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St Isaac's Cathedral


The first St Isaac's church appeared in 1707 somewhere near the present St. Isaac's Cathedral. The Cathedral was built by the decree of Peter I in the honor of the Tsar's patron Saint- St. Isaac of Dalmatia. However, there was no new building erected for the first St. Isaac's church, they just converted a small wooden barn into a church. Nevertheless, the Church played a special role in the life of St. Petersburg. For example, it hosted the wedding of the Emperor Peter I and the empress Catherine in 1712. 


Later it was decided to erect a stone Church in place of the wooden one. The project was made known in St. Petersburg by the German architect Georg Mattarnovi, who also took part in the construction of the grotto in the Summer garden and was involved in the works in the Winter Palace. In 1717, the stone foundation of the future Church was personally founded by Peter I. The construction was not easy: in 1719 Mattarnovi died, and futher works were commissioned to the leading architect of St. Petersburg Nikolai Gerbel. The eminent master hadn't quite coped with the task — his design of the arches proved to be unsuccessful and they cracked. In 1724 Gerbel died, the construction of the Church was completed by two equally famous architects Gaetano Chiaveri and Mikhail Zemtsov.

St. Isaac's church later suffered from more troubles.  In 1735, after being hit by a lightning, the building got on fire and was significantly damaged by it. Then St Isaac's church had been abandoned for a few decades. In 1760 the building was thoroughly checked by the architect Savva Chevakinsky. He said that the foundation was too close to the river — the church stood where the monument to the Bronze Horseman is today, so it got washed off with water. Chevakinsky proposed to move St Isaac's church to a new location farther from water. A year later he was commissioned to create a new building project. St Isaacs Cathedral

The architect decided to preserve the appearance of the church built by Peter I. St Isaac's Church had the shape of a Latin cross and was supposed to be built with one dome. Moreover, there had to be a bell tower consisting of several tiers. Most importantly, Chevakinsky mapped out the exact area for the construction of the new church, he first indicated exactly the spot where St. Isaac's Cathedral is standing now.

The architect Chevakinsky played a major role in shaping the ideas of the design of the Central squares of the city. The transfer of St Isaac's Cathedral from the Neva river embankment defined the configuration of the Isaac and Senate squares, their relationship with the Palace square. Besides, the idea of creating a tall bell tower proved to be fruitful. In fact, a high-rise element in the left-bank part of the city was needed to enter into a certain spatial relation with a bell tower of the Peter and Paul Cathedral on the right Bank of the Neva. This is what later had become of St. Isaac's Cathedral erected by Montferrand.

Learn more about St Isaac's Cathedral and other wonderful churches on your private city tour of St Petersburg

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