Christ the Savior Cathedral Moscow

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The history of the Cathedral begins on December 25, 1812. This was the day that the last soldiers of Napoleons' 600,000 man army were driven out of Russia. Emperor Alexander I signed a Manifesto ordering the construction of a magnificent Cathedral in honor of Christ the Savior in Moscow as a thanksgiving to God and to honor the victorious Russian army.

"To signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her and to preserve the memory of the unheard of efforts, loyalty and love for our Faith and Homeland displayed during these difficult days by the Russian people, We hereby intend to build a Cathedral in honor of Christ the Savior in our capital city of Moscow, wherein the appropriate Decree will be issued in due time. May the Almighty bless Our intentions. May our intentions be fulfilled. May the Cathedral stand for many centuries. Let the incense of thanksgiving, together with love and a desire to imitate the feats of our anscestorsl feats, burn before the holy altar of God for many generations."

The first project called for a Cathedral built by the architect Vitberg. On October 12, 1817, five years after the French entered Moscow, the cornerstone of this Cathedral was triumphantly blessed. The first site was on the Sparrow Hills, between the Smolensk and the Kaluga roads. However, unsteady ground and underground waters made this site unfeasible. On April 10, 1832 Emperor Nicholas I approved a new project presented by K. A. Ton. The emperor chose the new site personally - on the bank of the Moscow River, near the Kremlin. He convened a
Special Commission for the Construction of the Cathedral in 1837. The Alekseyevsky Convent and Church of all Saints that were located on the chosen site were dismantled. The convent was moved to Sokolniki (then the northeastern outskirts of Moscow) and the excavations for the foundations began. The cornerstone was laid on September 10, 1839.

The original Cathedral took forty years to build. The walls of the lower level were completed in 1841. The arch of the large cupola was joined in 1846. The exterior facing was completed three years later and work was begun on the metal roofs and cupolas. The large cupola was completed in 1849. The exterior scaffolding was removed in 1860, when the Cathedral first was unveiled in all of its glory. The bronze balustrade on the roof was installed in 1862 (even though it had not been included in the original plans). The riverbank and squares surrounding the Cathedral, as well as the exterior lanterns were completed by 1881. The interior frescoes were also almost complete by this time.

The Emperors Alexander I, Nicholas I, Alexander II and Alexander III decreed the construction of the Cathedral. The recently canonized Philaret (Drozdov), the Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomensk, and his vicar bishop Leonid (Krasnopevkov) blessed and oversaw most of the planning and creation. Prince D. V. Golitsyne, the governor-general of Moscow, together with the Commission for the Construction of the Cathedral oversaw the actual construction.

The best architects, builders and artists of the time fulfilled K. Ton's designs. V. Surikov, baron T. Neff, N Koshelev, G. Semiradsky, I. Kramskoy, V.P. Vereshchagin, P. Pleshanov, and v. Markov (all members of the Russian Academy of Arts) took twelve and a half years to create the unique frescoes. Baron P. Klodt, N Ramazanov, and A. Loganovsky created the exterior sculptures. Count F. Tolstoy designed the Royal Doors using the newest galvanoplastic techniques.

The sculptures and frescoes in the Cathedral were unified by several themes: the mercy of the Lord vouchsafed to the Russian people through the intercession of saints during the past nine centuries, and the ways and means chosen by God for the salvation of mankind from the creation, to the fall and the redemption through our Lord and Savior. Therefore, holy protectors and intercessors for the Russian land, as well as those leaders, who worked to affirm and spread Christianity and those princes that laid their life down for the freedom and integrity of the Russian land are pictured throughout the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is a perceptible memorial to the battle of the Russian people against the napoleonic hordes. The names of the renowned heroes, whom God chose as instruments to save His people are engraved on marble boards in the main gallery of the Cathedral.

Overall, the Cathedral is modeled after ancient Russian churches built in the Byzantine style. However, it differs from Byzantine archetypes with its' more regular shape and lighter form. The actual prototypes of the Cathedral include the Dormition and Archangel Cathedrals (from the Kremlin), the Donskoy Cathedral (Moscow) and the Church of the Ascension in Kolomenkoye (Moscow). The exterior of the cathedral also pays homage to the largest church in Saint Petersburg - the St. Isaac Cathedral. The Cathedral is shaped as an equal-sided cross with the corner pillars forming a square laid over this cross. The cross symbolizes the Salvation accorded by God to Russia. On December 13, 1880 the new church was officially named the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and priests and other clergy were assigned.

The Great Consecration of the Cathedral took place on Ascension, on May 26, 1883, which was also the day Alexander III was crowned. The Saint Nicholas and Saint Alexander Nevsky chapels (located in the upper gallery) were consecrated on June 12 and July 8 of the same year respectively.

