If you want to see some truly breathtaking religious buildings, Russia is the place you should choose for your next trip. For over a thousand years, Russians have spared no expense when constructing some outstanding places of worship. Picking only 10 was no easy task, but here they are – the most beautiful churches in Russia.
The Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas, Kronstadt
Located in the small island town of Kronstadt, 30 kilometers away from St. Petersburg, Kronstadt Naval Cathedral was built in 1913 as the main church of the Russian Navy. Designed by a renowned master of Neo-Byzantine architecture Vasily Kosyakov, the cathedral accommodated 5000 worshipers. With bedazzling interiors created by Kosyakov’s younger brother George, Kronstadt Naval Cathedral employed over 5000 light bulbs, was equipped with its own vacuum cleaning system and independent central heating. Sadly it was closed by Soviet authorities after only 16 years of operation. It became a movie theater and then a museum. In the 1990s it was given back to the Russian Orthodox Church and underwent extensive restorations.
The Cathedral of St. Sophia,Veliky Novgorod
Built between between 1045 and 1050 A.D. by Kiev and Byzantine masters, this five-domed cathedral is Russia’s oldest functioning building. One of the city’s major tourist draws, this somewhat austere cathedral was the only stone building in the city at the time of construction. On the western side of this grandiose structure there are bronze Magdeburg Gates, decorated with Biblical and Evangelical scenes and brought as a war trophy from Sweden in the 12th century. The cathedral is worth going inside for a look around. There are 11th century icons from the original altar, icons of The Holy Mother of Tikhvin and The Savior Enthroned are believed to be miracle performing.
The Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi
Even though this wooden 18th century masterpiece is located on the small Island of Kizhi, it still draws crowds of tourists. The architectural gem of Lake Onega and Russia’s most beautiful wooden church, this 37 meter (121 ft) high structure is made entirely of wood. Legend has it, a carpenter named Nestor built the church with one axe and without using nails, and, once he was through with the construction, threw the axe into Lake Onega to make sure no one would ever beat his creation.
The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin, Bogolyubovo
Beautifully located on the Nerl River, The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin is the symbol of medieval Russia. The church was built in 1165 A.D. and has barely changed since, you still can see 12th century stone carvings on the walls. This church makes a particularly beautiful sight in spring, when the surrounding area is flooded, and the building seems to be floating on water.
The Smolny Cathedral, Saint Petersburg
One of the most exquisite churches in St.Petersburg, Smolny Cathedral was commissioned by empress Elizabeth, who planned to retire there. Originally designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the Italian architect behind many other major St. Petersburg landmarks including the Grand Palace in Peterhof, this blue and white visual stunner took almost a century to build. The building was finished by Vasily Stasov who changed the original baroque design according to the changed architectural tastes, by adding a neo-classical interior which made the cathedral a one of a kind masterpiece.
The Church of the Sign of the Most Holy Mother of God, Dubrovitsy
A thirty minute ride from Moscow will take you to the most extraordinary church in Russia, The Church of the Sign of the Most Holy Mother of God in small suburban town of Dubrovitsy. Commissioned by Prince Golitsyn, this white stone European baroque church has a Greek cross at its base and a golden crown topping its central tower. Unfortunately names of the architects sunk into oblivion. Rumor has it, Golitsyn invited Italian masters under condition that they’d never disclose their names.
Assumption Cathedral, Smolensk
This beautiful green and white hilltop cathedral was built in 1772 to celebrate the victory over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The cathedral was built instead of the ancient church started in 1101 by Vladimir Monomakh himself, and took over a century to finish.
Resurrection Cathedral, Istra
Part of the architectural ensemble of the New Jerusalem Monastery, this baroque cathedral was commissioned in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon. Nikon chose the suburbs of Moscow for its particular resemblance of the Holy Land, that is why the cathedral’s design is similar to that of the Resurrection Cathedral in Jerusalem. This was supposed to be one of the many holy places in the suburban town of Istra, which would mirror the sacred sites of Palestine.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
Out of more than 1000 Moscow’s churches and cathedrals St. Basil’s Cathedral is arguably the most recognizable. Located at the very heart of Moscow, the cathedral is not only the most beautiful church in Russia, but also one of the most impressive places of worship in the whole world. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, this UNESCO heritage site has 11 candy colored domes and exquisite interiors. As all Russians learn in a history class, upon seeing the finished cathedral, Ivan the Terrible the architects eyes be gouged out so that he’d never create anything this beautiful again.
Kazan Cathedral, Saint Petersburg
Built in 1811, Kazan Cathedral was designed to resemble the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rome. The cathedral is widely recognized for its Empire style Northern facade with ninety six, 13 meter (42.6 ft) high columns arranged in a semi-circle. Apart from being one of the most beautiful churches in the country, the cathedral is also a living example of Russia’s history. The square in front of the building was used for public events and demonstrations.