Church of the Saviour on Blood


In this city of determinedly western style the Church of the Saviour is a sudden shock of medieval romanticism. Built on the site of Alexander the second’s assassination, the church embodies an inherent contradiction it’s a resolutely backwards facing shrine to the most effective, and pragmatic, reformist tsar since Peter the Great.

Unfortunately for Alexander II’s program of reform both his son Alexander the third, and grandson Nicholas the second, witnessed his death. Even more unfortunately was their simple conclusion that reform was bad and could kill you. So the assassination led to the stagnation of Alexander II’s reforms, stifling repression, and eventually to the failure of the Tsarist regime*. See I always new that studying 18th and 19th century Russian history would come in useful. 🙂

If you’re thinking it looks a bit like St Basil’s in Moscow you’d be right, this was Alexander the thirds way of sticking his fingers up at the western reformist tradition embodied in so much of St Petersburg’s architecture. Outside the church is a 19th century fantasy of a 17th century Russian church, and inside? Well Inside the church is one giant mind-groggling mosaic. The best analogy I can muster to describe it is that this is what walking around inside a Faberge egg must feel like.

*Somewhat ironically you could say that the anarchists eventually achieved what they set out to do, so maybe a better memorial for Alexander would have been the continuation of his reforms however difficult that might be. One could also draw some parallels here with current events…

Walking down the canal path

Walking down Griboedov canal path, that’s the bell tower on the western end of the church that you can see. The whole church was only finished in 1907. Just in time, you might say, for the coming storm.

Walking down the canal path (Pt II)

Walking down the canal path, closer. If you’re thinking the church is sticking out into the roadway, that’s because it is. The architects extended out into the road (the canal had to be narrowed) so that it could stand over the spot where Alexander II was mortally wounded.


We arrive at the Church in the Name of the Resurrection of Christ on the Site of the Mortal Wounding of His Honoured Majesty Alexander II, to give it it’s full canonical title. The mosaics of the exterior are all trimmed with marble (that’s the white that you can see).


faberge egg

Looking up into the dome, and yes it really is like this when the light catches the mosaics.

One thought on “Church of the Saviour on Blood

  1. Pingback: Alexander Church | My Favourite Year

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