Kazan Cathedral

Saint Petersburg / Russia

The Kazan Cathedral is a functioning Russian Orthodox cathedral church and the main church of Nevskiy Prospekt. It ‘s breath-taking in its size, austere and solemn beauty, ideal proportions and … some albeit distant similarity to St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

The cathedral was builton the site of the Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s in this church that the famous icon of Our Lady of Kazan was housed. The icon explains the name of the cathedral and is its most venerated object of worship.

The idea to built a grandiose cathedral instead of a small church belonged to Emperor Paul I. It was Paul I who wanted the cathedral to resemble St.Peter’s cathedral which he admired. However, construction of the Cathedral was started after Pail I’s death during the reign of Emperor Alexander I and lasted ten years from 1801 till 1811.

Andrei Voronikhin, a talented Russian architect and a former serf of count Stroganov, was appointed the head architect of the cathedral. Due to shortage of funds and the impending war with napoleon, Voronokhin’s design was never materialized in full – the second colonnade of the cathedral, which was originally planned, was never built. Despite this fact the cathedral looks a complete and finished work of architecture, and moreover, it is considered a masterpiece.  

It was in this Cathedral that Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov prayed in front of the miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Kazan asking for help before he left for the combat army. In 1813 after the victory over Napoleon, Kutuzov was interred in the cathedral. Keys to French cities taken by the Russian army and other war booty are housed at the cathedral.

In the Soviet era, the cathedral was closed, and in 1932-2000 the building was used to accommodate the Museum of the history of religion and atheism. In those times, remains of Alexander Nevsky and many other saints of Russian Orthodox church were kept in the cathedral’s cellar in deep secret.

In 2000 the cathedral was fully given back to the church.  Today Kazan Cathedral is not only a generally accepted masterpiece of architecture but also one of the most sacred places for Orthodox people.

If you come to the cathedral during an interval between worship services - be it in the morning or in the evening – you will see people standing in line to pray to the icon of Our Lady of Kazan. The line may be long or short but it’s always there. In the age of the Internet and computer technologies people still believe in the power of the miracle-working icon. 

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