Joe Journeys – Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg, Russia

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An evening pause: Hat tip Danae. As she wrote, “This next may be in keeping with religious or security undercurrents just now, or as something beautiful to see at any time at all. Tsar Nicholas III was mortally wounded in his carriage by a bomb thrown by revolutionary terrorists in 1881. As a memorial to him, his family built this fabulous church on the very spot in St. Petersburg where the attack occurred. The interior is amazing, walls and ceiling entirely covered with colorful religious mosaics.”

Just watch. You will wish you were there in real life.



  • Laurie

    What therefore man hath torn asunder, let God join together

  • Diane Wilson

    St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with its massive churches, many palaces, canals, monuments, and so much more. It was the capital of an empire and a major center for the arts.

    Even when our educational system was better than it is now, this is not something that was ever taught; I had to discover this on my own. World history was mostly western Europe, and beyond there be dragons.

  • ken anthony

    I wish I had my photos of the Hagia Sophia which I lost because the developer was closed the afternoon my flight was leaving!

  • wayne

    It’s a Museum of Mosaics.
    Hasn’t been an actual Church since before the Bolshevik revolution, and even then, the public was never allowed inside.
    Communists destroyed the interior as soon as they could get their hands on it. It was variously used for storage or sad idle for 70 years, and at one point almost demolished.
    The inside was completely rehabbed in the 1990’s, and true to Russian form, $1 million ruble cost-overruns for the project. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in St Petersburg.

  • jwing

    What you say is so true, and I agree with your sentiment, but I believe the Russian Orthodox Church is very much alive and well. It is that single candle aglow in the darkened cathedral, and it is my belief it is Russia’s last hope to ultimately throw off the lingering vestiges of 70 years of atheist communism.
    My wife and I adopted two year old twins in 2004 from Southeastern Siberia in a small hovel of a town called Birobidjan.
    It was in December and bitter cold and snow covered. We asked our driver/minder/interpreter if we could stop in the only pharmacy to buy cough medicine/decongestant for the twins 17 hour plane ride home. I cross the street to walk into a park with a WW2 monument and what looked like a small white onion shaped squat, steeple-shaped kiosk surrounded by a stand of snow covered fir trees. It had beautiful painted icons adorning it around. I casually grabbed the door handle and was surprised to find it open and as I stepped inside two old women who were praying turned and motioned that I just be quite. It was a candle lit nook filled with iconography. It was silent other than these two humble living saints. It was the most unexpected, shocking and mystical experience. These women were the soul, heart and hope of mother Russia. I stayed for about ten minutes and graciously gestured thanks and left. They finally smiled at me and turned back to pray.

  • wayne

    Good deal on the Adoption!
    [Friend of mine is currently jumping through hoops to adopt a Vietnamese orphan. They are at the last step & prepared to fly to Vietnam literally any day now.]

    Wasn’t slamming the Church itself, it’s a miracle it survived at all. Just that the commies had zero use for it, until they turned it into a tourist destination.

    -Russian Orthodox Church— therein lies a huge conundrum.
    Putin has aligned himself with the Church and presents himself as the savior & protector of “religion & culture.” The church is only left-alone, as long as they toe the Party Line and they are, active participants.

    Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church

    from the descriptor blurb:
    “The lecture, which was sponsored by IWP’s Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies, focused on a recent article by the speaker, entitled “(Un)Holy Alliance: Vladimir Putin, The Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Exceptionalism.”
    Dr. Coyer began by noting that it can be easy to sympathize with the Russian Orthodox Church, which claims to preserve tradition and uphold moral values. He then described the complexities and various dimensions of the Church’s involvement with the Russian state.
    Orthodoxy is not viewed by Russians in the same way that religion is widely viewed in the West. For example, Dr. Coyer noted, 30 percent of respondents in Russia who self-identified as Orthodox simultaneously also identified as atheists. Dr. Coyer explained that Orthodoxy in post-Soviet Russia is a matter of culture and identity, not necessarily the belief in a Supreme Being.
    In addition, the speaker described Vladimir Putin’s attempts to increase the strength of the Russian Orthodox Church, with over 20,000 churches being built from 2000 onwards. He argued that this resurgence in the Church’s strength added to Russian exceptionalism and nationalism. Russia has an advantage in its citizens’ mindsets, in that they are more fiercely dedicated to their homeland. By contrast, a 2015 Pew Research Center poll found that Europeans overwhelmingly would not be willing to fight for their countries.”

