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You can see the colossal colonnade of Kazan Cathedral, covering a huge area on the southern side of Nevsky Prospect. In fact the cathedral building itself can't be seen from the square, due to the huge size of the colonnade – consisting of 96 columns, arranged in four rows.
Kazan Cathedral was the principle place of worship in the Russian Empire prior to the building of St Isaac's Cathedral. The foundations of Kazan Cathedral were lain in 1801 in the presence of His Majesty Alexander I and the entire Royal Family. The cathedral is dedicated to the Kazan Holy Ikon of the Blessed Virgin, which by tradition has guarded the fortune of the Romanov royal line since its first accession to the throne.
The Kazan Holy Ikon of the Blessed Virgin is one of the most greatly venerated ikons of Ancient Russia. Legend places its discovery among the ashes of the rased city of Kazan in 1579. There are several likenesses of the ikon, all of which are acknowledged with equal reverence by the Orthodox Church. One such likeness was brought to St.Petersburg from Moscow in 1710.
By the turn of the C19th the church where the Holy Ikon was kept had become dilapidated, and it was decided to replace it with a truly impressive new cathedral. Count Alexander Stroganoff was appointed Head of the Commission in charge of the building works. His personal contributions to the building costs frequently exceeded the funds advanced by the Treasury. Ten years later, Count Stroganoff ceremonially handed the keys to the new cathedral to Tsar Alexander I in solemn splendour. Meanwhile the troops of the St.Petersburg Garrison formed an Honour Guard for the march-past on Nevsky prospect.
Shortly after its consecration Kazan Cathedral became a true monument to military valour. Following the war with Napoleon, the spoils of war – regimental standards and banners, and the keys to freed cities – were brought to the Cathedral. Here in 1813 Field-Marshall Kutuzov was buried – who had led the Russian forces against Napoleon. He died far from his homeland in the small Prussian town of Bunzlau. Petersburgers met his cortege at the city boundaries. The horses were unharnessed from the bier, and officers of Kutuzov's own regiments themselves pulled the cortege to the Cathedral. The queue of well-wishers wanting to file past his coffin to pay their last respects took two days and nights to pass by the great General.
Shortly after the Revolution the Bolsheviks seized possession of Kazan Cathedral, looting it of all its gold, silver and precious stones. In 1932 it was closed entirely. Subsequently it was reopened as the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. Today Divine Worship is restored in the Cathedral, and the Holy Kazan Ikon of the Blessed Virgin is one again restored to its rightful place.
There are always many worshippers at the Cathedral who have come to venerate the Holy Kazan Ikon of the Blessed Virgin. The Ikon aided the Russian militiamen to relieve Moscow from Polish occupation in the C17th, and lent its aid to Peter I against the Swedes. Kutuzov prayed before the Ikon prior to meeting Napoleon on the field of battle. There's a legend that even Stalin ordered the ikon to be taken on a circuit-round of the city prior to the decisive Battle For Moscow in WW2.
St. Petersburg is known as Russian cultural capital. It is also called “Northern Palmira” or “Northern Venice” as it was founded on islands in the delta of the Neva River and has a lot of architectural masterpieces.
Nevsky Prospect is the main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. It is a real treasury of Russian culture. The street was planned by Peter the Great as beginning of the road to Novgorod and Moscow. It goes through the historical center of the city, firstly - from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station and then, after making a turn at Vosstaniya Square, to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
Life on Nevsky Prospect has always been the object of attention of writers. For example, it was described by Nikolai Gogol in his story "Nevsky Prospect". Fyodor Dostoevsky often employed the Prospect as a setting within his works, such as Crime and Punishment and The Double: A Petersburg Poem.
It is best to start your walk from famous Palace Square where you can visit one of the most prominent world museums – the Hermitage. In the center of the square you will see the Alexander Column, a very popular among tourists place. With Your Audio Guide you will listen to the history of the square and all its attractions (The New Hermitage, The Winter Palace, the Alexander Column and The General Staff Building).
During the tour you will walk through the Alexander Gardens, past the Admiralty, see a lot of historical houses – real architectural “pearls” - Wawelberg's Mansion Apartments, The Sivers-Treiberg House, The Chaplin Brothers House, Chicherin's House, etc. The chief sights of the Prospect include palaces, churches and cathedrals, shopping centers and department stores. Among palaces are the Rastrelliesque Stroganov Palace, the Anichkov Palace, The Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, Grand-Princess Yusopova's Residence and the Mikhailovsky, or Michael Palace.
Nevsky Prospect deserves the name "the street of religious tolerance". Religious buildings are presented by the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the picturesque Russian-style Cathedral of Our Savior on Spilt Blood – a place where terrorists exploded the Emperor Alexander II, the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, St.Catherine's Cathedral - the oldest Catholic Church in Russia, and The Armenian Church.
Nevsky Prospect is also the city’s central shopping street and the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife. For that You can visit the Art Nouveau Bookhouse,Elisseeff Emporium, half a dozen 18th-century churches, , an enormous 18th-century shopping mall “Gostinny Dvor”, a mid-19th-century department store “The Passage” and The Alexandrinsky Theatre, in the yard of which a monument to Catherine the Great is standing.
Your audio guide is glad to present you a wide audio tour of the Nevsky Prospeсt with map and descriptions. With this map, you will never get lost and you will always know what surprise awaits you ahead.