Russia St Petersburg Architecture Cathedral St Isaac’s Cathedral

St Isaac’s Cathedral

St Isaac’s Cathedral was built and rebuilt four times over the first 150 years of the history of St Petersburg. The first wooden church was laid on the birthday of Peter the Great (30 May Old Style), which coincided with the feast day of St Isaac of Dalmatia (1707–10). Built on the site now occupied by the Bronze Horseman, it was redesigned in stone by Georg Johann Mattarnovi (1712–22). Decoration was completed (1727). The second cathedral caught fire (1735) and was partially reconstructed by Pietro Antonio Trezzini (1739–42). Services were stopped owing to the sinking of the foundation and the threat of collapse (1759). Catherine the Great commissioned Antonio Rinaldi to design a new cathedral (1768), which was built by Alexander Vist (1768–1802) and Vincenzo Brenna (from 1798). Tsar Alexander I announced a competition to redesign St Isaac’s Cathedral, replacing the existing building (1809). The competition was won by the little-known French architect Auguste de Montferrand (1816). Construction lasted forty years (1818–58). The granite for the columns was quarried between Vyborg and Friedrichsham on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland (the granite for the Alexander Column also came from here). The stone was discovered by Fyodor Saveliev, a peasant from Olonets Province. The massive columns of St Isaac’s Cathedral were installed before the walls were built. The first column was installed on 28 March 1828. Work then ceased from August 1830 to 1837. Two more columns were raised at the end of 1837, while the other twenty-one were installed in 1838. St Isaac’s Cathedral was formally opened and consecrated as the central seat of the Russian Orthodox Church in the city (30 May 1858). The interior was decorated by painters Fidelio Bruni, Karl Brullov and Vasily Shebuyev and sculptors Ivan Vitali and Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg.

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