Christ the Savior, Moscow, Russia

When Alexander I came to power in 1801 he was conducting a defensive war against Napoleon Bonaparte. Eventually the war was carried to Moscow and as Alexander evacuated the city, weighted by a great sense of responsibility for allowing the enemy to enter his country and carry the horrors of war, he prayed and vowed to honor Jesus Christ with a great structure if he would only help save his nation.

On Dec. 25, 1812, less than two weeks after the French Army was driven from Russia, Tsar Alexander signed a manifesto, declaring his intentions to build a large cathedral - the future Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Yet it was brought up only after his death during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I.

Konstantin Thon is credited for the Russian Revival design of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, inspired in part by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Its cornerstone was placed in 1839 and it took two decades to complete it, the scaffolding finally removed in 1860. One of the largest Orthodox churches in the world, it hosted the coronation of Tsar Alexander III on May 26, 1883, the same day on which the cathedral was consecrated.

Through the later period of Imperial Russia, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior served as the center of Russian spirituality. Indeed, the church managed to survive the 1920's - the worst of the Soviet antireligious campaign. Nevertheless, in 1930 the state faced economic shortfalls and in response, the government proposed to extract the 20 tons of gold of “excellent quality” from the cathedral’s dome, declaring it an “unnecessary luxury of the Soviet Union.” As a result, on Dec. 5, 1931, the Communist Party demolished the heart of Russia’s Orthodoxy.

The original structure withstood several explosions before finally collapsing. It took a year before all the rubble was finally removed, and in its place was planned the “Palace of the Soviets” - a skyscraper that was to be taller than the Eiffel Tower, complete with a statue of Lenin at the top.

Between 1937 and the invasion of Nazi Germany in 1941, a steel skeleton of the new tower went up but was disassembled and used for fortifications and bridges that carried the troops that drove Hitler back to Germany. As a result, instead of a building, for much of the Communist era the site became the location of the Moscow Pool.

When the Communist regime fell in 1991, a construction fund was initiated for the resurrection of the Cathedral. Because the money was raised by ordinary citizens, it took over three years to raise the funds. The construction of today’s the 344-foot structure began in 1995 and was finally completed in 2000.

Made of white marble and granite with glittering golden domes, the Cathedral once again stands as the most impressive ecclesiastical building in Moscow and is considered a symbol of revival and hope, and is the tallest Orthodox church in the world.
Christ the Savior, Moscow, Russia
Christ the Savior, Moscow, Russia

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