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The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is the largest cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, with a capacity of 10,000 worshippers. The present building was rebuilt in the late C20th on the site of the previous C19th, which had been destroyed by Stalin. This original C19th took 40 years to build, and its construction spanned the reign of three Tsars. It opened in 1883 as a memorial to the victory won by Russia in the Napoleonic Wars of 1812. In 1931 it was blown up by Bolshevik forces. During the 1950s onwards the site was used as a swimming pool. Rebuilding of the cathedral began in 1994, and continued until consecration in 2000. The country's leaders often attend church services here on major church festivals.
Tsar Alexander I had taken a vow in 1812 that if God gave him victory over Napoleon, he would build a great cathedral to the memory of those who had served. It was originally intended to build the cathedral on the Sparrow Hills, in the South of the city. The dedication ran “In the name of everlasting memory and unimaginable sacrifice, love and labour in the Motherland's name, which has exalted Russia in these troubled times, and commemorates her glory before God, We dedicate this Cathedral in our capital city in the name of Christ The Saviour”. Thus was the cathedral announced to the people once Napoleon's army had been routed. But Tsar Alexander I would not live to see its completion, or even its inception. Work on the Cathedral on Volkhonka would be begin under another monarch altogether.
Building work on the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour began in 1831 under the rule of Tsar Nicholas I. He intended that the Cathedral would take shape in an Old-Russian design, and appointed Court Architect Konstantin Ton to the project. The cathedral was destined to become the expression of a whole nation's self-identity and patriotic pride. Historians say that Ton's work expressed a new style – 'historicism', which was to become the characteristic style of European architecture in the C19th.
The ceremonial laying of the foundations of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour took place on September 10th 1839 – marking the 25th Anniversary of the capture of Paris by Russian troops. The ceremony was attended by Nicholas I and the Royal Family. But the actual construction was delayed by decades. The consecration of the finished cathedral occurred only on May 26th, 1883, and was celebrated with great splendour, since it was dedicated to the coronation of the following Tsar, Alexander III. The cathedral's height is 103m, exceeding that of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Kremlin – which could easily be rebuilt under the Cathedrals great dome. At the time the cathedral was opened, it was said that its golden dome could be seen not only throughout all Moscow, but for 15 miles around.
The outer walls of the Cathedral were decorated with 48 tableaux of biblical and historical scenes. Sadly the great majority of these perished when the first cathedral was destroyed in the 1930s. However, some were copied in the decoration of the Donskoy Monastery where these bas-reliefs may still be seen. Many great sculptors worked on the decorative elements, including Klodt, Ramazanov and others. The bronze doors of the cathedral displayed biblical characters and 52 saints. The cathedral was not immediately closed after the 1917 Revolution, and continued to hold services – it served as the Regional Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. In November 1917 Patriarch Tikhon was inaugurated here, and the Cathedral continued to serve until 1931.
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a cathedral on the northern bank of the Moskva River, a few blocks southwest of the Kremlin. With an overall height of 103 metres it is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world.
The current church is the second to stand on this site. The original church, built during the 19th century, took more than 40 years to build. It was destroyed in 1931 during the Communist rule of Joseph Stalin. The demolition was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets that was never built, so the church was reconstructed in the 1990s on the same site.
The Cathedral is located on Volkhonka Street, which starts from Borovitskaya Square. The name of the street appeared at the end of the XVIII century when on the lands of the Volkonskis, a famous noble family was a popular tavern "Volkhonka". The street is one of the most ancient in Moscow. It was famous as a district for the rich.
This district is going to become Moscow Museum District. During the tour you will see and have the opportunity to visit a number of art museums: The Tsvetkovsky Gallery, The Ilya Glazunov Art Gallery, The Lopukhin Family Mansion (aka the Roerich Museum), Gallery of European and American Art of the C19th and C20th, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of Private Collections. While walking here you will understand why Moscow used to be accepted as a beautiful jewelry box. In the lanes you will discover old mansions and fall in love with stories of Russian noble families. Such are The Golitsyn Mansion, The Lopukhin Family Mansion, Obolonsky's Mansion, Sergey Tretyakov's Mansion etc. The Chambers of Averky Kirillov - a unique example of a large urban homestead. Chambers, Church of St. Nicholas and outbuildings along the waterfront are a single architectural complex.
Another bright example of Moscow architecture is Pertsova's Rental Apartment Mansions. The house was an apartment house, located on the corner of Soymonovsky passage and Prechistenskaya embankment, built in 1905-1907 by architects N. Zhukov and B.N. Shnaubert on sketches of the artist S.V. Malyutin, author of Russian nesting dolls. The house includes apartments and artists' studios in the upper attic of the building.