The many-domed Church of Christ Resurrection* closes the vista opening from Nevsky Prospekt up the Griboyedov Canal embankment. There are many who consider complicated architectural shapes of the building are insonsistent with the face of the central part of the city. With regard to it, as long ago as the 1930-s the idea of the church’s destruction was proposed, but fortunately such an act of vandalism was not accomplished. True enough, for a long time the church was in a state of neglect and was extensively damaged. Nowadays this monument of architecture standing with the Kazansky and St.Isaac’s cathedrals in beauty and perfection of finish has been restored.
The second well known name of the church – “Spas-on-Blood” (The Saviour on the Spilt Blood) – reflects the historical event that was the motive of its construction. It is of common knowledge that on March 1 of the year 1881 (February 19, Old Style) Alexander II was mortally wounded on that place with a bomb thrown by the member of the terrorist organization Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) I.I.Grinevitsky. Having mounted the throne, Alexander III ordered to errect there the temple-memorial in his favourite “Russian style”. The design of the church had been created by the architect A.A.Parland with the assistance of the Metropolitan Ignatiy (I.V.Makarov in civil life) from the Trinity-St.Sergius Monastery and the tzar sanctioned it in 1883. In their design they followed the outstanding models of Russian architecture of the XVI-th century: the Moscow Church of Pokrova (Intercession) or “Vasily Blazhennyy” (Basil the Blessed), cathedrals of Yaroslavl and Rostov Veliky (Great). Eminent stone-cut-ters from all diamond-mills of the country working in: Peterhof, Ecaterinburg, and Kolyvan participated in the decoration of the church. A considerable part of the stoneworks was executed in Italy. The vast space of inner walls, pylons, arches and vaults are covered with the unique mosaics; perhaps never mosaic was so widely applied in any construction of such a type. It was produced at the Petersburg workshop of the Frolovs (A.A. and V.A.) after the designs of M.V.Nesterov, N.A.Bruni, V.M.Vasnetsov, V.V.Belyayev, P.P.Chistyakov and other eminent artists. Some mosaic works were created by A.A.Parland himself.
1)* The materials of two works are used in this description: the attractive, wonderfully published issue of the album by A.A.Parland “Church of Christ Resurrection (St.Pegersburg, 1907) and the report of N.B.Abakumova “Expertise and investigation of the present state of marbles and industrial stones at the branch of the museum “St.Isaac’s Cathedral”, the former Church of “Spas-on-Blood”, and formulation of recommendations for their restoration and further keeping under conditions of an active museum.” (Leningrad:Library of the Leningrad Mining Institute. 1972, No 68044593).
For the church construction the latest for that time technological advances were used. Particular attention was to be given to the foundation - it was necessary to consolidate the ground, to achieve reliable isolation from the water of the canal. The most up-to-date heating-ventilation system had been installed. Enamelled domes of red copper represented the world’s first example of covering of such a kind applied in so grandiose a scale. All other works in the cathedral had been carried out skilfully as well.
The view of the church strikes everybody by its bright and rich finish and by the variety of the materials used for it. On the outside, its walls are faced with coloured Zigersdorf bricks and glazed, patterned tiles. They are lavishly embellished with mosaic insertions depicting armorial bearings or emblems of provinces and regions of the Russian Empire. Mosaic icons were fixed on the pediments, kokoshniks and above the entrances. On the western facade the mosaic crucifix had been installed. The gilded cupolas of the bell-tower and altar apses gleam brightly, the enamelled, ornated domes of the central part of the church are quite dissimilar to one another and entrances are embellished with bronze inlaid with silver.
Rather the simple, unpretentious outside stone decoration is obscured by this polychrome ornamentation. The socle part of the church through the height of 3 m was faced with large blocks of grey-black amphibolite and grey granite brought conceivably from the island of St.Sergius. The colouration of two lower rows of blocks is darker and of four upper ones - lighter. Massive columns at the porches are made of the same granite. Twenty plaques of dark-red Swedish granite are arranged in recesses of the socle. Inscriptions on them commemorate remarkable events that had taken place during Alexander II reign. All the architectural details of the facades – thin belts , cornices, kokoshniks, pilastres decorated with caissons, door-cases and outside window-frames were hewn out of white Estlyandsky Marble or Kirna Stone – as it was also called.
