Sacred Spaces: Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood


Officially called the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood is St. Petersburg’s most elaborate and recognizable church.  With its five domes decorated with jewelers enamel and 7,000 sq. meters of mosaics, the classic Russian Orthodox structure is a sight to behold.

The colloquial name of Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood derives from the assassination of Emperor Alexander II in 1881.  Alexander II was beloved for his reforms, which included freeing the serfs from their masters along with several judicial and urban reforms.  Unfortunately, on March 13, 1881, he was murdered by radicals.  His son, Emperor Alexander III ordered the construction of the church on the site of his father’s assassination.

This memorial church was to be built in the style of 17th century Russian cathedrals.  Architect Alfred Alexandrovich Parland based his designs on “[…] ideas provided by Archimandrite Ignatius (Malyshev), abbot of Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra” (we explored the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in a previous blog).

On October 18th, 1883, a ceremonial ground breaking was held.  “To assure the integrity of the church foundation, the old method of using a wooden foundation was rejected in favor of a concrete foundation, a technique new at the time. Also, a layer of clay was used to seal the foundation of the church against water penetration of the foundation.”  


Construction of the church took 24 years and went over budget by 1 million roubles.  Finally, on August 31, 1907, the church was formally consecrated. “No baptisms, funeral services, weddings, or other traditional church services were held in the Church on the Blood, as this was not in Alexander III’s plans. However, weekly requiems (for Alexander II) and sermon readings attracted large numbers of worshippers.”

“The décor of the church, both inside and outside, is a symphony of colors that delight the eye and done all in mosaics and tiles.” As we mentioned above, the domes are gilded and enameled.   On the outside of the church are 20 granite plates telling the story of Emperor Alexander II’s reign.  Inside, there are no paintings; only mosaics. Covering over 23,000 sq. feet, the church’s mosaic collection is one of the largest in Europe.

Unfortunately, in 1930, the government closed the church.  It fell into disarray and was used as a warehouse.  A demolition was planned for 1941, but was put on hold by a Nazi invasion.  “After the war, the church was used to store props for the Maly Opera Theater as again, in 1956, proposals were made to demolish the fast deteriorating building.”  Demolitions began in 1961, when the shell of the church was removed.

Luckily, G.P. Butikov, director of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, intervened and convinced the Russian government that the church had significant historic and artistic value.  The government, fortunately, agreed and the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood was made a branch of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Museum.

The church then underwent restorations beginning in the 1980s.  By 1997, “the first stage of restoration was completed and the Church of the Resurrection of Christ Museum was opened for visitors.”

Tour the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Take a virtual tour of the church with this wonderful video from Firebird Tours.

(Can’t view the video below? Click here to view it directly on YouTube).

Main image via
Church of the Resurrection of Christ (St. Petersburg) –
Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood –
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