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St. Isaac's Cathedral

St. Isaac's Cathedral St. Petersburg Russia

7 812 315 9732

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The 80-foot tall, pure-gold dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral is a glinting landmark visible from most points in St. Petersburg. Originally built by Peter the Great in 1710 in honor of the saint whose birthday he shared, it was promptly destroyed in a flood, then rebuilt by three later tsars, each wanting it just a bit larger than the last. In its current state, dating to 1858, the cathedral displays such dizzying opulence that during my visit, even the swarms of school kids grew quiet.

Before entering, take time to admire the porticos crowned with sculptures depicting different religious scenes (ironically, the Cathedral was used as the Museum of Atheism under Soviet rule). Look out, too, for the imposing red-granite columns and the enormous cast bronze doors at the south entrance. Once inside the vast space you will quickly appreciate how it can easily fit up to 14,000 people. The interior is filled with endless frescoes, semi-precious stone mosaics (which are hardier against freezing temperatures than oil paintings), malachite columns and the truly breathtaking “Virgin in Majesty” fresco by Karl Briullov that adorns the inside of the cupola. A silver dove hanging at the center of the cupola was removed by Soviet forces in 1931 and restored after perestroika as a symbol of peace. If it is open, be sure to ascend to the viewing tower of the dome for beautiful views of the city.

Written by Nikki Ridgway

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