Along Nevsky Prospekt
The pulsating central artery of St Petersburg, Nevsky Prospekt could rival any major street in the world for length, beauty or activity. You can see everything here: the most stunning architecture, opulent palaces, world-famous museums and grand opera houses; the most fashionable shops and the latest fashions; sparkling five-star hotels and small bed and breakfasts; all manner of restaurants, cafes and nightclubs; all sorts of people of all ages, walks of life and countries. The street runs from the St Petersburg’s center of religion, the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, to the symbol of Russian power, the Admiralty, and along the way covers everything in between. The 4.5km expanse of Nevsky Prospekt runs over four different islands, crossing multiple canals and rivers by way of ornate bridges. Whether under the golden glow of the White Nights or covered with a sparkling sheen of white snow, Nevsky Prospekt is truly one of world’s great promenades.
A stunning sight on Nevsky Prospekt, the Kazan Cathedral was modeled on Rome’s St Peter’s Basilica. Built in 1811, it might not match its Vatican City vanguard in terms of size or beauty, but it is still an arresting edifice, both inside and out. The cathedral was constructed in the shape of a cross and comes complete with a 96 column colonnade enclosing a
charming garden and fountain, all of which faces onto Nevsky Prospekt. Designed by Andrei Voronikhin, the church was originally meant as a place to house the revered Our Lady of Kazan icon. And indeed it did do this until around 1930. It was also at this time that services were stopped and the Cathedral became a museum of religion and atheism, playing host to reams of anti-religious regalia. Even today the Kazan Cathedral still serves a function as a sometime museum, but it is also once again a working church. And being a working church, entrance to the cathedral is free. Inside, it isn’t the most lavishly adorned church in St Petersburg, but the scale of the interior is guaranteed to evoke awe. Interestingly, the Kazan Cathedral is also the final resting place of Mikhail Kutuzov, hero of the campaign against Napoleon. Kutuzov is depicted in one of the two statues standing at the front of the Cathedral. The statues of Kutuzov and another Napoleonic War commander Mikhail Barclay de Tolly were created by sculptor Boris Orlovsky.
Directions: Kazanskaya Ploshchad, #2, metro Nevsky Prospekt. Tel: 570-4528. Open 10:00-19:00.
Church of the Resurrection (Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood).
It’s the most Russian-looking church in St Petersburg and is therefore the one that stands out the most.
Although named the Church of the Resurrection it is more commonly known as the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. It received this title because the church was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded in an 1881 assassination attempt by the terrorist group People’s Will. Today, the bell tower marks the exact spot where Alexander II was injured by the bomb and inside the church, underneath the bell, are blood-splattered remnants of the railing and street from that spot. The construction of the Church of the Resurrection was ordered by the murdered Tsar’s son, Alexander III, as a tribute to his father. A competition was held to choose the design with the Tsar’s requirement that it be in traditional Russian style. The ultimate winner was architect Alfred Parland working with the plan of Archimandrite Ignatius. Construction of the St Basil’s inspired church lasted from 1883 until 1907.
But aside from the stunning architecture, what really sets the design of the church apart is the
mosaics that abound on the exterior and cover almost the entire interior. The mosaics, which swathe a total of 7000 square meters, were designed by 25 artists, including Viktor Vasnetsov, Andrei Ryabushkin, Nikolai Kharlamov and Mikhail Nesterov. After suffering heavily in the early years of Communism and almost being destroyed, restoration of the church began in 1970 and was completed in 1997. Pre-Revolution, the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood never held regular religious services or other sanctified ceremonies but instead hosted weekly requiems to Alexander II. Likewise today, it is not a working church but a museum, so you’ll be paying 300R ($11) to get in here. It’s definitely worth checking out the inside at least once.
Directions: Kanala Griboedova Naberezhnaya, #2b, metro Nevsky Prospekt. Tel: 315-1636. Open Thur-Tue 11:00-18:00.
Gostiny Dvor is the largest and oldest shopping center in St Petersburg and was one of the first such places to be built anywhere in the world. Construction of the sprawling center lasted 28 years from 1757-85. The result of all this construction and several subsequent renovations is a colossal complex covering 53000 square meters. Although Gostiny Dvor isn’t much to look at compared with other edifices along Nevsky Prospekt, it was originally conceived as an elaborate Rastrelli design before the more subdued vision of Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe was chosen. To be honest the inside isn’t too flash either – there are better places to shop in St Petersburg. But it remains an important landmark nonetheless.
Directions: Nevsky Prospekt, #35, metro Nevsky Prospekt. Website: www.bgd.ru.
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