The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan (Kazansky Cathedra)l is the pearl of Nevsky Prospekt. Its building was begun according to the order of Paul I. Being yet an heir to the throne and travelling over Europe in the 1780-s, Paul was fascinated with the beauty and grandeur of St.Peter’s Cathedral in Rome that with its circular colonnade nearly surrounding the vast square was the largest one in the world at that time. Having come to the throne, Paul I wished a similar cathedral to be built in his capital. In 1799-1800 the competition on the cathedral design took plase. A number of outstanding Petersburg architects, Ch.Cameron, P.Gonzago, J.Thomas de Thomon among them, participated in the competition, but a winner of it was young and unknown at the time, A.Voronikhin. The solemn laying of the foundation took place on August 27, 1801, already in the presence of Alexander I – a son of Paul I who had been killed by that time. It was intended to finish the building of the cathedral in three years, but it was still continuing for ten years.

The cathedral was erected in the Kazanskaya Square where, since 1731, the primery court church of the Russian capital of the time had been situated. It was a wooden, with a spire church of the Nativity of the Virgin by M.G.Zemtsov. One of the most venerated holy relics of the Orthodox Church was kept there. It was the relic of the House of Romanovs – the miraculous icon of Kazan Virgin (whence the name of the cathedral and square).

Being in the height of his creative powers, A.N.Voronikhin had built the edifice in the style of High Classicism. The cathedral is a single-domed and, as viewed from above, has a shape of a Latin cross. You can enter the cathedral from three sides through majestic porticoes. From the northern portico the colonnade diverges in the form of two arcs. Although the architect in his design followed the model of St.Peter’s Cathedral, the Kazansky Cathedral differs noticeably in its size, proportions and chiefly by the form of colonnade: it does not surround the square, but, on the contrary, is opened wide to Nevsky Prospekt, as if including the latter inside. Here is how Henry van Reimers wrote in 1805 when the cathedral was yet being built: “This church together with all its environment will represent a splendid edifice in a really generous style where the architect’s talent seems to be manifested even more evidently due to a rather unfavourable, adverse location of the building. It is inconvenient to observe the cathedral from any side as private buildings stand too close ... What a wonderful view of this majestic colonnade would be if it had been placed at the end of a long and wide street, on an exposed site and, thus, its grandiose forms could be well seen at the proper distance.”*

The Kazansky Cathedral is excellent both by its unique architectural merits and due to the stone decoration. Therewith, as the historian of the Kazansky Cathedral, architect A.P.Aplaksin wrote in 1911**, “all that was used for the church construction is exclusively Russian and represents its abundance and glory. All the materials had been obtained from the native national body, and every piece of work was made by skill and talent of Russian artists.”

* Cited from: Aplaksin A.P. Kazansky cathedral in St.Petersburg (1811-1911). Historical study of the cathedral and its description. St.Petersburg, 1911, pp. 22-23.

** The same, p. 58.

Stones used for the building, as well as for the exterior and interior decoration of the Kazansky Cathedral, had been quarried almost exclusively in environs of Petersburg, and only some of them were brought from other places of the North-West of the Russian Empire. For instance, limestone (Putilovo Slab) was delivered from the banks of the Tosna, Izhora, Syas and other rivers. Tufa (Travertin, or Pudost stone) was sent from the Pudost river in the vicinity of Gatchina. Revel Limestone was quarried from the neighbourhood of Revel (Tallinn). Tivdiya Marble was worked up in Karelia and Ruskeala and Juven (Joensuu) rocks were hewn off in the precincts of the town of Sortavala. Grey Serdobol Granite was cut off on the North-West shore of Lake Ladoga, and rapakivi-granite – in the suburbs of Vyborg.

The three cathedrals marked by commonness of their architectural design: Kazansky Cathedral in St.Petersburg (76.6 m high), St.Peter's Cathedral in Rome (138 m high) and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the World in Jamosokro (160 m high). The drawing by Ja.Kotov.

Together with those rather wide-spread natural stones rare native rocks had also been used in Petersburg’s architecture. First, it is black graphitic slate from the northern shore of Lake Onega. Second, it is red Shoksha Quartzite quarried near the village Shoksha on Lake Onega. And third, it is necessary to make mention of green wavy jasper brought from the Altai. The jasper was found on Revneva Mountain, therefore its name is Revneva Jasper. In actual truth, the rock is not a jasper at all, but represents very dense glassy rock of effusive origin(erupted from volcanos).

