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Crowned by five gilded copulas and onion domes according to the Russian tradition, St.Nicholas Cathedral is a brilliant sample of the eighteenth-century Russian baroque, built by Savva Chevakinsky in the form of a Greek cross between 1753-1762 in a district, where mainly sailors and dockyard workers used to live in the time of Peter the Great. The first chapel, made of wood, was built here in 1743 in the honor of "Nikolai Chudotvorets" (Nicholas Miracle maker) who is considered to be the protector of sailors. Before the construction of the new stone church began , the ground where the church''s foundation was to be built had to be raised by two meters to protect it from floods. Painted ice blue with white Corinthian pilasters, the Cathedral was consecrated in 1760 in the presence of Empress Elizabeth. Officially the church became a naval cathedral in July 1762 by the order of Catherine II. Itís worth mentioning that the cathedral was built on "bridge toll" money (around 140,000 rubles), collected from people who crossed St. Petersburg''s bridges.
Today, the cathedral and green square in front of it lies inside the bend of Griboedov canal, just to the south of Theatre square, in especially picturesque part of the Northern capital''s historic center. Nowadays, approaching the cathedral, one can savour the beauty spots in this part of the city. Looking down the Voznesensky prospect, the golden onion domes of St.Nicholas are superimposed against the massive blue copulas of the Troitsky cathedral, south of Fontanka. Another lovely view unfolds to the northwest of St.Nicholas where, from the junction of the Kryukov and Griboedov canals, one can see half a dozen curvaceous bridges at once.
The Cathedral, which till 1999 was the mother church of St. Petersburg, has two richly decorated churches: upper, consecrated to the Epiphany, and lower - to saint Nicholas, the patron-saint of all sailors and voyagers, hence the cathedralís full name - Nicholas-Epiphany. Its upper church, divided by pillars to seven naves, is full of air and light. Its both majestic and festive atmosphere makes this place the unrivalled one for such solemn occasions as wedding ceremonies. A definite showpiece of the upper church interior, richly decorated with vegetative ornament and classical colonnade, is the gilded iconostasis decorated with icons dating back to the18th century . On the contrary the cathedralís low, vaulted interior is festooned with icons (including the icon of the divine mother of Kazan and the divine mother of Vladimir) and Ė as any other working cathedral Ė it smells of the incense. During services, held here at 6 pm, the cathedral resounds with beautiful voices of the choir.
Not far from Nikolsky cathedral, matching perfectly the serene image of the temple, there stands the lofty four-tier belltower, which during the Tsarist times used to harbour a flock of pigeons, fed with the rice that the pious placed there for the dead. The legend says that the bells toll here whenever someone makes an offering pleasing God. Standing near this beautiful belfry with its sharp spire reflecting in the motionless waters of the Kryukov channel, one can relish the view of eight beautiful bridges that create a great symphony combining splashes of water and brilliant samples of sophisticated architecture.