Whenever people think of Moscow cathedrals the first one that comes up is the Cathedral of St. Basil. However, there’s another church - the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which is actually more important in the Orthodox religion. It’s got a fascinating history that started all the way back in the 19th century. This gorgeous church is located in the center of Moscow near Kremlin and it’s definitely a must-see spot for any tourist.
Construction of the Christ the Savior Cathedral
This magnificent cathedral was first ordered to be built in 1812 to celebrate the victory over Napoleon’s army and honor those who perished in the war. Interestingly, its construction didn’t start until 1839 an even then it took 44 years for the cathedral to be finished in 1883. Unfortunately, the building you see today is not the original cathedral.
Demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
As you might already know, when the Soviet Party came to power they largely outlawed religion and all expressions of spirituality. During the worst oppression people were prohibited from going to temples or worshiping in their own home and many ancient cathedrals were destroyed. This is exactly what happened to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 1931 under Stalin’s rule. The massive church was destroyed with explosives.
Skyscraper planned in place of the Christ the Savior Church
Once the cathedral was destroyed Stalin ordered to build the Palace of the Soviets in its place. This palace was supposed to become the tallest building in the world, expected to be about 400 yards high. Construction began but shortly came to a halt when World War II began. The building was never finished.
Moscow outdoor pool
In 1958 the land where the cathedral once stood was finally out to use - it became the location of the largest outdoor pool in the world, spanning 129 meters in diameter. This pool filled with hot water was open year-round even in cold Moscow winters. The pool remained in place until 1994.
Construction of the new Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow
While criticism of the destruction of the cathedral first began in 1965 with Yuri Gagarin, the first person to travel to space, expressing his disapproval of the act, reconstruction of the church did not begin until 1995. The project was supported by many prominent politicians and the Russian Orthodox Church and was funded by both public funds and private donations. Construction of the cathedral followed the 19th century project as closely as possible while incorporating new technologies. The building was consecrated in 2000.
What to know before visiting the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
The cathedral is usually open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the hours are often extended in summer, so check the website ahead of time. It is free to enter the cathedral, however, you have to pay a fee of about 1,300 rubles per person for the guided tour if your group is smaller than 10 people. Unfortunately, taking pictures inside is not allowed. The cathedral is a popular place of pilgrimage, so plan extra time for lines and crowds if you’re visiting in summer. There’s a strict dress code enforced in the cathedral - men have to wear pants - shorts are not allowed. Women’s clothing can’t be too short or show cleavage. Both men and women have to have their shoulders covered. And as with all Orthodox churches, women have to cover their heads with a scarf or a veil.
The unbelievable history of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow