken to Siberia where all of them were murdered. It happened so that in the 1970s the remains of the imperial family (except Alexei and Maria) were found and after the positive results of DNA test in 1998 a controversial decision was taken to rebury the remains of the last Russian Tsar, his wife and children , and the servants in a chapel of Saint Catherine. At first they were canonized as saints abroad but it was not accepted by Russian orthodox church and only recently Russian orthodox church canonized the whole family. Thus on the 17th of July religious service is held here in order to commemorate them.

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