Trinity Cathedral, St. Petersburg

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Trinity Cathedral, St. Petersburg

The Trinity Cathedral (Russian: Троицкий собор, Troitsky sobor), sometimes called the Troitsky Cathedral, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a late example of the Empire style, built between 1828 and 1835 to a design by Vasily Stasov. It is located due south of the Admiralty on Izmaylovskiy Prospekt, not far from the Tekhnologichesky Institut Metro station.

The cathedral, which can accommodate up to 3,000 visitors, has only recently begun to be restored to its pre-Revolutionary splendor after years of neglect. In honor of the victory in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878, when the Russians liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman domination, a memorial column was constructed in front of the northern facade of the cathedral in 1886. The cathedral became a part of the Saint Petersburg World Heritage Site in 1990.

On August 25, 2006, with reconstruction work underway, the main dome of the Cathedral collapsed after a fire, as did one of the smaller domes. They do plan to rebuild, and estimate completion in 18 months.

Early years

According to the Russian tradition, each regiment of the imperial guards had its own cathedral. The Trinity Cathedral was the regimental church of the Izmailovsky regiment of Imperial guards, one of the oldest guards regiments in the Russian Army. Named after the village of Izmailovo, near Moscow, the Izmailovsky regiment moved to Saint Petersburg when the city was established as the Russian capital under Empress Anne.

On July 12, 1733, a large field tent operating as a church was consecrated here, with icons painted on a dark blue satin. However, the church functioned only in the summer, and in winter the soldiers and officers had to attend other parish churches. In 1754–1756, a wooden church was built on the site on order of Empress Elizabeth. The church had two altars, the main one of which was consecrated in the name of the Trinity. It suffered heavy damage as a result of the flood of 1824 and had to be rebuilt, a commission given by Emperor Nicholas I to Vasily Stasov.

Construction of the present church

Construction of the new church began in May 1828, and despite several accidents hampering the work, the cathedral was consecrated in May 1835. The cathedral rises to a height of more than 80 meters, and dominates the skyline of the surrounding area. Memorial plaques to regimental officers killed in battle were mounted on the cathedral's wall. After the cathedral's opening, flags, keys from forts and other trophies that the regiment won in campaigns in 1854–1855 and 1877–1878 were also housed in the cathedral.

The Trinity Cathedral was renowned for its exemplary collection of icons. The main section of the cathedral housed the Nativity icon, while the southern section housed the Jesus Christ icon. Empress Elizabeth presented the church with the Beginning of Life Trinity icon in 1742. Other holy objects housed in the cathedral included a large ark made in the form of a cross in 1753 from silver, a large silver cross presented to the cathedral by Nicholas I in 1835, and two large Gospels in valuable bindings.

Post revolution

In 1922, most of the cathedral's valuables were looted, and the thievery continued for several more years until the cathedral was finally closed in 1938. There were rumors of plans to demolish the cathedral and use the remaining material for a district workers' theatre. However, the cathedral was transferred to the Soviet Ministry of Telecommunications, for which it became a warehouse. Only in 1990 did the cathedral return to the hands of the Russian Orthodox Church, when restoration began. By that time, the interior was largely bare, compared to the splendor and majesty of its pre-Revolutionary past.

2006 Fire

On August 25, 2006, while under reconstruction, a fire started from a restoration scaffolding collapsed the main dome, destroyed one of the four smaller domes and severely damaged the interior.

The fire erupted in the early evening, just after 5 pm, and burned through scaffolding outside the central dome of the Cathedral, a duty officer at the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said. The central dome collapsed and one of four smaller cupolas surrounding it was also destroyed, St. Petersburg emergency department spokeswoman Lyudmila Rubasova said. There were no reports of injuries.

Firefighters battled to save the other three cupolas as emergency workers and church employees removed icons and other religious articles. A helicopter brought in to fight the blaze dumped water on the historic structure. About four hours after the blaze broke out, Rubasova said one of the three remaining cupolas had been damaged but that the fire was contained. A department spokesman later confirmed that the fire had been extinguished.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but acting St. Petersburg emergency department chief Leonid Belyayev said the blaze apparently started on scaffolding on the outside of the church, which was undergoing restoration. He said the most valuable icons and other items had been saved, and that structural damage beneath the roof area was minor.

Although television reports showed the main dome collapsing, fire officials later tried hard to play down the damage. A spokesperson for the St. Petersburg emergency directorate refuted earlier media reports which claimed that at least two domes of the Cathedral had been destroyed, telling a news conference that none of the domes had actually collapsed – only the roofing has been destroyed. Governor Valentina Matviyenko has pledged to restore the cathedral within the shortest time possible, pledging to allocate 30 million rubles ($1.12 million) this year on preparations to rebuild the cathedral.Restoration was completed, and the cathedral reopened, in 2010.

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