Regular services were conducted in the Cathedral from this time on. All important church and civic events were marked in the Cathedral including the 500th anniversary of the death of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, the 100th anniversary of the war of 1812, the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, the consecration of the memorials to Alexander III and N.V. Gogol. Because there were several altars, there were several patronal feast days throughout the year. However, Christmas was the main feast day of the year, when all Moscow also commemorated the victory over Napoleon. The Local Council of 1917-1918 opened in the Cathedral during the troubled summer of 1917 on August 15. This council reinstated the patriarchate in the Russian Church. After 200 years Russia had a patriarch again - His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, who has now been canonized by the Russian Orthodox church.

The Cathedral rapidly became a center for education and enlightenment. This was due to the fact that the clergy consisted of experienced catechists and preachers. They embarked on a broad educational program, collected an extensive library. Excursions were conducted regularly, including special excursions for workers, which had been initiated by D.F. Trepov, the Ober-police chief of Moscow in 1902.

A Society of Horugv-carriers (horugvi are banners attached to long poles that are carried during processions by one or more men) was organized in the cathedral. They were highly respected in Moscow and assisted the clergy in organizing all of the celebrations. The donations constantly gathered in the Cathedral were used to aid the poor, various churches and refugees.

There were relatively few clergy assigned to the Cathedral: the rector, the assistant rector, 3 priests, 1 protodeacon, 2 deacons, 2 subdeacons, 4 readers, 2 sextons, 12 bell-ringers, 1 baker (prosphirnia - a woman who bakes the prosphory - bread required for services) and a choir. Many remarkable people, the foremost people of their time served in the Cathedral.

The Cathedral had its' own choir from 1901, which was one of the best in Moscow. There were 52 singers, while the directors included such famous composers as A.A. Arhangelsky and P.G. Chesnokov. The choir also sang the works of their famous contemporary - the composer A.D. Kastalsky.

When the persecution of the church began in 1918, Patriarch Tikhon founded the Brotherhood of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in order to prevent the Cathedral from being closed. The brotherhood was meant to "maintain the Cathedral, support the services, unite believers around this great historical monument and assist the clergy in providing for the continued spiritual evolvement of Orthodox Russia".

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was built by the entire Russian nation. It was a visible symbol of Faith, national glory, honor and a witness to many historical events.

DESTRUCTION (1931-1990)

The site of the Cathedral is a very important one for urban developers. After the revolution this, along with ideological principles, became the reason for the decision to destroy the Cathedral. The plan entailed constructing a grandiose Palace of Soviets on the site of the Cathedral. This palace was meant to be the largest building in the world - a monument to victorious socialism and Lenin - the leader of the world proletariat. A new Moscow, with no vestiges of the "cursed past and its' monuments" was to arise around this Palace. A massive wave of propaganda preceded the actual destruction. The newspapers wrote, "the Cathedral is grotesque and totally inartistic", that "the Cathedral is a poisonous mushroom on Moscow's face" and that it was "a source of slothfulness" and so forth.

The first explosions rocked the Cathedral at noon on December 5, 1931, as per the decision of Stalin's politburo. The memorial to military glory and the most important church in Russia was brutally vandalized and destroyed.

During those horrible days it seemed as if the Lamp of Faith, that had burned in the cathedral through the efforts and prayers of the cream of the nation was extinguished forever.

Russia sank ever deeper into the destructive gloom of atheism.

¦An enormous cavity gaped on the site of the Cathedral for many years. During the so-called Khruschev thaw, the city built an enormous swimming pool instead of the Cathedral. The pool replaced the Cathedral and became a monument to forgotten and obliterated national history and glory, which had no place in the plans of the "builders of communism".


The main Cathedral of Russia - Christ the Savior Cathedral barbarously destroyed on December 5 1931 has been rebuilt in 1994-2000 through to the prayers and works by His Holiness Patriarch Alexey II, the Holy Synod, support form all Russian Orthodox Church, purpose and organizational talent of Moscow's mayor Yu.M. Luzhkov, works of Moscow Government members, joint work of architects, builders, as well as artists and sculptors, who reconstructed artistic beauty of the Cathedral.

General management of the Cathedral's reconstruction performed by the Christ the Savior Cathedral Reconstruction Public Supervising Council headed by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexey II and mayor of Moscow Yu.M. Luzhkov.

Appeal and collection of voluntary public and private donations for the Cathedral's reconstruction was done by the Christ the Savior Cathedral Reconstruction Financial Support Fund headed by I.M. Ptichnikov.

Architectural design of the Christ the Savior's Cathedral complex was performed by the Office of 'Mosproekt-2' together with the Moscow Patriarchy. Academician M.M. Posokhin was a project manager and a chief architect. In the project took part the following architects: A.N. Obolensky, D.S. Solopov, and A.M. Denisov.

General Director of ZAO 'Mospromstroi' V.V. Moroz managed the construction works.

Russian Academy of Arts headed by its President - Academitian Z.K. Tsereteli performed all artistic decoration works; 23 crews of artists took part in the painting works. The reconstruction of sculptural decorations of the Cathedral's facade was done by a group of sculptors headed by academician Yu.G. Orekhov with a help of 'Sculptor' fund.

