You can’t just take and … skip the creation of Auguste Montferrand – St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Firstly, it is the fourth largest Christian building in Europe: only the Roman Basilica of St. Peter, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence are larger. And one of the best views of the city opens from the Isaakievsky colonnade. We tell you how to get inside and what you should know before visiting.
- Why visit
- Address and opening hours
- Architecture and sculpture in the temple
- Interesting facts
- Tips for the visitor
- Where to stay nearby
Reasons to visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral
This is a Russian Orthodox church, but its appearance resembles European Catholic architectural masterpieces. It’s hard not to take pictures here at every step. Set aside a couple of hours to:
- go around the temple and see the outer columns of marble rocks;
- marvel at the sculptural decoration and bronze doors with images of saints, which are made by analogy with the gates of the Florentine baptistery;
- consider the decoration of lapis lazuli and malachite, wall painting and stained glass;
- see giant mosaic icons (tourists often confuse them with paintings).
Address and opening hours
The cathedral is located on St. Isaac’s Square of the same name in the center of St. Petersburg near the Admiralteyskaya metro station. Walk 500 m along Malaya Morskaya Street and come out to the walls of the temple. You will also get here from Sennaya Square without any problems: go along Grivtsov Lane to the Moika River embankment and turn left.
The museum is open from 10:00 to 18:00. The ticket offices are open from 10:00 to 17:30. Wednesday is a day off.
The colonnade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral has a separate work schedule. You can take a look at the panorama of the city from the height of the cathedral from 10:00 to 18:00. During the tourist season from May 1 to September 30 — from 10:00 to 21:30 seven days a week.
The cost of a ticket to the museum-monument “St. Isaac’s Cathedral”:
- standard — 450 rubles;
- ISIC cardholders (international student ID, which works as a discount card) — 270 rubles;
- children from 7 to 18 years old — 200 rubles;
- pensioners — 200 rubles;
- students, graduate students, residents — 200 rubles;
- there are benefits for free admission: children under 7 years old, disabled people of group I or II, members of a large family, military personnel.
Life hack how to get to the cathedral for free. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is an active church. It holds services at 9:00 and 16:00 daily, except Wednesday. During the service, the museum turns into a church, and there is no need to pay for admission. Just enter the cathedral from the side of the Bronze Horseman — these doors open for parishioners.
Ticket price for the colonnade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral:
- standard ticket — 300 rubles;
- entry after 18:00 — 500 rubles . There are no benefits.
Look for even more ideas for cultural leisure in St. Petersburg for the thrifty in this collection.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral has an interesting fate with a touch of mysticism. Take at least the number of attempts to build it. Count your fingers!
It was first converted from a drawing barn building in 1707. The wooden church was completed on the day of St. Isaac of Dalmatia, the patron saint of Emperor Peter I (hence the name). Then the church stood on Admiralteysky Meadow — today this place is occupied by the fountain of the Alexander Garden. By 1717, the temple had fallen into disrepair, and the emperor entrusted the German architect Georg Johann Mattarnovi to lay it in stone on the Senate Square. In 1735, lightning struck the cathedral and caused a fire. In this event, the residents saw a “sign of God” and avoided the building.
Catherine II undertook to revive the cathedral and ordered the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi to put the temple behind the famous “Bronze Horseman”. The construction lasted for more than 30 years, but the architect never completed the project: in 1796, Catherine II died, and the Italian soon fell ill and returned to his homeland.
Alexander I decided to make the temple the main advantage of St. Petersburg, and for this it was necessary to radically rebuild the building. The competition for the best project was won by French architect Auguste Montferrand. While working on the project, Auguste often went to Europe and closely examined the elements of architecture in the style of late classicism. The monarch never found the opening of St. Isaac’s Cathedral: it was built for 40 years, from 1818 to 1858.
Cathedral in Soviet times
After the revolution, St. Isaac’s Cathedral began a difficult period. In 1922, the Bolsheviks looted the temple and took out 45 kilograms of gold and two tons of silver. In 1928, it was forbidden to hold divine services, after which it became a museum of atheism. The main exhibit, Foucault’s pendulum, was suspended from its dome. This device proves that the Earth rotates around its axis. Now the pendulum rests in the basements of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and from time to time participates in exhibitions.
During the Great Patriotic War, St. Petersburg museum staff hid exhibits and historical valuables in the basements of St. Isaac’s. The German pilots used the dome of the cathedral as a landmark and did not shoot at the building directly. The basement remained intact, which cannot be said about the facade: fragments from the explosions left marks on the walls and columns, which are still visible.
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Exterior and interior decoration
It is not for nothing that St. Isaac’s Cathedral is compared with such architectural masterpieces as St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. It’s not just about height and area, but also about the design: an abundance of precious stones and elegant sculptures.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral outside
The bell tower of the temple with its gilded dome and arched openings attracts the eye. The vault is surrounded by a colonnade consisting of 24 columns and 12 elongated windows. Four belfries rise in the corners. Sculptures are hidden on the exterior facades of the cathedral: look closely at the balustrade of the dome and you will see 24 statues of angels, and at the corners of the pediments of the temple you will notice 16 figures of the apostles and evangelists.
Each side of St. Isaac’s Cathedral has a separate sculptural composition based on biblical subjects.
- The northern facade. The central phrase “Lord, by thy power the king will rejoice” is the main ideathe temple. In confirmation of the inscription, the bas-relief “Resurrection of Christ” depicts Jesus rising from the tomb.
