Charles Cottle —
In May 2018 I took a tour to Russia, the Baltic countries, and Poland. We were in Russia for over a week, during which time we toured Moscow and St. Petersburg. In such a short period of time one cannot see anything but the major tourist sites and only get a smattering of Russian culture. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the beautiful churches in and near Moscow. And while there must be hundreds of churches in Moscow, the photos* below present only a handful of these wonderful architectural and historical jewels. Readers may click on any of the images to enlarge them.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
Saint Basil’s Cathedral was built between 1555 and 1561 under Ivan the Terrible. There are many accounts of the history and unique architecture of this church online, Wikipedia, for example, provides an informative article concerning these topics. Located on Red Square, the church is striking in its beauty. Each of the towers appears to be a multi-colored flame reaching toward the sky. As one stands on the square taking in the majesty of this church, it is easy to understand why Saint Basil’s Cathedral has become a major symbol of Russian culture.
Cathedral of Christ the Savior
This magnificent church is the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and of all Russians. Thus, it is the most important cathedral in Moscow. The church has a unique history. It was originally built in the nineteenth century. Construction began in 1839 but was not finished until 1883 under Tsar Alexander III. The cathedral was later destroyed in 1931 by explosives on the order of Joseph Stalin who had designs to build a skyscraper to glorify the Russian Revolution. That project was never finished. In 1995 the reconstruction of the cathedral was begun and was finished in 2000. Thus the Cathedral of Christ the Savior that stands today is not the original, but is identical in appearance to the original of the nineteenth century.
Ivan the Great Bell Tower and Cathedral of the Assumption
Located on Cathedral Square within the Kremlin, Ivan the Great Bell Tower was built in 1508. Its height is 81 meters. It adjoins the Great Assumption Belfry (completed in 1543) shown here to the right of the bell tower. At the base of the tower the Tsar Bell can be seen. Cast in 1735 on the orders of Empress Anna Ioannovna, the 202 ton Tsar Bell was damaged when water fell on the bell during a fire. A large piece of the bell broke off due to the difference in temperature between the bell and the water. A detailed account of these events is available at the Moscow Kremlin Museums website.
Cathedral of the Annunciation, Moscow Kremlin
The Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin was built between 1484 and 1489. Over the centuries it was damaged at least twice by fire and was restored each time. Under the Soviets it was used as a museum, but services resumed in the 1990’s.
Saint Simeon Stylites Church
This seventeenth century church was named after Saint Simeon, a fifth century ascetic who lived a life of holy abstinence near what is now Aleppo, Syria. It is said that he lived a life of solitude and prayer for thirty seven years on a tower. The Saint Simeon church in Moscow has had a number of well known parishioners, including Nicolai Gogol in the nineteenth century.
Founded in 1347, the small town of Sergiev Posad is located northeast of Moscow. This14th century town is renowned as the center of ancient Russian art and architecture. For centuries the town served as the religious capital of Russia. Within the old walled city one may admire the monastery known as the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, one of the most sacred places in Russia.
The Trinity Cathedral, shown below, is the oldest structure in the Trinity Lavra. Constructed in 1422-1423, it was built to honor St. Sergius of Radonezh, a 14th century saint who was the spiritual leader of medieval Russia.
The Cathedral of the Assumption is the main church of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. It was built between 1559 and 1585.
*All photos were taken by the author.
4 thoughts on “Churches of Moscow, Russia and Vicinity”
I enjoyed viewing your pictures of historical sites in Russia. Thank you! Marlynn
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Wonderful pictures, wonderful narrative, Charles. I have always marveled at sacral architecture in Russia as well as the fact that quite a bit of it survived the 74 years of atheist anti-clerical rule.
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Thank you David. My only regret is that I was not there longer to more fully explore these amazing churches. In my limited experience, the churches of Europe, both eastern and western, overwhelm the visitor with their beauty, creating a psychological impact I have never experienced in the churches of the United States. The towering spires, the ornate interiors, and pipe organs that sound like they might levitate the entire church create an experience that one should not miss if given the opportunity.
Fabuloous photography of truly awesome architecture. Must have tingled your spine on several occasions! Cathedrals capture such a profound sense of spiritual connection, as if they are transmitting the deep human desire for transcendence. We’re you allowed to go inside many? If so, do you have interior photos?
Here in Madison on North 7th St., just off East Washington Ave, is the Greek Orthodox Church with interior icons of saints looming overhead, surrounding all sides of the sanctuary. Not real large or spacious, but presenting a stunning emotional impact. Worth taking in when one is on the near East side.
The South Central Library System has copies of a 200-page oversize glossy book by Jacques Bosser, offering wondrous photography of European cathedrals and large churches, Orthodox, Catholic, & Protestant. The interior construction, designs, and colors elicit wows! Your exterior photos, Charles rival these for their almost other-worldly beauty. Thank you so much!