The Ministry's of Culture of Russian Federation 'Interregional Scientific-Restorational Office' under the management of S.V. Filatov restored the genuine paintings by V.P. Vereshagin.

The 'Moscow Lithotomy Plant' headed by V.P. Tkach performed the reconstruction of the Main Iconostassis, and memorial plates, delivered the stones for the Cathedral's interior and exterior walls, as well as all elements of Florentine mosaic for the Hall of the Church Sobors(General Meetings).

Italian company 'Benco' delivered the marble, reveted the walls and the floor in the Main Cathedral, produced all chairs for the Hall of the Church Sobors.

'Target-Tsel' company under the management of V.I. Suslin implemented the exterior mason works, toreutic marble kiots, and side iconostassis'.

'Agey-7' company headed by V.A. Ageychenko constructed the Tsar's and Diaconus' Gates, and the heads of the Main Iconostassis.

'AMO-ZIL' cast all the bells for the Cathedral. The works were done under the management of M.A. Mashin.

The Cathedral's exterior gates carcasses' were assembled by MAPO 'MIG' under the management of E.K. Makhnach.

'Paryura' company headed by V.G. Meyzel is working on the reconstruction of the worship utensil.

V.M. Mirimsky and 'Oven' company performed all plaster and finishing works.

A.L. Guriev and 'Tamu' company created the big lanterns for the Cathedral's porches.

Artistic decoration of the Hall of the Holy Synod is being performed by 'Art Textile' company under the management of T.V. Zhestyankina.

'RIK-S' company under the management of S.P. Rakshun implemented all cupolas finishing works, manufactured and installed balustrades, decorative grids, candelabrums, and stairs.

The Art Decoration Commission with its Head - Mitropolit of Krutitsk and Kolomna Yuvelaly (from 1995 through 1998), and Bishop of Orekhovo-Zuevo Alexy (beginning since 1999) together with Coordination Group of Specialists with its head - priest Leonid Kalinin supervised the correspondence of all elements of the Cathedral complex to the Church canons, historical patterns, and technologies.

Priest Mikhail Ryazantsev became the first klychar' of the rebuilt Cathedral under the blessing of the Patriarch Alexey II.

February 1990
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church blesses the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The Synod asks addresses an appeal to the Russian government asking for permission to resurrect the cathedral on its' original site.

December 5, 1990
A granite slab was triumphantly installed on Volkhonka Street (the original site of the Cathedral). The inscription read "this is the cornerstone of the Church of the Derzhavnaya Icon of the Theotokos, which shall be the predecessor of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, that will be reconstructed on this spot". V. Soloukhine, V. Mokrousov, V. Krupin, G.Sviridov and V. Rasputin all helped organize popular support for the resurrection of the Cathedral.

July 16, 1992
Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia, signed a Decree "The establishment of a Fund for the recreation of Moscow". The Cathedral of Christ the savoir headed the list of buildings to be reconstructed in the first round.

May 31, 1994
The Moscow municipal government, supported by the Moscow Patriarchate mandates the beginning of the reconstruction of the Cathedral.

September 7, 1994
The initial meeting of the Committee to oversee the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior takes place. The Committee elects the Patriarch of Moscow to be Chairman. The Committee also established the Fund for the Financial Support of the Reconstruction of the Cathedral.

Fall 1994
The swimming pool Moscow is disassembled. The cement foundations for the administrative sectors of the Cathedral are poured in November and December.

January 7, 1995 Christmas
His Holiness Alexey II, Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia serves a moleben and blesses the cornerstone and memorial plaque in the foundation of the Cathedral. Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov attend.

April 23, 1995 Easter
Paschal Vespers are served on the level of the floor of the future Cathedral.

August 19, 1995 - Transfiguration
The first liturgy is served in the lower Church of the Transfiguration with the traditional blessing of the fruit.

January 7, 1996
The first two memorial plaques listing donors are unveiled. The Patriarch, President Yeltsin and Mayor Luzhkov lay the last three bricks in the wall of the main entrance.

April 14, 1996
Patriarch Aleksey II conducts the first service in the partially completed Cathedral. President Yeltsin, members of the Cabinet of Ministers and Mayor Luzhkov attend.

August 19, 1996 - Transfiguration
His Holiness Alexey II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia leads the great Consecration of the Transfiguration church (the lower church of the Cathedral). Henceforth, divine services are conducted regularly in this church.

September 7, 1997
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is the focal point for the celebrations in honor of the 850th anniversary of the founding of Moscow. A festal moleben is served in the square and the Patriarch blessed the completed walls of the Cathedral. The work on the artistic decoration and accoutrements begins the sculptures on the facades and the frescoes inside.

April 2, 1999
The frescoes in the main dome are begun.

December 1999
All of the frescoes throughout the entire Cathedral are completed.

December 31, 1999
The Patriarch conducts the Lesser Consecration of the Cathedral.

August 19, 2000 - Transfiguration
The Patriarch leads all of the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Great Consecration of the Cathedral.