Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Khram Khrista Spasitelya

The main Russian sanctuary and cathedral of the Russian Orthodox church. According to the legend, the mother superior of Alexeyevsky Convent, which had to be relocated to give way for the Cathedral’s construction, chained herself to a tree protesting against the project, and later cursed the works predicting that ‘the place will become a dirty swamp, and the church will not stand for long’. The original Cathedral only stood for 48 years.

The decision to build a sanctuary dedicated to the victory over Napoleon in the 1812 Patriotic War was taken by Emperor Alexander I. The construction of the church designed by architect Konstantin Thon was financed through public donations. Its interior was decorated by famous artists Vasily Surikov, Vasily Vereshchagin, Ivan Kramskoy, Fyodor Bruni and many others. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1883, already during the reign of Alexander III.

The demolition of the Cathedral was ordered in 1931 directly by Joseph Stalin. The workers had to detonate the building three times to bring it down. The detonation was filmed by officials from one point only. No photographs were allowed. However, a local writer Ilya Ilf secretly took some unique shots from a guest house across the road. Prior to the demolition all the precious decorative details had been removed from the Cathedral. Marble plates were used in the construction of Kropotkinskaya and Okhotny ryad metro stations, Novokuznetskaya station was decorated with the benches from the Cathedral, crushed marble was used to cover alleys in the parks. The original plan of the authorities was to use the site for building the Palace of Soviets with a sculpture of Lenin on top of it, so colossal that on the palm of the statue’s hand several helicopters could land. But this project was replaced with an open swimming pool called Moscow (that is when the prediction of the mother superior was recalled again).

The Cathedral was rebuilt according to the original designs and consecrated in 2000. The walls of the Cathedral bear the names of the officers fallen during the 1812 Patriotic War and foreign campaigns of 1797-1806 and 1814-1815. The modern building is 8 meters taller than the old one, and the angels decorating the facade hold the real water supply pipes. Fortunately the original high reliefs of the destroyed Cathedral were preserved and are now kept at the necropolis of the Donskoy Monastery. These are absolutely unique masterpieces, representing figures made of white stone that look almost alive. At the Monastery’s open yard the visitors can see astonishing large roundels from the original decorations of the Cathedral, which in the new building have been replaced with replicas cast in bronze.

Visitors can join guided tours of the Cathedral in Russian, English, French and German. On a fine day they can enjoy the splendid panoramic view of Moscow from the Cathedral’s sky deck raising 40 meters from the ground.

Address: 15 Volkhonka Street (ulitsa Volkhonka, 15)
Opening hours: Mon from 1 pm to 5 pm, Tue-Sun from 8 am to 5 pm; the Cathedral’s museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, closed on the last Monday of every month.
How to reach: Kropotkinskaya metro station
Coordinates: 55.744754, 37.605384