The history of building of the Kazansky Cathedral abounded with difficulties, frequently connected with shortage of money which caused such a long delay of its completion. For instance, Pudost Limestone was to be quarried free of charge “in accordance with the monarch’s will” of Paul I at the farm Skvoritsa near the village Pudost that was in the emperor’s possession. But in 1803 Skvoritsa proved to be the estate of the son of Paul I – prince Constantin Paulovich and the new owner had demanded 50 roubles for cubic sazhen (9.71 m3). Altogether 1240 cubic sazhens of the stone (about 12 000 m3) was needed and, as the result of it, 62 000 roubles, which had not been considered in the estimate of the expenditure, was paid. The previously cited A.P.Aplaksin wrote : “... while in the reign of Paul I they could pull down 3 huge blocks at the farm Pella (the buildings were so colossal that the resulted material was used not only for the construction of the Mikhailovsky Castle but for the Kazan church as well), during the subsequent reign continuation of payment for the already started church building was considered not possible.”*

The Pudost Stone was quarried by the famous stone-cutters from Putilovo settlement. Slabs of the limestone used for facing of the cathedral facade are rectangular in shape with each side equal to 0.5-0.8 m, their surface is, rather rough. The columns and pilasters hewn out of huge blocks of Pudost Stone were brought to perfection by decoration with grooves - cannelures and sumptuous capitals of the Corinthian order. The work was carried out under the direction of Samson Sukhanov – “the Russian innate carver”, as his contemporaries called him. Beyond the design of A.N.Voronikhin, that outstanding master, a former peasant from Vologda and traveller over the North of Russia, embodied ideas of many other architects and sculptors.

* Aplaksin A.P. Kazansky Cathedral in St.Petersburg (1811-1911). Historical study of the cathedral and its description. St.Petersburg, 1911, p. 14.

The height of the exterior columns is 14 m, the lower diameter is 1.45 m and the upper one is 1.1 m, every column weighs about 28 tons. It is often written that the columns are cut out entirely of huge monoliths of limestone. But a number of columns bear traces of transverse-furrows blocked up with cement that testifies to their composite nature.

The colonnade of the Kazansky Cathedral consists of 94 columns, including 20 of the northern portico. The same number of columns decorates the southern portico, while the western one is composed of 12 columns. Altogether there are 126 columns and 12 semi-columns around the cathedral. In the arcades of the colonnade they stand in 4 rows. Bases of the columns were cut of large blocks of Putilovo Stone, then they were covered with lead sheets and after it cast-iron holders were fixed to them. Here is necessary to mention the technical function of long basements under the colonnade almost unknown to present day citizens: the air from outside came there through narrow window-slits and circulated in the system of natural ventilation of the cathedral. There were no needs in special ventilators, so skilful were the precise calculations of section sizes, length and configuration of the air channels made by engineers of the time.

All works on carving of Pudost Stone – bas-reliefs depicting Biblical subjects, and different ornaments – were carried out at the workshop of Karl Galeotti situated on the Vasilyevsky Island. Pudost Stone is known as a very porous rock having shelly structure with numerous small and sometimes even large interstices. Therefore in 1833 the surface of the cathedral was covered with Riga alabaster for better resistance to the atmospheric influence and then was finished in light yellow coloration the natural colour of the stone. At the end of the XIX-th century the cathedral was painted rather dark coffee colour. Only at the restoration of the 1960-s its original coloration was recovered. However, today the walls again become very dark and speckled with grime.

The high plinth of the cathedral and colonnade is constructed of huge rectangular blocks of Serdobol Granite, a number of the blocks ranges up to 1x2 m2 across. Veins of white feldspar are clearly distinct against dark grey background of the granite. The range of colours is supplemented with blocks of red-pink rapakivi-granite of which staircases leading to the colonnade and the middle part of the colonnade floor are made. The balustrade on the top of the colonnade and the facing of the high attic course are done of light-grey Revel Limestone. This limestone has somewhat lighter colour and more solid, dense fine-grained structure than the Pudost Stone because of its rather intensive marbleization. Its facing slabs are smaller in size than the slabs of Pudost Stone. The total amount of Revel Limestone used for the building approximates 65 m3.

Yet another carbonates rock is present in the exterior facing of the cathedral. The case in point is Ruskeal Marble of which the carved portal of the magnificent northern door of the cathedral is made. Like the majority of marbles, the rock is heterogeneous, non-uniform and consists of light-grey calcite, light-green actinolite and some other minerals. During the last restoration, the marble was cleaned, but not polished and nowadays harder and better preserved silicates – actinolite and others – protrude noticeably above the more considerably dissolved calcite.

