For me, the Church of the Resurrection or Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg is one of a kind. The exterior is so pretty with the colourful and shining onion-shaped domes, making it look like a palace from some sort of fairy tale!
The construction of the church began around two years after the assassination of Tsar Aleksandr II in 1881. He was known as the good Tsar, the Liberator who initiated a lot of reforms in the Russian administration and society and also had a rather pacifist foreign policy. A bomb was thrown into his carriage by the protesters who were against him, causing fatal wounds to the Tsar. His people managed to evacuate him to the Winter Palace and he took his last breath there.
Just like other landmarks in St. Petersburg, this church also suffered some damage after World War II (it was actually already closed in 1932 after the Revolution) and was kind of neglected for a while post-war. The restoration of the mosaics and stoneworks took about 14 years to complete since 1980. The church was re-opened to public in the 1990s and has always been full with visitors ever since.
The World of Mosaics
What makes this church distinct from the others is the use of mosaics in its decor, all created by the best Russian artists at that time, making it one of the largest mosaic collections in Europe. There is no painting at all in this church, only mosaics. The mosaics cover the whole walls, arches and pillars from the lower part of the walls lined by the green serpentine rocks up to the ceiling.
The floor is covered with multi-hued marble from Italy and other parts of the church – including the lining of the walls, ornaments and more – are made of granite, jasper, green serpentine, enamels and other coloured rocks sourced from quarries in all over Europe.
Unlike the lavishly decorated, eye-catchy iconostasis in St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the iconostasis in this church feels a bit ‘calmer’… or perhaps because it is surrounded by the drowning colourful mosaics? 😂 Anyway, I initially thought the iconostasis was made of some sort of wood, but I was wrong (on second thought, they used gold and other precious stones in the churches, why would they suddenly become frugal and use woods? 😁). It is made of marble and embellished with beautiful carvings, ornaments and mosaics created by Russian artists, Victor Vasnetsov and Mikhail Nesterov. Oh, and will you just look at the richly decorated doors??!
It’s All in The Details!
On the walls we can see the scenes from the Bible while on the pillars are the image of venerated figures – the apostles, saints and martyrs (all are made of intricately detailed mosaics!). Both seemed identical to me at the first glance, but when I took a second look, I realized that they were obviously not the same. One wall displays the early life of Jesus (the angels appearing to Joseph, the Nativity scene and so on) and the other displays the life of Jesus as an adult (walking on the water, healing a man, the wedding at Cana and some more).