Monday, May 9, 2016
Cathedral spires still dominate St.Petersburg skyline
As we drove around crossing magnificent bridges we passed the Hermitage, the Admiralty Buildings, Nevsky Prospect and stopped at St. Isaac's Cathedral, which was originally the city's main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. It was built between 1818 and 1858 to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. Today the gilded dome of St. Isaac's still dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. The cathedral's facades are decorated with sculptures and massive granite columns made of single pieces of red granite, while the interior is very ornate adorned with incredibly detailed mosaic icons, paintings and columns made of malachite and lapis lazuli. A large, brightly colored stained glass window of the "Resurrected Christ" takes pride of place beside the main altar.
The church, designed to accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers, was closed in the early 1930s and reopened as a museum. Today regular church services are held and we were fortunate enough to see one. It was interesting to see the standing worshippers spread out all over the church rather than in one main area. The service was accompanied by a lovely choir, also standing, set off to one side. Apparently, services can last for several hours at a time. All that standing certainly takes some
Our next tour was the Peter and Paul Fortress, which guards the city of St. Petersburg and is located on an island, facing the Hermitage museum across the River Neva. When Peter the Great re-claimed the lands along the Neva River in 1703, he decided to build a fort to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish army and navy. The fortress was founded on a small island in the Neva delta on May 27, 1703 and that day became the birthday of the city of St. Petersburg. The Swedes were defeated before the fortress was even completed. For that reason, from 1721 onwards the fortress housed part of the city's garrison and rather notoriously served as a high security political jail. Among the first inmates was Peter's own rebellious son Alexei. Later, the list of famous residents included Dostoyevsky, Gorky, Trotsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
One major attraction is the tombs of most of the Romanov rulers of Russia from Peter the Great onward. Peter's tomb is at the front right, and people still leave fresh flowers on it. Also here are both Catherines, Elizabeth, all three Alexanders, Paul, Peter III, Anne - and now Nicholas I and II. The remains of Nicholas II and his family were re-interred in the small Chapel of St. Catherine on July 17,1998.
On top of the cathedral’s gilded spire stands a magnificent golden angel holding a cross. This weathervane is one of the most prominent symbols of St. Petersburg, and at 404 feet tall, the cathedral is the highest building in the city.
Finally, we drove to our hotel passing more historical buildings and wonderful views of the Neva.