The doors of the cathedral framed with this portal represent the bronze copy of the famous “Gates of Paradise” created by the prominent sculptor Lorenzo Gilberti for the Florentine Baptistery. In the niches on both sides of the doors bronze sculptures had been mounted. They personify the equal to St.Princes Vladimir and Alexander Nevsky (sculptor S.S.Pimenov), Apostle Andrew (sculptor V.I.Demut-Malinovsky) and John the Baptist (sculptor I.P .Martos). A.N.Voronokhin proposed to install bronze statues in the niches

Columns of the Kazansky Cathedral were constructed of blocks of Pudostsky Stone (tufa), the architrave was made of Revel Limestone and the colonnade basement - of grey Serdobol Granite. The embankment wall and slope down to the water are built of rapakivi-granite.

Two huge pedestals of grey Serdobolsky Granite abut upon the ends of the colonnade. They are cubic in shape and are decorated at the bottom with a geometric ornament – meander that was considered by the ancient Hellenes as a symbol of the eternity. Those pedestals had been reserved for gigantic bronze statues of Archangels Michael and Gabriel ordered to the sculptor I.P.Martos. He prepared alabaster models of the statues. Those images painted bronze were standing on the pedestals up to 1824 when they, never being converted in metal, were taken away because of their going to pieces. Some amounts of copper for their casting was still being kept in the Academy of Arts for a long time.

In 1889-1890 a square in front of the colonnade was laid out and a fountain was constructed. Walking about the square and viewing the cathedral from outside, you involuntarily pay attention to kerbstones put near porticos and passages of the colonnade. They are made of buitiful delicate-pink Tivdiya Marble. Kerbstones of this kind, cut of natural stone were indispensable in arrangement of all gates and entrances in Petersburg of the XVIII-XIX centuries. Today they are deeply sunk into the ground beneath numerous layers of asphalt.

According to the Orthodox Church canons, the western doors serve as the main entrance to the cathedral. Having passed through them, visitors find themselves in the triumphal church hall consisting of three naves and decorated with rows of splendid polished columns of red-pink rapakivi-granite. Monoliths of the rock were obtained from the quarry Saanlahti situated in the eastern part of the Island Mon-repos, within the boundaries of the modern settlement Severny (Northern), that is a part of the city of Vyborg. The monoliths were transported to Petersburg by the special ship and transmitted to a yard in the Konyushennaya (Stable) Square, where 340 stone-ma-sons cut out and polished the columns. There are 56 granite columns altogether in the cathedral interior. Their height is 10.8 m. They are 1 m in diameter at the foot.

The columns are very festive as rapakivi-granite is characterized by fanciful gaily coloured patterns formed by large rounded crystals of pink feldspar against a background of more fine-grained grey quartz and black biotite. Magnificent Corinthian capitals of the columns are bronze, gilded; however, the gilt has kept badly. The column bases shaped of the same rapakivi-granite have been covered with bronze cases.

The interior walls of the cathedral are painted, here and there bas-reliefs hewn out of Pudost Stone are preserved. Some walls and pilasters are made of artificial stone rather badly imitating rapakivi-granite.

The mosaic floor produces an unforgettable impression on everybody. It is composed of fragments of pink Tivdiya and grey, grey-green banded Ruskeala Marbles together with dark-red Shokshina Quartzite and black slate. The design of the floor in the cathedral naves is formed of octagonal and quadrangular slabs.

It is in harmony with the pattern of the ceiling, inspite of hexagonal shape of slabs there. Particularly striking is the mosaic ornament of the floor under the cupola of the cathedral. It represents a system of concentric circles that are crossed with beams converged to the centre and seems to be volumetric. The octagonal star of pink Tividiya Marble against a background of black slate is depicted in the centre, and in the very middle of the star, a circle made of dark-pink rapakivi-granite is placed. A meander was executed along the outer boundary of this part of the floor situated under the cupola. It is clearly seen in the polished slabs of the floor that the rocks have different hardness. The most convex, upstanding, are fragments of Shokshinsky Quartzite because of its considerable hardness. The relatively soft marbles are more worn,, shabby and are as if pressed, concave into the floor. Four huge pylons buttressing the drum of the cupola confine the central part of the cathedral. We call your attention to them: at first glance the material they are made of is identical with that used for the columns, but it is only artistic imitation of rapakivi-granite. By the south-west pylon, a tsar’s seat is disposed and there is a pulpit near the north-east pylon. They are not very high daises, with steps of red Shoksha Quartzite leading upstairs. The tzar’s seat and pulpit were also made by Samson Sukhanov who had received 1675 roubles for his work; he had cut two splendid corbels of complex design from grey faintly folded Ruskeala Marble. To a height about 3 m, the pylon is faced with red-pink Tivdiya Marble and above is the excellent fretwork frieze with heads of cherubs of grey-white Ruskeala Marble. From here a velvet baldachino fell. Embroidered with golden threads words could be seen on it: “Tsar’s heart is in Lord’s hand”. Over the baldachino, the bronze imperial Emblem was perched.

