The Church in Russia has always been something more than just a cult building. In the external appearance of Orthodox churches there was nothing accidental, and every detail had a special symbolic meaning.
And the construction of churches in Russia also had its own characteristics. Often, churches were built to commemorate important historical events. Therefore, it can be said that the Russian church embodied both the idea of Christianity and the idea of an exclusively national, patriotic. The churches became a kind of man-made monuments, chronicles of the heroic deeds of their ancestors, the glorious past of the homeland. The first such monument was the Temple of Sofia in Kiev. It was erected in 1037 in the reign of the first Russian Tsar Yaroslav the Wise in honor of the victory of Russian arms and the liberation of the capital from the Pechenegs.
After Yaroslav the Wise, the erection of churches in Russia in honor of this or that significant event became, as it were, a national tradition. And one of such churches was the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It was erected in commemoration of the glorious victory in the Patriotic War of 1812.
A grandiose 5-dome temple was erected on the project of architect K. Ton. But the competition involved different projects. One of them, the architect-classicist Giacomo Quarenghi, suggested the erection of the temple in the spirit of the Greek Pantheon. But such a project was deprived of the signs of the Russian Orthodox church. Another project had a gravitation towards the Catholic shrine – St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.
Victory in the competition went to A. Vitberg. The architect managed to express the national idea in the context of universal values. For this he received the approval of Emperor Alexander I. But soon after the death of the king, envious persons slandered Whitberg, and he was exiled to Vyatka.
Again, a contest was announced. This time, the architect K. Ton, who was considered the father of the “Russian-Byzantine” style, won the project. Construction of the new project was resumed in 1840. On four bell towers placed 14 bells decorated with reliefs, ornaments, inscriptions from the Holy Scripture, the main solemn bell reached 26 tons. The temple seemed to hover over Moscow. From the south and south-west it was visible more than ten miles away. His five domes symbolized Christ and the four evangelists.
The construction of the temple
began in 1837 and continued until 1883. All Russia worked on its creation. All the Orthodox population of the empire collected funds for the construction of the temple. The best Russian architects took part in the design of the project, the best sculptors designed the facades, and more than thirty beautiful painters painted the interiors, among them V. Vereshchagin, V. Surikov and I. Kramskoy. It performed the music of Tchaikovsky and Chesnokov, the voice of the wonderful Russian singers Shalyapin and Rozov, the first who received the title “Great Archdeacon”, sounded. It was in the temple that the All-Russian Local Council in Russia restored the patriarchate.
The northern facade represented bas-reliefs depicting national saints – distributors of Christianity in Russia, heavenly patrons – defenders from enemies and assistants in battles. In the upper row in the center was placed the image of the icon of the Iberian Mother of God, and on the sides of it – saints and martyrs, in memory of the grief and woes of the war.
On the northern facade of the temple on both sides of the portal there were sculptures depicting scenes from the history of the adoption of Christianity in Russia. To the right of the portal is the Monk Sergius of Radonezh, blessing Dmitry Donskoy for the battle with the Tatars and sending with him the monks of Peresvet and Oslabi. On the left wall – the Monk Dionysius, the archimandrite of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, blessing Minin and Pozharsky for the liberation of Moscow from the invaders-lax.
But the twentieth century has come – and for the national church, black times have come. With the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia, a total war with religion unfolded, accompanied by the systematic destruction of temples. In Moscow, as early as 1918, icons in cathedrals and crosses on the towers of the Kremlin began to be torn down. Demolition of churches and the destruction of monasteries continued in the 1920s. In 1927 they destroyed the Red Gate and swung at the temple of St. Basil the Blessed. It is hard to imagine what it would be like and what the current business card of our capital would look like if it were not for the architect, restorer and historian P. Baranovsky. In my opinion, this man made a real feat. At the cost of many years of exile, he made sure that the temple was left alone.
The period of the triumph of the black forces was the 1930s. From the map of the capital forever disappeared: Sukharev Tower, Zlatoust, Sretensky, St. George Monastery in the Kremlin; Church of Sergius of Radonezh on Bolshaya Dmitrovka; the church of Krestovozdvizhenskaya and Dmitry Solunsky; Nikolsky Greek monastery with the cathedral in 1724 opposite the Bolshoi Theater, along with the grave of the poet and diplomat A. Cantemir; the Church of the Trinity on the Fields, in the place of which the monument to Ivan Fedorov has been moved and now stands; next to this church was the house where N. Karamzin lived. The list of irrecoverable losses in only one Moscow can be continued indefinitely: the church of Michael the Archangel in the Maiden Field; The most beautiful church of St. Catherine in the Kremlin near the Spassky Tower; houses in which Pushkin and Lermontov were born… And as a crown of rabid bacchanalia – the people’s temple of Christ the Savior.
According to the plan for building a renovated capital on the site of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the Palace of Soviets was to be built – “the largest of all architectural structures ever created in the whole world history.” He had to be taller than the Egyptian pyramids, and the statue of the Colossus of Rhodes. One stone figure of Lenin at the Palace according to the project would be above the Statue of Liberty and the composition “Worker and Collective Farm Girl”.
Providence was pleased that these plans did not materialize. But after the war on the site of the demolished church built the pool “Moscow”.
Our generation had a chance to see the resurrection of the majestic golden domes of the restored shrine of Russia. Looking at its splendor, I want to believe that from now on the words of Emperor Alexander I will come true: “May this church last for many centuries and smoke in it before the Holy See of God a censer of gratitude of later generations, together with love and imitation of the works of their ancestors.”