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What secrets are kept by the "Temple of the Sailors" in Kronstadt, and Why is it so similar to the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Constantinople
What secrets are kept by the "Temple of the Sailors" in Kronstadt, and Why is it so similar to the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Constantinople

This famous cathedral in Kronstadt is often called the "Naval Cathedral". Magnificent from an architectural point of view and majestic, it was built by analogy with the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, but in the end it turned out to be absolutely original and unique. This is the largest naval cathedral in our country and, in general, the last cathedral to be built in the Russian Empire. In fact, it is both an architectural monument, a temple - the "patron saint" of sailors, and a maritime museum.

Cathedral for sailors

The question of the appearance of a majestic "temple for sailors" in Kronstadt has been raised in Russia since the 1830s. The highest permission to raise funds for the construction of the cathedral was accepted only towards the end of the 19th century, when Vice Admiral Nikolai Kaznakov submitted a petition.

Author's sketch
Author's sketch

Anchor Square was chosen as a place for the construction of the temple. It was decided to make the dome so high that the sea vessels approaching Kronstadt could orient themselves on it and the cross crowning it.

The sailors did not like the initial project, made by the architect A. Tomishko, although the emperor approved it. Then the project was entrusted to Vasily Kosyakov, who worked on the creation of the temple together with the engineer Alexander Viksel. It was according to this project that the cathedral was erected.

It was decided that the temple would be built in the image and likeness of the Cathedral of St. Sofia in Constantinople. Before designing Kosyakov specially traveled to Turkey to take measurements of the St. Sophia Church.

Saint Sophie Cathedral Cathedral of st. Sofia and St. Nicholas

Before the construction of the Naval Cathedral, a prayer service was served, which was personally performed by John of Kronstadt. The royal family was present at the ceremonial laying of the cathedral in May 1903. After the prayer, fireworks were thundered. Then Emperor Nicholas II, together with his entourage, planted young oaks around the future church.

Construction works

The importance of the construction of this cathedral for sailors is evidenced by the sums that people gave for its construction. So, 280 thousand rubles were donated by sailors of different ranks (from sailors to admirals) from all Russian fleets, 2 thousand were gathered by the crew of the gunboat “Brave” for the altar cross, 2,800 thousand were gathered by tailors of the port trampoline for a mosaic icon, 700 rubles were donated by John of Kronstadt. The officers' wives with their own money bought and hand-embroidered carpets for the steps of the temple with silver and pearls. 1.7 million rubles were allocated from the state treasury, and another 1,450 rubles came from the Kronstadt budget for the banner.

Temple in Kronstadt

The symbolism of the cathedral

The cathedral is designed in a neo-Byzantine style, and it really repeats the general structure of the church of St. Sofia in Constantinople. Although it is slightly narrower and taller than its "older sister" Sophia, in all the main elements (the central dome with numerous windows, internal arches, pillars and pylons, side semi-domes), these two buildings are very similar. As in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, in the Kronstadt church, the paintings and mosaics are made in the Byzantine style.

Cathedral of st. Nicholas (left) and St. Sofia (right). / Photo:, user pink_mathilda Cathedral of st. Nicholas (left) and St. Sofia (right). / Photo:, user pink_mathilda

As conceived by Vasily Kosyakov, everything in this cathedral is symbolic. The visitor can simultaneously get acquainted with the history of Christianity, and with the history of the navy, and in general, everything here is saturated with the spirit of the sea.

The temple has many interesting details. For example, a lamp in the form of an anchor

The interior is a combination of sky and sea. Therefore, the dome is painted with stars on a sky-blue background, which also depicts the face of the Savior, and the marble floor is decorated with figures of the inhabitants of the sea.The entrance is "guarded" by fish that can be seen on massive doors and on the floor. And on the friezes of the large dome of the temple there are 12 molded anchors and lifebuoys.

The floor of the temple The floor of the temple Fish on the doors

The main images in the design of the cathedral were also chosen for a reason. Saint Nicholas, after whom the temple is named, is known to be the patron saint of sailors. The apostles Peter and Paul reminded of the father of the Russian fleet, Peter. St. John of Rylsky was considered the patron saint of John of Kronstadt. Well, the southern facade of the cathedral is decorated with a mosaic depicting St. Mitrofaniy of Voronezh, who at one time supported Peter I in his endeavors.

The patron saints of the temple

Cathedral under the Bolsheviks

After the Revolution, and in October 1929, the cathedral was closed and it was destroyed. The Bolsheviks desecrated the altar of the Lord, the crosses and bells of the temple were thrown down.

One of the bells, the weight of which is 4840 kg, was never thrown off by the sacrilegians, and it was left hanging on the belfry. During the Great Patriotic War, when an observation post was located in the dome of the cathedral, this bell was very useful - its ringing warned local residents about air strikes.

During the restoration of the temple, the heroic bell was restored, now it is in operation. Alas, the rest were lost forever.

The cathedral also had another very annoying loss - black and white commemorative marble plaques. The black ones were inscribed with the names of the sailors who died in the battles, and the white ones - the dead naval priests. After the Revolution, these boards were removed and smashed. They were allowed to make steps and tombstones. In particular, a path to the Summer Garden of Kronstadt was made of black slabs.

Meanwhile, the outstanding historian, Major General Apollo Krotkov, collected the names of the sailors who died a heroic death from 1696 to 1913 for five years. In our time, when the tablets were restored, it turned out that the historian's manuscripts had been lost, so they had to collect these names from scratch.

The cathedral had to be seriously restored

During the Great Patriotic War, anti-aircraft guns were installed on the dome of the temple. The temple itself was repeatedly subjected to enemy shelling, and although several German shells hit it, it remained intact.

In comparison with other churches, most of which were destroyed after the Revolution, the cathedral in Kronstadt was still “lucky”. After the war, it housed the House of Culture, then it was used as the Officers' House, it was used for film screenings and concerts. And since the 1980s, a museum has been built here.

Now the unique temple-monument has been restored and is in operation. Alas, despite all the efforts of sailors and historians, only a small part of the original interior decoration was restored.

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