Built in the 19th century in the Russian Revival style, the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is one of the highlights of the city and among the top attractions to see in St. Petersburg.

Church on the Spilled Blood history

The church stands on the place of the terrorist attack on the Russian Emperor Alexander II “the Liberator”, who abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861. The tragic event happened on March 1st, 1881, when the terrorist Ignatius Grinevitsky threw a bomb and mortally wounded the Emperor. The assassination took place in the very center of the city, on the Catherine’s Canal (now the Griboedov Canal). The Emperor lost both legs and died several hours later in the Winter Palace.

On the next day after the tragedy, it was decided to build a memorial church on the site of the assassination attempt. Soon the place was fenced and a temporary chapel was constructed.

The ruling emperor Alexander III has announced a contest for the best project of the future church. He wished the memorial temple to be designed in the “Russian style”, just like Moscow's Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed. The winner was Alfred Parland - a Russian architect of Scottish descent. He developed his project together with the Father Superior of the Trinity-Sergius Monastery.

The construction of the church started on October 6, 1883. In order to commemorate the event, a specially designed memorial medal was placed at the base of the altar.

Parland rejected the traditional Saint-Petersburg practice to use pile foundations and instead used concrete ones.

According to the original plan the spot of the assassination was to be preserved inside the future church. In other words, the church was to be built around the place of the assassination. It was quite a difficult task to fulfill, because Alexander II had been standing right at the railing of the embankment, so partly the building was to be located on the water.

4.606.756 rubles were spent on the construction of this magnificent cathedral – a lot of money in those days. Most of the money was paid from the state treasury, though some donations were made by the Royal family, different institutions and common people.

The Church on the Spilled Blood was consecrated in 1907 in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, though nowadays it is more famous as the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. From the very beginning, the cathedral was under full state support. Daily services were held in the temple as well as a memorial service in honor of the Emperor Alexander II.

After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 the property was nationalized. In 1920 the Church on the Spilled Blood took over the role of cathedral church of the Petrograd Eparchy. In those days it was given to the representatives of a new reformed branch of the Orthodox Church called "obnovlentsi", who were loyal to the Soviet government.

In 1930, the Cathedral was closed. For a short time, it hosted an exhibition dedicated to the history of the revolutionary movement in Russia, glorifying murderers of Alexander II. In 1934 it was decided to destroy the cathedral because it "did not represent historical and artistic value." It was to be blown up in 1941 and until that time was used as a warehouse and a vegetable storage. The destruction did not take place, because in 1941 the Great Patriotic War (WWII) began.

During the Siege of Leningrad, a morgue was located in the cathedral. The building was badly damaged by constant bombing and shell fire.

In 1968 the Church on the Spilled Blood was recognized as a monument of historical and artistic heritage, and the long years of restoration began. In 1997, the cathedral was once again opened to visitors.

Exterior and interior design

There are 9 domes on the roof of the cathedral, some of them are gilded, and some are covered with enamel. The building is richly decorated with marble of different kinds and semiprecious stones from Russia and other countries.

The cathedral boasts elaborate interior. The floor is paved with multi-colored Italian marble from Genoa, and consists of 45 mosaic "carpets" with a plate thickness of 0.5 - 1 cm. The walls are decorated with mosaics, which depict scenes from the Bible. The total area of the mosaic is 7000 square meters.

In order to select the best mosaic workshop, a contest was announced. There were a lot of participants, including the Russian Academy of Arts, the German company “Pull and Wagner”, the Italian firms “Venetian Workshop Antonio Salviati” and “Societa Mussiva”, as well as St. Petersburg workshop of the Frolov brothers. It was this workshop that was declared the winner in 1896. The Frolov brothers’ method of producing the mosaic was the cheapest and fastest one, and the sample of their mosaic showed the best result in testing in St. Petersburg climate.

The museum

Currently, the church belongs to the museum complex "St. Isaac's Cathedral". Guided tours are available.
Orthodox services are held on Sundays and on big church holidays.

Opening hours

  • The museum is open from 10:30 to 18:00. Day off – Wednesday.
  • Ticket offices close 30 minutes before the closure of the museum.
  • From May 1 to September 30, the museum orginises evening programs starting at 18:00 and ending at 22:30.
  • Chapel Museum (chapel of the Museum of the Savior on Spilled Blood) is open from 10:00 to 18:00 (daily from May 1 to September 30; day off from October 1 to April 30 - the second Wednesday of the month).

Questions & Answers

What is the height of the Church on the Spilled Blood?

The height of the church is 81 meters. This number was chosen on purpose as Alexander II of Russia was killed in 1881.