The fretwork from Eastland stone in the exterior decoration of the Church of Christ's Resurrection.
The interior of the Church of Christ Resurrection is embellished extremely richly with use of great quantity of varied coloured rocks: marbles, jaspers, porphyries, and other rare semi-precious stones. Thus only works on marble ordered in Italy had demanded, at least, 16 different types of the rock. Through the height of 2.5 m the walls inside the church are lined with green serpentinite (snake stone). Traditionally it is identified as Verde di Calabria, that is to say “Green Calabrian marble”. Such a “marble” was frequently used for decoration of stately building - for instance – for the famous Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople (Mosque Aya-Sophia in Stambul nowadays). “Marbles” of this type beared the common name Verde Antico (Green Antique). Calabrian “Marble” comprises dark-green serpentine penetrated by numerouse, crossing-one-another veinlets of white calcite. In addition to these two minerals there are green talc and actinolite, grey montmorillonite, black hematite and magnetite in the rock.
The harmony of colours is a result of combination of the polychromatic mosaic, gilding, brick and light Eastland Marble.
Thus, the rock is also heterogenous and, therefore, is not stable as a whole. Under mechanical action it is easily broken along thickest calcite veinlets, especially if soft and slippery talc is present in them. During the years of desolation of the church rather many disruptions of such a kind had been formed on the walls. Today it is difficult to notice them owing to the artistical restoration.
Made of green Calabrian “Marble” are also the solium rising nine steps above the floor and long carved benches standing along the walls. Earlier open work bottom grilles of these settles functioned not only as decorations, but simultaneously permitted warm air to pass through at heating. The lower part of the walls is completed with a plinth 34 cm high that is made of the same calcite-serpentine rock but dyed in dark-red colour by oxides and hydroxides of iron. That marble was identified as Rosso di Levanto (Red Levantian).
The interior of the church is divided by columns. Four central pylons are faced through 2.5 m height from the floor by dark-grey labradorite. It is likely to be Volyn Labradorite – well polished and in consequence of it taking black colour. The play of light in thin superficial lamellae of a main mineral, that is labrador, makes the facing slabs look vivid and variable due to alternately flashing and dying away of bluish-dark-blue lights.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the main value and prime curiosity of the church is the marble floor. It resembles a truly invaluable ornamented carpet, even lots of united mosaic “carpets”. All in all, 45 “carpets” of such a kind can be counted, 3 of them are located in the apse part. Ornaments of all these floorings have geometrical design, every of them being unique. Dark-green serpentinite (Calabrian “Marble”) serves as the common background piecing the stone ornaments into one pattern.
The geometric arabesques of the floor created by the extraordinary imagination of the architect had been inlaid in Genoa as mosaics of marbles of various, but always bright and deep colours. They were: dark- and light-green, bluish-grey, grey and dark-grey, light- and dark-red with white veinlets, brown, cream, lilic. There are red Levantian “Marble”, honey-yellow Siena Rock, bright-red “Griotto”, black with golden veinlets “Portoro”, and white Carrara Marble. Stone fragments in these mosaics don’t exceed 1 cm in thickness, their shape is very diverse. It’s possible to meet : polygons, rings, ovals, curved volutes and etc. Particularly beautiful is the ornament of the large mosaic in the middle of the floor. By the way, it should be mentioned that after the church construction had been finished the unique floor was covered with a huge woven carpet donated by the Red Cross Society. There were no other possibility to protect the stone from grinding and crushing – let us recall surface imperfections of the floor mosaic in the Kazansky Cathedral today.
