Wednesday, April 6, 2016

St Petersburg - The Church of our Saviour on the Spilled Blood

Date of visit: 22nd October 2015

First and foremost, I must apologise in advance for unable to contain my views, hence sharing so much photos in this entry to justify that opinion of mine. Despite of what people said and to the fact that the church of our savior on spilled blood was built after the medieval charm of St. Basil's in Moscow, I insist that this church is much much more beautiful, well arranged, neat works by the builders, choices of colors are much more grandeur etc etc. The feeling that it gave me when I first entered and my eyes caught with the blue and gold colors combination art works (supplements with other colors) are unimaginably stunning. Yes, I was stunt from top to bottom appreciating all the talents given by the Almight to His people that were selected while applying their art skills in this magnificent church.

Depending on your personal reference, this church can be possibly toured in just 1 hour. That is an optimal time spent inside to appreciate an extravagant and colorful artisan works on the inside. The outside look of the Church on Spilled Blood resembles a bit of St Basil's cathedral but it is worth going inside if you have time to listen through an audio guide which will provide you with a complete story of the church's construction. The audio can be listened in just over an hour in total. For those who is an artist and religious scholar would want to spend much much longer than an hour, I assumed.

While people said it lacks the authentic medieval charm of St. Basil's in Moscow, the Church on Spilled Blood is nonetheless one of St. Petersburg's most instantly recognizable landmarks. Its wildly colourful Russian Revival architecture making a stark contrast to the elegant neoclassicism of the State Russian Museum next door. This is part of the church's charm, in that it serves to constantly remind the visitor to St. Petersburg that, despite the Italianate elegance of most of the "Golden Triangle", you are still definitely affirming yourself that you are indeed in Russia. It's extraordinary  architecture was chosen at this monument to mark such a tragic event of the assassination of King Alexander II, thus it should be so exuberantly colorful in the committee's opinion.

If you're on a whistlestop tour, there's no need to set aside time for the Church on Spilled Blood, as you're bound to pass it more than once in even the shortest exploration of St. Petersburg. Take note that tickets booth are just next to the entrance door. And I must warn you that a visit to St Petersburg would not be complete without a quick view (in person especially) this low-rise skyline of St. Petersburg's historic centre, which is dominated by the grand gold dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral, the life's work of French architect Auguste de Montferrand and the city's largest and most spectacular religious building.

This marvelous Russian style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia's disastrous defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. In 1861 he freed the Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) from their ties to their masters and undertook a rigorous program of military, judicial and urban reforms, never before attempted in Russia. However, during the second half of his reign Alexander II grew wary of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Alexander II was finally assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage.

The decision was taken to build a church on the spot where the Emperor was mortally wounded. The church was built between 1883 and 1907 and was officially called the Resurrection of Christ Church (a.k.a. The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood ). The construction of the church was almost entirely funded by the Imperial family and thousands of private donators. Both the interior and exterior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists of the day (V.M. Vasnetsov, M.V. Nesterov and M.A. Vrubel). Interestingly, despite the church's very obviously Russian aspect, its principle architect, A. Parland, who was not even Russian by birth.

The Church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal; paved roads run along both sides of the canal. On March 13, 1881, as Tsar Alexander's carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. The tsar, bleeding heavily, was taken back to the Winter Palace where he died a few hours later.

A temporary shrine was erected on the site of the attack while plans and fundraising for a more permanent memorial were undertaken. In order to build a permanent shrine on the exact spot where the assassination took place, it was decided to narrow the canal so that the section of road on which the tsar had been driving could be included within the walls of the church. An elaborate shrine was constructed at the end of the church opposite the altar, on the exact place of Alexander's death. It is embellished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones, making a striking contrast with the simple cobblestones of the old road, which are exposed in the floor of the shrine. 

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. The Church contains over 7,500 square meters of mosaic according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. This record may be surpassed by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, which houses about 7,700 square meters of mosaics.

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.

In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral and was used as a museum. The proceeds from the Cathedral funded the restoration of the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full time place of worship. The Church of the Saviour on Blood is a now a Museum of Mosaics. In the pre revolution period it was not used as a public place of worship. The church was dedicated to the memory of the assassinated tsar and only panikhidas (memorial services) took place at this place at present. The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.

Fore avoidance of doubt, the church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. But, the restoration works of  over 30 years has brought its dazzling former glory. The view of the church from Nevsky Prospekt is absolutely breathtaking. I really hope that all the photos that I shared in this entry would bring a desire for those who like arts, history, stories from the Old Testament and New Testament, religious scholar and others to visit this place. I also pray that all my Christian's brothers and sisters would be able to relate why the sun shadow being place at the back of the head of most respected figures as the founder of Christianity wanted to confuse people of the book whilst maintain the Myth god and goddess (sun worshippers etc) into a pure religion brought by Jesus to his followers. That was the main reason why our Almighty has replaced Prophet Jesus with Prophet Muhammad to save His people from going ashtray with the non-believer and the atheist. Let us return and understand the Book that has been given to us as it is our obligation to read, study, research and understand. Pray for love, peace and humanity.

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