  • jwing

    All true…but those two elderly women were wise beyond any KGB apparatchik’s ability to deceive, especially Mr. Putin. I felt God’s presence in that small grotto as I have never in my life. Touchingly, that humble little chapel was in the park dedicated to the 26 million Russians who perished fighting against Hitler’s Nazism while under the thumb of an equally evil Stalin. I experienced a window into that tough strength and of those millions of mothers (Babushkas) that have kept the Russian faith lit and alive, albeit hidden.
    The Russian people are some of the toughest people to ever live on this earth….sadly they have been misled and believed in the worst of lies, systems of government and leaders the world has ever known.

  • Diane Wilson

    That codependent relationship between Putin and the Russian Orthodox church is no accident, and mirrors the relationship between the Tsars and the church, and this is probably no accident. Putin has a deep knowledge of Russian history, far more than almost anyone in the west. I understand him best as one of the powerful Tsars of the Empire days, who used his KGB experience as a sort of graduate school.

    The Bolsheviks did indeed destroy many churches, more so in Moscow than in Petersburg/Leningrad, which they were mostly satisfied to leave in neglect and decay. As Dmitri Shostakovich said, relating to his Leningrad symphony about the city in WWII, Leningrad was a city that Stalin tried to destroy, and that Hitler merely finished the job.

    I appreciate the restoration work very much, for the churches and for all else, the palaces, the museums, and so much more, while there is still some memory of what these works once were, as well as the skills to do the restoration. Whatever else one may say about Russia, it would be a shame for this artistic legacy to be lost.

  • wayne

    jwing– good deal, again. Didn’t mean to neglect your experience.
    Diane Wilson– very good stuff.

    From my limited understanding, Putin definitely exploits Russian nationalism & I do believe there is an “unholy” alliance between the State & Church. (He’s Al Capone with KGB training.)

    It is a beautiful place and I am surprised it wasn’t erased from the Earth.

  • Alex Andrite

    ” …it is a museum of mosaics.”
    How sad that so many look upon this as such. As beautiful and marvelous as it is.
    I do not know if the Altar area has been Consecrated or not, but I suspect that it has.
    It is then an Orthodox Church. The ground at the Altar area has been sanctified.
    It is Holy Ground. Is there a Priest serving the Mysteries there ? I do not know.
    All else is beyond me and my understanding.

    Perhaps read “The Orthodox Church” by Timothy Ware, and some questions will be answered.

    Orthodox = Correct belief.

  • Diane Wilson

    “Orthodox” is more of a historical term in Russia, as the Russian Orthodox church is heir to the Byzantine church, which is the descendant of Greek Orthodox, the eastern descendant of the Roman church. After the fall of Constantinople, Moscow considered itself to be the “third Rome.” Russia’s national identity derives from the arrival of Christianity in the region around Kiev.

    Alex, thanks for the pointer to “The Orthodox Church.” Some good Russian histories are James Billington’s “The Icon and the Axe” and Orlando Figes’s “Natasha’s Dance.”

  • wayne

    Alex Andrite–
    That was me– “museum of mosaics,” — that’s what they call it, at their own website.
    –It’s a “church” in name only. The grounds nor the insides are consecrated and there are no regular services. Even pre-revolution, the public was not allowed inside.
    Bolshevik’s largely destroyed the interior after the commie revolution and then proceeded to persecute Religion in all it’s forms, until the current Oligarchs co-opted the church en-masse.
    [Putin builds Churches for PR purposes, DJT wants to build airports for the same reason.]
    It was alternately used for storage and/or abandoned & neglected for 70+ years. A local Museum took control of the building in the 1970’s and the inside was rehabbed completely in the 1990’s.
    Admission is 15 Russian “dollars.”

    If one enjoys such architecture, it’s certainly beautiful. As for honest-to-God “religion,” it’s a PR ploy.

  • pzatchok

    And here I sit, baptized Byzantine Catholic.

    I would love to go and visit all those churches. Along with a few of the wooden ones in Russia.

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