The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

From the earliest times there was a tradition in Russia to rear chapels, build churches and erect monasteries as an expression of gratitude to God for bestowing military victories in wars or decisive battles. The services in these churches were particularly dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives afield “for the Faith and the Motherland”.

One of the main rules of the Russian orthodox spiritual life was expressed in such churches-monuments – the gratitude to everyone who had suffered for their nation and for their Motherland. For example, the Kazan Cathedral at the Red Square was built in commemoration of the liberation of Russia from the Polish-Lithuanian invasion. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was laid down in honour of the victory over the French in the “Patriotic War” of 1812. It was for a reason that the war against the army of Napoleon remained in Russian history under the name ‘Patriotic’ because all Russians took part in the fight against the enemy. That epoch had become the time of unseen spiritual uplifting and patriotic enthusiasm in Russian society.

The idea of building the cathedral proposed by the Emperor Alexander I was nationally approved. But Alexander I did not manage to realise his project. His promise was to be fulfilled by his successors. The construction site was changed during the reign of Nikolai I who himself selected the place for the cathedral on the bank of the Moscow River not far from the Kremlin. Konstantin Ton was appointed the new architect of the church. He was famous as the author of many architectural masterpieces of the 19th century. For the construction of a building of such importance for Russia, K. Ton decided in favour of traditional old-Russian architectural forms. The cathedral, whose foundation stone was laid in 1838, took almost 45 years to build. The church was consecrated on 16 May 1883 during the Coronation of the Emperor Alexander III.

Following the Revolution of 1917 the cathedral’s fate was tragic. It was blown up in December 1931 because the Soviet leadership wanted to erase the memory of this church. But the memory lived on in Moscow’s soul like an open wound. The social movement that set a goal to restore the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was born in the late 1980s. The Moscow Government decree “On the recreation of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow” was issued in 1994; in 1996 the church was built in the centre of Moscow having the same look and size.

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexi II said the following words about the rebirth of the national shrine, “Recreation of this Cathedral is a symbol of Russia’s resurrection, the sign of hope for the better future of nations that had left God but have returned to Him now..”.
Tour to Moscow