St Petersburg’s stunning Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is perhaps the most ostentatious and colourful shrine ever built for the memory of one person.
Construction of this Russian orthodox-style church was ordered by Tsar Alexander III of Russia, following the assassination of his father, Tsar Alexander II in 1881. Alexander II was assassinated by an anarchist’s bomb on the very spot where the church stands today. Construction lasted from 1883 to 1907 and the project was completely covered by the wealthy imperial family, costing them an estimated 4.5 million roubles.
The church sits beside one of St Petersburg’s canals which shoot off from the Neva River. The onion domes and the pointy spires reaching into the sky let you know that you’re close to the church. The first thing you’ll notice when you see the church for the first time is the beautiful assault of colour on your eyes.
The church is covered by a patchwork of intricate colours, seemingly a giant mosaic from a distance. Upon entering the church, you’ll notice that the décor can only get more colourful.
While you are admiring the church and taking your photographs, be very mindful of pickpockets. The church is one of the city’s largest attractions and the surrounding area is teeming with people. This makes it a paradise for pickpockets. So, exercise all the precautions with your possessions and you will be fine.
If you thought that the colours and décor on the outside was impressive, then you will find the inside truly mesmerising.
The paintings and patterns which adorn the walls are almost hypnotic. If you know your Russian Imperial Family history, you will know that they didn’t cut corners when it came to building and buying themselves luxuries. They had the finest money could buy. The church is no exception. The detail, the gold, the almost excessive grandeur make it typically ‘Tsar’.
The church can get very busy inside too. During my visit in June 2016, it was very busy. So be aware of pickpockets again, they operate inside the church too, disappointingly.
In one corner of the church, I noticed a crowd of people snapping their cameras away at something under a shrine. My curiosity walked me over to see what it was. I was looking at a patch of cobblestone. This was allegedly the very spot upon which Alexander II was standing when he was assassinated, and the cobblestone is preserved from the original street which ran through here before.
Navigating my way through the crowds and past the gift shop, I left the church with a full camera.
It is easy to see why the church has become a symbol of the city, and one of its major tourist attractions. It may be attached to Russia’s period of imperial history, but the colours and domes and intricately painted walls make it an architectural gem which must be seen while in the city.
Have you ever visited the church? Let me know in the comments what you thought of it!