8 must see Saint Petersburg churches

Saint Petersburg churches, Russia
Written by Roel Kerkhof

Saint Petersburg is rich in beautiful churches and cathedrals. Even though our trip to the city lasted almost eleven full days it was impossible to visit all the Saint Petersburg churches we wanted to see. We compiled a list of eight churches and cathedrals that we found the most enticing.

Maybe it should have been nine or even ten, but unfortunately the Smolny Cathedral was packed from tip to toe like it was going to be shipped to another destination. The Naval Cathedral in Kronstadt is supposed to be beautiful as well, but we never made it out there.

Except for the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood and St Isaac’s Cathedral – which are both museums – all the other Saint Petersburg churches and cathedrals we visited were free to enter. Although we read beforehand that for some churches and cathedrals a dress code applied, we saw people in shorts, short skirts and sleeveless shirts enter without being stopped or asked to dress more appropriate.

Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood

Saint Petersburg churches, Russia

Built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II got assassinated in 1881, the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is the most iconic of all religious edifices in Saint Petersburg. The colored onion domes draw the attention first, but the mosaic rich interior is a feast for the eyes as well. Because it’s so unbelievably picturesque we’ve dedicated a separate post to it that you’ll find here.

St Isaac’s Cathedral

Saint Petersburg churches, Russia

Saint Petersburg churches, Russia

View from St Isaac’s Cathedral

It took forty years to build St Isaac’s Cathedral, which was completed in 1858 and was once one of Russia’s principal cathedrals, but is a museum now. Its façade is decorated by 112 solid granite columns, while the interior is magnificently decorated with sculptures, paintings, mosaics and stained-glass panels. We made the mistake of visiting on a Monday, when both the Hermitage and Peterhof are closed, so many tour groups occupied the space. It is possible to climb 262 steps to the colonnade surrounding the dome of the cathedral for some panoramic views of the city.

Kazan Cathedral

Saint Petersburg churches, Russia

Saint Petersburg churches, Russia

The early 19th-century Kazan Cathedral is dedicated to the icon Our Lady of Kazan. Usually there’s a line of worshippers waiting to kiss the image of the icon. With its impressive 111 meter long colonnaded façade overlooking Nevsky Prospekt, the famous shopping street of Saint Petersburg, almost any visitor to the city will see it one way or the other. The cathedral was modeled after Saint Peter’s in Rome and is one of the largest cathedrals in Russia, the dome being 80 meters high.

Nikolsky Cathedral

Designed in Russian baroque style the blue and white Nikolsky Cathedral (or St Nicholas Cathedral) is a real stunner with its spires and golden domes. Located in the Kolomna neighborhood it was constructed in a square that had originally been built as a naval parade ground. Visiting the church, however, is limited to just a small area and photography is not allowed inside.

Trinity Cathedral

With its gold-starred sky-blue domes the Trinity Cathedral (also called Troitsky Cathedral) is one of the iconic landmarks of Saint Petersburg. The central dome of the 1835 cathedral collapsed in 2006 after a big fire, but has been fully restored to its former glory. The interior of this working church, however, is very sober and underwhelming (especially for St Petersburg standards).

St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral

Part of the Peter and Paul Fortress – which constitutes the foundation of the city of Saint Petersburg – the St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral is the burial place of Russian tsars. Completed in 1733 it is the second highest building in the city, the 122,5 meter high bell tower of the cathedral (which can be climbed) being visible from all around the city center. The baroque interior reminds that of an imperial palace, gold being the dominant color. Especially the tombs of Tsar Peter the Great and the chapel of St Catherine, where the remains of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family have been buried, draw the attention of visitors.

Trinity Cathedral (Alexander Nevsky Monastery)

Founded in 1710 by Peter the Great the Alexander Nevsky Monastery is the oldest and most important religious institution in Saint Petersburg. The classical Trinity Cathedral, which was completed in 1790, is the centerpiece of the monastery. Although the outside isn’t that spectacular, the interior is beautiful. Regretfully we cannot show you this, since photography is forbidden inside the cathedral.

Chesme Church

Saint Petersburg churches, Russia

Located in the south of Saint Petersburg, not far from Moskovskaya metro station (blue line 2), the pink (or is it red?) and white sugar candy Chesme Church is a petite delight. The little church was consecrated in 1780 in memory of the battle of Chesme, where tsarist Russia booked a great victory over the Ottoman empire. The church was built on the spot where Catherine the Great received the news.

We visited Saint Petersburg in June 2016

About the author

Roel Kerkhof

Restless wanderer, retired cyclist and triathlete, geographer and writer. Man with a mission impossible: to visit all countries in the world.

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