The canopy above the floor in the center of the bell-tower may be considered as the second curiosity of the stone decoration of the Church of Christ Resurrection. It is constructed over the place where the blood of Alexander II was shed, therefore the part of the pavement and cobbles of the embankment were preserved. As the foundation of the canopy reposes on the level of the embankment some steps lead down to it. They are made of dark-green Levantian “Marble”. The floor around the canopy represents a mosaic with large plant ornament inlaid of dark-red, brown and green marbles. This part of the mosaic decoration was made in Russia (not in Italy). The canopy is supported by four well polished columns 2.85 m high. They are made of violet-grey Korgonsky Porphyry from the Altai. The octagonal canopy with three bands of kokoshniks at the base reposes on the columns. It is cut out of Mocha Stone, or moss agate, as that unicoloured, dark-green with black points serpentinite (snake stone) looking like nephrite was termed at the time. The capitals of the columns, cornice, kokoshniks had been made at the Kolyvan diamond-mill of green wavy Altai (Revnevskaya) Jasper – the same rock that had been used for the sarcophagus above the grave of Alexander II in the Cathedral of St.Peter and St.Paul. Under the cornice, on the level of the capitals, the columns were joined with the open work arch hewn out of dark-green touched with bluish Nickolayevskaya (Muldakayevskaya) jasper that had been found in the Urals at that time. There were stone flowers between the bands of the kokoshniks. They were made of bright pink Urals orletz – rhodonite (Malosedelnikovskoye deposit).
Those fretworks had been executed at the Ekaterinburg diamond-mill, where a low (80 cm high) balustrade of orletz had also been cut out. The balustrade together with a cast-iron railing united the columns of the canopy. The top of the latter was crowned with the elegant cross assembled of colourless or smoke-coloured faceted mountain crystal.
The inner vault of the canopy had been faced with Florentine mosaic (called Russian one as well) composed of “Bukhara Lapis-lazuli” (that is Badakhshanian Lazurite), Siberian agate, and Nickolayevskaya Jasper. In the middle of the vault was a cross, shining with faceted stones – topazes, as A.A.Parland had pointed out. There are notes in the literature that the tent of the canopy had not been completed fully. Unfortunately only four porphyry columns and a part of the balustrade made of orletz had survived, therefore there is no possibility to judge the beauty of the canopy except to rely upon a drawing by A.A.Parland.
The iconostasis and choir icon-cases made wholly of stone represent the magnificent embellishment of the temple. The central iconostasis consisting of three parts was cut out of the brownish-pink and yellowish marbles in Genoa. The lower part of the iconostasis is made of the marble of the richest tint, while the open-work ornament crowing the iconostasis is hewn out of white marble. Crosses composed of topazes faceted at the Peterhof mill topped that ornament. Every cross consisted of several tens of gilt bronze-mounted stones. The crosses have not been retained, so to determine whether it was real topaz or mountain crystal is not possible nowadays*. The icons of the iconostasis were assembled up as mosaic works and the tzar’s gate was made of chased silver and decorated with enamelled insets. The choir icon-cases which were cut out at the Ekaterinburg and Kolyvan diamond-mills for 12 years, represent the wonderful collection of Russian coloured stone. The bottom (1 m) part of the icon-cases, 3.9 m high, is made of green wavy (Revnevskaya) Jasper, niches in which are decorated with short (34 cm) round columns of dark-red Korgon Porphyry. The considerably more festive upper part of the icon-cases is made of splendid bright crimson-pink orletz (or “ruby spar”, that is, rhodonite) and differently coloured Urals jasper. It stands sharply out against the background of the pedestal.
The best kind of orletz was used for the icon-cases. It consists mainly of bright-pink rhodonite, the deep colour of
which is set off by black veinlets and small spots of manganese hydroxides. Fulvous and brown isolations of bustamite – almost without exception invariable accessory of rhodonite – called “decayed spots” are hardly perceptible, as pieces of orletz with those fulvous marks were placed by stone-cutters very skilfully ,artistically, in indiscernible details. Immense monoliths of the orletz were used for making of the icon-cases. You can get convinced of it on a brief examination of the rear side of the iconostasis.
Coloured stone - that is, marble and different granites - emphasizes the beauty of the gilding and contours of the roof above the image of Christ.
* It seems to be plausible that rather usual confusion of terms took place here: earlier mountain crystalwas also classified as “topaz”,”white topaz”,”smoky topaz”.
