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Church of the Savior – A Memorial to Tsar Alexander II

Built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was built as a memorial to his father by Alexander III, starting in 1883 and completed in 1907 during the reign of Nicholas II. Richly decorated, and featuring a number of onion domes in varying sizes, the church is an architectural marvel and one of the most popular attractions in the city of St Petersburg. While the historic architecture of St Petersburg is mostly in the Neoclassical and Baroque styles, the church, which is also referred to as the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ or Church on Spilt Blood, resembles the 16th century St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

The chief architect was Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, and some of Russia's most celebrated artists were commission to decorate the interior of the Church of the Savior, including Mikhail Nesterov, Viktor Vasnetsov and Mikhail Vrubel. The interior of the church, including the ceilings, are totally covered in mosaics, with the main theme being of biblical scenes or religious figures. Between the pictures are incredibly detailed patterned borders, with every available space decorated. Amid all this extravagance of color and detail and surrounded by a shrine garnished in semi-precious stones and rare crystals, the simple cobblestones upon which the blood of Tsar Alexander II was spilled remain in the exact spot as the day it happened.

It was on March 13, 1881, that an attack was made on Tsar Alexander's carriage as it passed along the embankment of the Griboedov Canal. A grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded, leaving the tsar unhurt, but shaken. It is reported that the tsar stepped out of his carriage, and at this time a co-conspirator threw a second explosive device which went off, killing himself and wounding the tsar. Tsar Alexander II was taken to the Winter Palace, but died a few hours later. A temporary shrine was erected at the site of the attack, later being replaced by the ornate monument to the slain tsar.

Following the Russian Revolution, the church was looted and damaged, with the Soviet government closing it to the public. During the Siege of Leningrad in World War II the church was used as a morgue and later used as a warehouse. It was only in 1970 that the idea of restoring the church was acted upon, and it took 27 years to restore it to its former glory, reopening to the public in August 1997. The Church of the Savior has not been consecrated and is therefore not used for worship. It stands as a memorial to Tsar Alexander II and a monument of architectural and artistic skill.


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