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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

The Most Amazing Vegetable Warehouse in the World

Day 689

Our first day in St Petersburg, and after a quick nap recovering from our overnight coach trip, we walked along the canal to an old morgue, which was later turned into a warehouse for vegetables and theatre props.

Ok, we visited the incredible Cathedral better known as the Church of Savior on Spilled Blood, officially called the Church of the Resurrection of Christ.

Let me tell you the history: Tsar Alexander III initiated the erection of this incredible monument in memory of his father, Tsar Alexander II, on the site where he was assassinated on 1st March 1881.

Tsar Alexander II was returning to the Winter Palace in his royal carriage. Several young members of the Peoples’ Will radical sect were waiting for him on the embankment of Ekaterina Canal. As he passed by, one of the young men threw a bomb under the carriage. The Tsar, astounded, got out of the coach, thanking God for being saved, when another conspirator threw a second bomb, killing himself and severely injuring the Emperor. He was rushed to the Winter Palace, but within the hour he had died.

The cathedral took 24 years to build and funded by the imperial family. I have read that this lavish building cost 4.5 million rubles, 1 million rubles over budget. The new Heir insisted it was built in the traditional Russian architecture as he was against the western influence that was in fashion. You may notice that it has a very similar style to the 16th century St Basil Cathedral in Moscow. I must admit that I was confused and got the two muddled up, I was expecting it to be more colourful with red twisting onion domes as well as the blue and green ones!

Now, you may be wondering why I called it a morgue and warehouse. That is because sometime after the 1917 Revolution, the church was closed. During the 900 days siege of Leningrad (the former name of St Petersburg), it was converted to a morgue for some of the 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians that died through war, starvation or disease. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, getting the unsavoury nickname “Savior on Potatoes” and then a storage unit for the Maly Opera Theatre props.

Thankfully, in 1970, the nearby St. Isaac's Cathedral was given the responsibility of the Church of Savior on Spilled Blood, and after 27 years of restoration work, longer than it took to actually be built, this fabulous building was reopened in August 1997. Here is a great example of a panel that was restored. And I hope you enjoyed the bit of Russian history. I am sure, more to come!

As we entered the Cathedral, both our jaws dropped in awe. The walls, columns and ceilings are all covered with beautiful mosaics; that is over 7,500 square metres of tiles depicting biblical scenes and religious figures. The gold halos above the heads of Christ and Saints gleam brightly. On the ceiling, it looked like large jewels were inlaid in the middle of stars; however, looking through our camera, I discovered that these were also mosaics. What a work of art! We have seen many Cathedrals, but none as stunningly beautiful as this. What a great idea to use mosaics; with the Russian weather conditions and humidity, oil paintings wouldn’t survive.

And to think that this was nearly blown up! During WWII, the church was often targeted by the Nazis, and in 1961, during the restoration, a 150kg high-explosive bomb was discovered in the central dome of the church, that, had it gone off, would have obliterated the church and surrounding area.

On one end of the cathedral was the shrine which was constructed on the exact place that Tsar Alexander II was critically injured. This required the canal to be narrowed by 8ft and complicated foundations to stop water seeping in. The shrine used to be covered in many semi-precious stones, but sadly these were all stolen over the years.

What can I say about this place? I was never very enamoured about coming to Russia until we decided to go overland to Vietnam. I am thrilled that we have now. Our photos do not do this work of art justice, the five multi-coloured onion domes on the outside and the fantastic mosaic interior really do need to be seen to be believed.

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