St Isaac’s Cathedral is the fourth largest cupola construction in the world. It’s cupola served as a model for White House in Washington. The fourth highest domed Cathedral in the world (102 meters/333 feet), the construction of this cathedral cost ten times more than the Winter Palace. Nearly 100 kilograms of pure gold were used to gild the dome alone, and the manner in which the solid marble columns were erected is considered a modern engineering marvel.
The interior is faced with 14 different kinds of marble and other types of precious stones and minerals. A climb to the top of the dome offers one of the most beautiful panoramic views of St Petersburg. This Cathedral had a most unusual history Peter the Great first commissioned a wooden church on the meadow at the side of the Admiralty in St Petersburg during 1710. Peter named it after a Byzantine monk St. Isaac of Dalmatia, as he was born on St. Isaac’s feast day according to the Orthodox calendar. However, this first church was too close to the Neva River and was soon destroyed by floods. It has been rebuilt several times.
The main architect who designed the cathedral was. the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand (1786 – 1858), who had studied in the atelier of Napoleon’s designer, Charles Percier. It took him forty years to create the church. The Cathedral was consecrated on May 30th 1858 but Nicholas I who played a major role in its construction did not live to see it, having died three years earlier. Montferrand witnessed the consecration and was dead within a month afterwards. His grieving widow tried to carry out the master architect’s will by requesting that he be buried in the Cathedral’s crypt but Tsar Alexander II refused to sully it with the tomb of a none believer and stated that Montferrand was only a minor employee of the State who did not deserve any honor. His embalmed body was returned to Paris and he was buried in the Montmarte cemetery.
Prior to the Revolution in 1917 it was noted that inside the Cathedral there were approximately 200 unsecured icons and paintings, plus hundreds of other decorative objects and items of religious paraphernalia, comprising several tons of silver or gold embellishment. This fantastic wealth and splendor, enhanced by hundreds of burning candles, colorful vestments of the resident clergy and their sounds of chanting provided a free spectacle that no theater could match. This was open house to all, as the Orthodox Church was not discriminative. But the Soviets emptied the building of all valuables and confiscated everything, before opening the building again as a Museum of Atheism. Today the Cathedral is still a museum, but since 1992 it has been holding religious services on special occasions.
You can visit the St. Isaac’s Cathedral as part of a two-day or one-day tour in St Petersburg, as well as on its own program.