Russia St Petersburg Architecture Monastery St Alexander Nevsky Monastery

St Alexander Nevsky Monastery

In 1710, Peter the Great personally chose the site for the first monastery in St Petersburg, where the Black River (now the River Monastyrka) falls into the River Neva. This was the place where, according to legend, St Alexander Nevsky defeated an army of Swedish knights in 1240.

The main accent in the monastery complex was to be a church with a two-tier bell-tower facing the River Neva. The design of the facade employed the same architectural motifs as the St Peter and St Paul Cathedral. The orientation of the church, however, contradicted the canons of the Russian Orthodox Church, so German architect Theodor Schwertfeger was asked to design a new project in the late 1710s. Work on the monastery church continued until 1730, when technical mistakes in Schwertfeger’s designs were found to be causing damage to the entire construction, and the whole project had to be abandoned and dismantled.

Construction of the northern wing of cells and a “dual church” was finished in 1722 and 1723. The St Alexander Nevsky Church was in the downstairs section, while the Church of the Annunciation was upstairs. The Church of the Annunciation contained the burial vault of members of the royal family. This was the last resting-place of Peter’s sister Natalia, son Peter, daughter Anne and Tsarina Praskovia Fyodorovna (widow of Peter’s half-brother and co-ruler, Tsar Ivan V). In 1724, the relics of Prince Alexander Nevsky were transferred there from the Monastery of the Nativity of the Virgin in Vladimir. A road was laid from the St Alexander Nevsky Monastery to the Admiralty, later becoming the city’s main thoroughfare – Nevsky Prospekt (“Neva Perspective”).

Wooden Church of the Annunciation and cells were built (1712–13). Entire ensemble was built from brick by architect Domenico Trezzini (1715), who also built the Church of the Annunciation (1717–22) and the Theological Wing, rebuilt by architect Vasily Petrov (1820–22). Garden was laid out (1725). Architects Theodor Schwertfeger and Pietro Antonio Trezzini built the Fyodorovsky Wing and Fyodorovsky Church (1725–51), partially rebuilt by architects Ignacio Ludovico Rossi and Mikhail Rastorguyev (1755–61). Construction of the three other wings designed by Pietro Antonio Trezzini (1740s–50s) was headed by architects Ignacio Ludovico Rossi and Mikhail Rastorguyev, who completed the Metropolitan Wing (1764), Seminary Wing (1765) and the Prosphoron Wing (1773). The ensemble was completed by the architect Ivan Starov, who built a new Trinity Cathedral (1776–90s) on the site of the old church designed by Theodor Schwertfeger (1719–30s), dismantled after the discovery of cracks in the vault (1753–55). Ivan Starov also built the holy gates with the gateside Church of the Mother of God of All Sorrowful Joys (1783–85). Granted the special rank of lavra (1797).

The St Alexander Nevsky Monastery of the Holy Trinity was founded on the site where St Alexander Nevsky allegedly defeated a force of Swedish knights (1240). Peter the Great erected a wooden cross in the place (1710) and laid the foundations of the first wooden church (1712). Domenico Trezzini designed the original monastery (1715). Construction work continued throughout the eighteenth century, with contributions from Theodore Schwertfeger, Pietro Antonio Trezzini and Mikhail Rastorguyev. The relics of St Alexander Nevsky were transferred to the cloister (1724). The monastery was elevated to the status of a laura (1797). There were eleven churches on its territory.

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