The intensively coloured orletz is decorated by small columns and ornamentations carved of jaspers. For example, the fretted small columns in the central part of the left (northern) icon-case are done of a jasper of delicate, soft tints, coloured in fawn and grey. The jasper has ribbon, banded pattern. When these ribbons are composed of white-pink chalcedony, the stone resembles precious onyx. It is especially beautiful in the right small column. The complex plant ornaments cut masterly out of the spotted pale-yellow jasper with irregular red spots is fixed in two side parts of the northern icon-case on milk-white veined quartz, wherein areas of transparent mountain crystal are yet kept. The jasper bears resemblance to the Anastasyevskaya Rock.
In the right (southern) icon-case the spotted red-fawn jasper was used as a material for the central small columns. This stone is very vivid, the red spots look like drops of blood. The ornament of the same design that is in the left icon-case is hewn out of greyish-fawn indistinctly spotted jasper against the background of the roughly mottled red-white jasper of the type of Urazovskaya Rock. All these small columns and ornaments had been perfectly polished.
The carved ornaments in the shape of scrolls and stone flowers cut out of noble pale-yellow (or dendritic, because of presence of leaf-like inclusions) Aushkulskaya Jasper are installed above the icon-cases. This jasper was highly prized for its light-fawn or cream colouration that serves as a picturesque background for graceful, thin-branchy black dendrites represented by carbonaceous matter. A single mosaic icon is kept in each icon-case: they are “St.Alexander Nevsky” to the left and “Crist Resurrection” – to the right.
In addition, at the Ekaterinburg diamond-mill a tabernacle for the church had been created from of coloured stones. It was a cupola-shaped canopy reposing on small columns and arches. In order to create it, orletz and dark-green Nickolayevskaya jasper were used. The cross on the top of the tabernacle was gathered up from “smoky topaz”. Today the tabernacle is one of the items of the collection of the Russian Museum. Its high-quality picture and reminiscences of the stone-cutters – brothers Alexey and Vladimir Semenovs, about their work are given in the book by A.Golomzik “Rhodonite”, p.p. 58-59 (Sverdlovsk, 1983).
In conclusion of the description of the stone decoration of the Church it should be emphasized that such a variety of rocks used for its construction can’t be seen neither in the Marble Palace nor in the St.Isaac’s or Kazansky cathedrals. The most notable coloured stones of Russia except malachite are gathered here. Conceivably the reason is that by the beginning of the erection of the Church of Christ Resurrection, mining of malachite from the Urals had come to an end. Another peculiarity of the Church stone adornment is a total absence of native marbles in its interiors.
It is notable that the cost of all stone-cutting works executed only at the Ekaterinburg diamond-mill had exceeded over half a million roubles. The completion of the works had failed because of the beginning of the First World War.
Devoid of stone embelishment surfaces of the Church interior – the walls, pylons, vaults of the cupolas - were covered with mosaic (of smalt) pictures illustrating scenes from the Old and New Testaments and images of saints of Orthodox Church depicted against the golden (in the altar), light-blue or blue backgrounds. The fadeless colours of the smalt convey history both of Christ’s life and his agony. The pictures and images are separated by ornaments the patterns of which are not repeated in any case. The mosaic produces a quite exceptional impression by its colossal scale. The total sguare of the mosaics comes to 7078.5 m2.
The Church was being constructed for 20 years from 1887 to 1907. All those years the campaign on the collection of money for the building of the temple in memory of the Tsar-Liberator of peasants was being conducted. Participation of people in the donations and endowments is marked by mosaic emblems or coats of arms of different cities of the Russian Empire in square recesses on the walls of the Church bell-tower. The gathered sum came to more, than 1 mln roubles. Together with assignations from the State Treasury the total sum for the building had made 4718788 roubles, 31 copeck and 1 half-copeck piece, of which 4606756 roubles, 58 copecks and 1 half-copeck piece had been spent. The remainder was 112031 rouble, 73 copecks. As the Journal “Zodchiy” (Architect), 1907, No 49 noted,”this exclusive building has come to its close under not quite ordinary circumstances, because at liquidation of the Building Commission any usually necessary additional allocations proved not to be needed. On the contrary, a part of the funds granted for the building had been returned to the State Treasury.”
The Temple that held 4.5 thousand people was closed from 1932 till 1997.
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