The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood” (known locally as Spas na Kravi) is a spectacular Russian-style church that was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881.
After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia’s devastating defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. During the second half of his reign Alexander II grew cautious of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Alexander II was finally assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage. architects were invited to submit plans for the building of this permanent monument and the definitive designs of Alfred Parland (1842-1920), were accepted after he won the competition set up by Alexander III, which stipulated that it had to be in the ‘purely Russian style of the 17th century’. The foundation stone was laid in 1883 and it took nearly a quarter of a century to complete. With its distinctive cupolas the Muscovy design is unique in St. Petersburg and provides a dramatic contrast to the Neo-Classical Architecture which dominates the city center. Amongst this colorful exterior are 20 granite plaques recording the historic events of Alexander II’s reign.
Inside there is almost 7,000 sq. meters of Italian marble and over 20 different Russian minerals, embellished with opulent mosaics based on paintings by Nikolai Bruni, Mikhail Nesterov, Viktor (Vassili) Vasnetsov, Andrei Ryabushkin and other religious artists of the late 19th century. Christ and the Apostles are portrayed within the cupola, whilst the walls and pillars are totally adorned with other Biblical scenes or images of saints. Mosaics fill the niches, crevices and cornices and no surface is left bare of ornamentation. The highest steeple is 81m (265 ft) high and the bell tower seen on the left has 144 individual mosaic coats of arms. These represent provinces, cities and towns of the Russian empire and were intended to reflect the nation’s grief after the murder of their Tsar. Lenin originally wished to demolish this monument to Tsardom until it was suggested that because large buildings were scarce, it would serve well as a warehouse. Bolsheviks proposed number of times to demolish this increasingly popular monument to Christianity, but God Saved this Marvelous Church.