The pulpit dais is composed of coarse-banded grey-black Juven Marble. The big icon depicting St.John Chrysostom in the frame of white-pink Tivdiysky Marble was behind the preacher’s back. Identical frames on the north- and south-east pylons contained pictures of two another saints of the Orthodox Church (George Theologian and Basil the Great). All three the icons had been painted by V.Shebuyev. Paintings for the Kazansky Cathedral were executed by the best Russian artists of the time: V.Borovikovsky, K.Bryullov, O.Kiprensky et al.*

There were three altars in the cathedral. They were separated from the naves by iconostasises standing on a low platform – so-called solium. Its steps are made of Shoksha Quartzite.

* For more details, a reader can be addressed to the above-cited book by A.P.Aplaksin and the work by Ja.I.Shurygin “Kazansky Cathedral”. Leningrad, 1987).

The Kazansky Cathedral was consecrated in September, 1811. At that time the miraculous icon of Kazan Virgin was removed to the cathedral from a wooden church that was destroyed. The memorial plaques of dark red Shoksha Quartzite were attached to the walls of the cathedral, the inscriptions on them commemorating Paul I who laid the cathedral and Alexander I in whose reign it was built. By the day of the consecration a new embossed gold (of the 84-th hallmark) covering of the famous icon had been ready. The weight of the covering approximated 4 kg. It was decorated with precious stones, among which were a large sapphire, great number of rubies, diamonds, pearls presented by members of the imperial family. The total value of it came to 100 000 roubles.

The magnificent tabernacle shown today at the exposition in the cathedral stood out of other values. It was ordered by the Count A.S.Stroganov – a chairman of the Commission on the Kazansky Cathedral Building, and was being done after the design by A.N.Voronikhin at the Academy of Arts for 5 years.

The tabernacle represents a remarkable stone-carving in the shape of a miniature church with one cupola and four porticoes. All details of this church are made of differently coloured stones, among which are porphyritic pink granite, grey and white marbles, feldspathic porphyry known as “anticque”, and lots of Urals jaspers.

Thus, for example, columns of the porticoes are shaped of uniform, homogeneous grey-green Kalkan Jasper; of red-sealing wax and ornamented red-white Urazovo Jaspers known also as “meat agate”; of “bloody” jasper, that is heliotrope - dark-green rock with bright red, like blood, stains; and of banded straw-coloured - dark-red Jamskaya Jasper. From sides of the staircases with steps construcred of Kalkan, Jasper gilded figurines of Evangelists and saints are placed. Banded (Ribbon) Kushkulda red-green Jasper and pink feldspathic porphyry serve the statuettes pedestals.

The intermediate cupola resting on the drum of Jamskaya Jasper is made of Kalkan Jasper and is decorated with the open-work gilded ornament. The upper small lantern light with the cupola also made of Kalkan Jjasper is crowned by 3 gilded figurines holding a cross (has not been preserved). Columns of the lantern are cut out of beautiful rosy orlets, or manganese spar (today classified simply as rhodonite), their bases are done in golden quartzite (apparently, Taganay). The support of the tabernacle is produced of coarse-crystalline gabbro.

The Holy Communion was kept in the central part of the tabernacle made of white marble in the shape of cube adorned with miniature enamel icons created by the Academician of painting D.I.Jevreinov. All the coloured stones had been donated by A.S.Stroganov from his Urals mines. The total value of the tabernacle came to 30 000 roubles.

A.N.Voronikhin planned futher works in the cathedral that would demand 2 million roubles more. In order that the cathedral be strictly symmetrical in plan he intended to build a colonnade on the southern side and proposed to make the western potico longer by a two-row colonnade. However he had failed to carry out those ideas.

In 1812 the square on the western side of the cathedral was fenced with a semicircular railing composed of pillars crowned with spheres and standing on a high die. Dark-pink rapakivi-granite was used as the material for the die and posts. The wrought-iron open-work lattice connecting the posts is remarkable for its exquisite pattern. It is one of the most beautiful fences in St.Petersburg. In 1935, an old granite fountain was conveyed in that semi-circular square.

