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St. Isaac’s cathedral with its gilded cupola having the height of 101,5 meters is an inseparable city symbol just as well as Admiralty and Peter and Paul Fortress. This grand structure, which astounds with its dimensions (length is 115,5 m, width - 97,6 m), can be easily seen from any part of the city, and in clear weather - even from the suburbs.
The history of the construction of St.Isaac’s Cathedral which is the 4th largest domed structure in the world after St.Peter''s in Rome, St.Paul''s in London and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, began in 1710, when the first small wooden church was put up in honor of St.Isaac of Dalmatia, who is considered to be the patron saint of the Romanov family. The present day Cathedral is the 4th one consecrated in the name of this Byzantine monk whose feast day fell on Peter the Great’s birthday (May 30) In 1812 after the victory over Napoleon a contest for the best project of this cathedral was launched to design a replacement was announced and by submitting no less than 24 designes in various styles, a young unknown architect, Auguste de Monferrand, impressed Alexander 1 into giving him the commision, but soon he required help from more experienced architects as three years after the construction had started it came to a halt because of a number of mistakes made in the project and during the building process. In 1825 the works were resumed according to the corrected project and lots of complicated engineering problems were to be solved later during the whole course of erection. All in all it took 400 thousand workers nearly 40 years to build thi Cathedral, which happened to be reconstructed as many as four times and to sustaine a destructive fire, disastrous floods of the Neva River and a no less damaging incompetence of many architects.
This cathedral of awesome size and diversity strikes one’s eye by abundance of the exterior decoration. Enormous porticos (each weighing 114 tons), windows and domes of the cathedral are adorned with 112 monolithic columns of red granit, brought by sea from Vyborg. On the pediments one can see high reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ as well as that as Isaac of Dalmatia, in the portico niches – reliefs devoted to Bible parables. Tops of the pediments are crowned with sculptural groups of evangelists, corners of the building are marked with statues of angels holding torches. 24 statues - copies of Antique originals by J.Hermann - encircle the dome.
The exterior works were completeed in 1842, but interior decoration took 16 years more. The high walls inside the Cathedral are covered with various kinds of marble and porphyry, the icons and the iconostasis are adorned with green malachite, azurite and guilt bronze.More than 400 kilograms of pure gold (of which only 100 kg of gold were used for gilding dome), 1000 tons of bronze, 43 various kinds of minerals as well as 14 different types of marble were used for the decoration. The walls and vaults of the cathedral bear paintings and 62 mosaic panels made by well-known Russian artists and the great plafond of the big dome with the area of more than 700 square meters was painted by Briullov.All in all the Cathedral is decorated with 382 works of art.
One of the largest domed structures in the world after the well-known St.Peter''s in Rome, St.Paul''s in London and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, St.Isaac’s Cathedral was sanctified in 1858 and became the main church in Saint-Petersburg, having the area of 4000 square meters to accommodate up to 14000 standing worshipers at a time. In the late 1920s the church was closed for services and used for an exhibition of revolutionary propaganda. Being badly damaged at the time of World War II, the spiritual monument was under restoration for over 25 years. Nowadays with scaffoldings removed, the bell-tower dome gilded and the interiors carefully restored, the church its stunning beauty is used for services on Easter and Christmas. Since 1990, after a 62-year gap, services have been held in the cathedral on major religious holidays