- Western facade. Bas-relief “Meeting of Isaac of Dalmatia with Emperor Theodosius”. The meaning of the plot is the unity of royal and spiritual power.
- The eastern facade. The bas-relief “Isaac of Dalmatia stops the Emperor Valens” shows a scene in which the saint blocks the way of the emperor and prophesies his death.
- South facade. The plot for the relief was the biblical scene of the adoration of the Magi. In the center there is a picture of Mary with a baby sitting on a throne.
The walls are decorated with gray Ruskeal marble, and 112 columns of red granite make St. Isaac’s Cathedral more elegant. The entrance to the temple consists of three impressive doors made of oak and bronze, each with an area of 42 sq. m., the height of the shutters is almost 7 m. They are decorated with sculptures, busts and reliefs.
Features of the interior of the temple
You might think that you are not in a temple, but in a museum of stones. There is a storehouse of valuable minerals: shungite shale, Shoksha porphyry, malachite, white marble, Solomenskaya breccia, Badakhshan lapis lazuli.
The main element of the temple’s decoration is, of course, the iconostasis. It is decorated with white marble, malachite, lapis lazuli and framed by ten columns. The icons are painted in the Florentine mosaic technique. The altar window is decorated with a stained glass window depicting the risen Christ, whose scarlet cloak sparkles with emeralds and amethysts.
The drum of the dome of the cathedral is framed by images of the apostles and statues of angels. A picturesque painting of the Virgin Mary surrounded by patron saints covers the dome’s vault. The composition is completed by the image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a silver dove with outstretched wings.
The most expensive temple of the XIX century. The treasury spent 23 million rubles on the construction of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. For comparison, the state allocated 2 million for the Trinity Cathedral.
That’s the scope!The temple accommodates 14,000 visitors and is only slightly inferior to St. Paul’s Cathedral in Italy, which has a capacity of 15,000 people.
The cathedral is a long-term building. The construction of the temple took almost half a century due to the peculiarities of the soil and the complexity of the structure. But there is also a mystical version about the reasons for this period. According to legend, a certain clairvoyant prophesied Montferrand’s death immediately after the construction of the temple. Coincidence or bad luck, the architect really died a month after the official consecration of St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
Mysticism and legends. Petersburgers believed that the Romanov house would fall after the removal of the scaffolding that surrounded the cathedral. In 1916, the forests were removed, and in March 1917, Nicholas II abdicated.
Find these murals. Famous artists worked on the painting of the cathedral. Fyodor Bruni, who became famous in 1841 with the painting “The Copper Serpent”, depicted the “Last Judgment” on the ceiling of the cathedral. And Karl Bryullov, famous for the painting “The Last Day of Pompeii”, painted in the ceiling “The Virgin in Glory”, whose area is more than 800 sq.m.
The most beautiful palaces and parks of St. Petersburg
For the brilliant palace and park ensembles, you need to go to Peterhof, Oranienbaum, Gatchina, Pavlovsk and Tsarskoye Selo. We talked about each of them in the guide to the suburbs of St. Petersburg.
Our recommendations will help you to enjoy your visit to the cathedral properly.
Take advantage of the guided tour, which is included in the ticket price: cashiers sometimes forget to inform you about it. At the entrance you will notice small groups of people — go up to them and wait for the guide. The museum staff will come and take you on a tour of the temple. The tour lasts 15 minutes.
Download the audio guide. You will find free travel guides on the Internet on the first request. At the same time, you will come across several records at once with different feeds and new facts.
Get ready to climb the colonnade, because 262 steps is not going up to the third floor without an elevator. Put on comfortable shoes and take a drink with you. It is often windy on the observation deck, grab a scarf and warm clothes. Keep in mind that the ascent goes up a narrow staircase and in a confined space.
Be patient. There are usually a lot of people on the colonnade, so you will have to complete a quest to take a picture on the observation deck. At the same time, the queue resolves quickly: As soon as visitors walk around all four sides of the tower, observation points are quickly released.
Where to stay
Look at Montferrand’s creation from the window of your room! We have selected hotels and apartments that are within walking distance from St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Choose the option you like and book a room on Ostrovok.ru .
The Peter Hotel.The comfortable hotel is located in an 18th-century building. It has its own courtyard, where breakfast is served in the warm season. From the windows of the rooms, guests admire the architecture of the city and its streets.
- Room rate: from 10,059 rubles/night.
- Address: Admiralteysky Prospekt, 8.
- View the hotel
SO/Saint Petersburg. A five-star designer hotel, it features a swimming pool, gym, conference rooms, concierge and parties on the panoramic summer terrace.
- Room rate: from 15,000 rubles/night
- Address: Voznesensky Prospekt, 6.
- View the hotel
“Adagio”. Cozy and modern rooms are rented here. Excellent buffet breakfasts are included in the price. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is visible from the window, it is no more than three minutes on foot to the Palace Square.
- Room rate: from 4930 rubles/night.
- Address: 34 Bolshaya Morskaya Street.
- View the hotel
Designer Arkadia Nova mini-hotel in the apartment building of ballerina Telesheva.
- Room rate: from 5360 rubles/night.
- Address: 16 Malaya Morskaya Street.
- View the hotel
In the blog Ostrovok.ru there are collections of hotels in St. Petersburg for different occasions:
- for holidays with children,
- for white nights,
- for immersion in history.
It is almost impossible to visit St. Petersburg and avoid St. Isaac’s Cathedral! Put on comfortable shoes, have a hearty lunch and go to St. Isaac’s Square, 4. The scale of the temple, luxury finishes and stunning views of St. Petersburg will definitely find a place in your heart!
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