The Cathedral of Christ The Saviour is considered to be the main cathedral of Russia, where the liturgy is often conducted by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch himself. This cathedral is a monument to the Russian Victory over Napoleon in 1812 following a long-standing Russian tradition of erecting churches to express gratitude to God for a victory. Hence the name of the cathedral.
It took 44 years to construct this impressive cathedral in the 19th Century. The main dome was 25 meters in diameter and was covered with red copper leaves and gilded with 400 kilograms of gold in "fire-gilding" technique. The interior decoration was enriched with hundreds of paintings by the leading contemporary artists. The cathedral could house 10 000 parishioners…
On December 5th 1931 bolsheviks blew up the cathedral on the orders of Stalin. It was rumored that while looking at the map of Moscow Stalin pointed to its center and said: “We need another ring of churches”. He planned to put up eight “skyscrapers” around the city. The cenral “skyscraper” which was never erected was the so-called Palace of the Soviets. Stalin planned to build it in place of the destroyed cathedral. The Palace of the Soviets was planned to be the tallest structure in the world at that time: 300 meters high and topped with a 100 metres high statue of Lenin. A Soviet architect, Boris Iofan, won an international contest with his project which resembled the Tower of Babel.
The Second World War delayed Stalin’s plans and after the war the Soviet authorities built an open-air swimming pool on this site - a one-of-a-kind circular pool 129.5m diameter!
The rebuilding of the church began in 1994 and took 4 years. Donations for its reconstruction were coming from all over the country. It was an act of national penitence for years of aggressive atheism. Next to the cathedral there is a park with a monument to the Russian Tzar Alexander II, who was assassinated by terrorists just before the consecration ceremony of the original cathedral in the 19th century in which he was to participate.
The Cathedral complex consists of the lower Church of Christ’s Transfiguration, the Hall for Church Councils, the Museum of Russian Orthodox Icons and the Museum of Rarities that remained from the previous church.