Sacred Spaces: Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas (Kronstadt)

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Modeled after Byzantium’s crown jewel, the Hagia Sophia, the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas (Kronstadt) is dedicated to the fallen seamen of Russia’s navy.  Built between 1903 and 1913, the Naval Cathedral was to serve as the main church of the Russian Navy.  Kronstadt, located on Kotlin Island, was a strategic fortress guarding St. Petersburg from any naval attacks and thus served as the ideal location for the navy’s church.

The Cathedral was designed by Vasily Kosiakov, one of Russia’s most famous architects.  Koasiakov was instructed to design a Byzantine-inspired cathedral that could accommodate 5,000 worshippers.  For inspiration, he traveled to Istanbul and Greece to study their influential architecture.

The idea to build a cathedral in Kronstadt had first been brought up in the mid-19th century.  There was a strong desire to build a memorial to those who died in service to the Russian navy.  In the late 19th century, funding for said construction began with donations from naval officers and sailors, the imperial family, as well as Russia’s citizens.  Construction finally began in 1903.  In 1913, the Cathedral was completed and consecrated.

Unfortunately, the Cathedral only operated for 16 years.  In 1929, the Cathedral was closed.  The 36 bronze plates on which were engraved the names of 12,000 fallen sailors (which served as a focal point of the Cathedral) were destroyed in the ensuing years.  Over the next 80 years, the building served as a nightclub, cinema, concert hall, and a naval museum.

“In 2001 an Orthodox parish was formed for the church. Restoration was authorized in 2009 and the cathedral was consecrated in 2013, the 100th anniversary of the original consecration.”  As part of the restorations, the yellow brick and terra cotta exterior were covered with a light beige paint, much to the chagrin of many who preferred the original brickwork.

Today, the Naval Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tour the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Can’t make it to Kronstadt? You can tour the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas right from home!  View the video below or click here to view it directly on YouTube.

Sacred Spaces Blog Series

Follow the links below to catch up with our Sacred Spaces series!

Basilica di San Marco (Venice) | St. Issac’s Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | Monastery of the Kiev Caves (Kiev) | St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | The Duomo (Florence) | The Hagia Sophia (Istanbul) | Cathedral of St. Sophia (Novgorod) | Church of Our Savior on  Spilled Blood (St. Petersburg)

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Visit to Naval Cathedral of St Nicholas in Kronstadt –
The Naval Cathedral –
Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas –
The Kronstadt Cathedral: Byzantine monument to Russia’s navy –
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