At the ends of the semi-circular fence the granite pedestals stand. Two gigantic statues of the Apostles Peter and Paul of the same rapakivi-granite were to be mounted on them. To execute them would require 100 000 roubles. Huge blocks of the rock had been hewn off in the quarry Fredrikshamn (Hamina) in Finland (4.3 x 3.3 x 6.4 m3, each of the blocks weighed 1500 poods (24 tons). Those blocks were to be transported in St.Petersburg on a special ship. One of the blocks had sunk on the loading, only early in the XX century it had been raised from the bottom and used for a pedestal of the monument to the Admiral S.O.Makarov in Kronshtadt. The second block was brought to Petersburg and discharged near the Marble Palace. But during the subsequent transportation it collapsed from a cart in the Aptekarsky (Chemists’) Lane where it lay untill the 1880-s when the stone was sawn and used for the foundation of the Church of Christ Resurrection (“Saviour-on-Blood”).

Other blocks of granite had not been quarried for the lack of money. Furthermore, in 1812 the second Commission on the Building of the Kazansky Cathedral rejected finally the erection of the granite statues of the Apostles, relying on the conclusion that “a work of art made of granite, no matter how great it may be, can’t be so elegant as those of marble and metal, since, due to fragility of granite, it can’t be used as a material for depiction of features that should inspire works of such a kind; moreover humidity... produces moss on the granite and grain fractions of schorl, quartz and feldspar, the rock consists of, form stains and patches what is indecent and indecorous for works presenting images of the Saint Apostles.”*

The bronze statues of saints and apostles that A.N.Voronikhin would like to put on the upper parapet of the cathedral had neither been done.

Suddenly, in 1814 the architect died and since 1818 the construction of the new St.Isaac’s Cathedral which was to become the main temple of the capital began. The payment for bringing the Kazansky Cathedral building to an end had been suspended. Its construction costed 4 mln 200 thousand roubles. The cathedral can hold 5500 people at one time. Since 1812 the Kazansky Cathedral became a depository of military trophies taken by M.I.Kutuzov’s army and the Field-Marshal himself was buried inside of it in 1813. When the 25-th anniversary of the Patriotic War was celebrated the bronze statues of the commanders of Russian Forces M.I.Kutuzov and M.B.Barklai de Tolli (sculptor B.I.Orlovsky) were unveiled in the square in front of the Cathedral. Pedestals of the statues are made of rapakivi-granite.

* Aplaksin A.P. The Kazansky Cathedral in St.Petersburg..., p.65.

At the same time some alterations inside the cathedral took place: the main iconostasis arranged by A.N.Voronikhin in 1811 proved to be too small in comparison with the immense volume of the cathedral interior and in 1836 it was replaced by the new one created after the design of the architect K.A.Ton. The silver given as a present by the Donskaya army that in 1812 took away the church plate from the Frenchmen who had sacked Russian churches was used as the material for it.

The iconostasis and balustrade had taken 68 poods 12 pounds 92 zolotniks of silver (about 1010 kg), chasing and gilding costed 200 000 roubles. In addition, the iconostasis was decorated with 4 columns of green wavy Revnevskaya Jasper (called Siberian Jasper at that time). The columns were presented by Alexander II. They are common in the style with the outer columns and, in the same manner, they are worked up with cannelures and embellished with exuberant capitals. Finish of the columns came to 6000 roubles. The silver iconostasis with jasper columns has not been preserved until the present time. There was no information about it since 1917. In 1932 the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism was founded at the cathedral. At present it is being returned into the possession of the Orthodox Church.

Today the Kazansky Cathedral is out of repair. In spite of repeated restoration its external facing is badly damaged. Here and there, especially on columns Pudost Stone is broken off, a part of it is strongly weathered and peels off. The surface of the stone is soiled and covered with traces of salts (gypsum) flows that emanated from the stone under the action of acid rains. Restorers estimated that more than 500 m3 of Pudost Stone, the deposit of which is not exploited today, are necessary to reestablish those affected areas. The interior of the cathedral has also grown dim though the stone itself keeps quite well. The matter of great urgency now is to reinstate the gilding of capitals of the granite columns, to reconstruct the magnificent painting and only then it will be possible to perceive completely the grandiose design of A.N.Voronikhin, embodied in the reality by the labour of numbers of Russian skilled masters, who brought the use of natural stone to wonderful perfection. But for the present, the cathedral falls fast into decay.

To the beginning