A brief tour of St Petersburg’s Orthodox Cathedrals Part 1

Some of Russia’s most magnificent churches are found in St Petersburg. And among its most outstanding examples are the city’s Orthodox Cathedrals.

Built at the height of the Russian Empire's wealth and power, these impressive buildings were designed by the city's greatest architects, and no expense was spared in their construction or decoration.

This month, we end our series of articles on the subject with…

Trinity Cathedral

You’ll find the enormous dome of Trinity Cathedral on Izmailovsky Prospekt near the Fontanka River. It’s a fine example of Classical architecture that’s only recently begun to be restored to its pre-Revolutionary splendour, after years of neglect.

Trinity Cathedral

Photo: A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons

Trinity Cathedral was the regimental church of the Izmailovsky regiment, one of the oldest guards regiments in the Russian Army. Named after the village of Izmailovo, near Moscow, the Izmailovsky regiment moved to St Petersburg when the city was re-established as the Russian capital under Empress Anne.

It was back in July 1733 that a large field tent operating as a church was consecrated here. However, the church functioned only in the summer, so in winter the soldiers and officers had to attend other parish churches. In the mid-1750s, a wooden church was built on the site by order of Empress Elizabeth, but it suffered heavy damage in the flood of 1824 and had to be rebuilt.

Construction of the new church began in May 1828, and it was consecrated in May 1835. The cathedral rises to a height of more than 80 metres, and dominates the skyline of the surrounding area.

The cathedral was renowned for its exemplary collection of icons, including the Nativity icon, Jesus Christ icon and the Beginning of Life Trinity icon. Other holy objects housed in the cathedral included a large ark made in the form of a cross in 1753 from silver, a large silver cross presented to the cathedral by Nicholas I in 1835, and two large Gospels in valuable bindings.

Unfortunately, in 1922, most of the cathedral's valuables were looted, and further thefts led to the cathedral finally closing in 1938. There were rumours of plans to demolish it, but instead, the cathedral was transferred to the Soviet Ministry of Telecommunications, for which it became a warehouse. Only in 1990 did the cathedral return to the hands of the Russian Orthodox Church, when restoration began.

The cathedral is now open and functioning once again, although its largely bare interior is a mere shadow of the splendour and majesty of its pre-Revolutionary past.

To visit the cathedral, take the metro to Tekhnologichesky Institut station. It’s open daily, 9.00 am to 7.00 pm, and is wheelchair accessible.