The Most Beautiful Churches in St. Petersburg

Blutkirche St Petersburg | © Joachim Lang, Ulm/WikiCommons
Blutkirche St Petersburg | © Joachim Lang, Ulm/WikiCommons
Photo of Valeria Nikonova
27 April 2017

St. Petersburg officially came into existence under Tsar Peter the Great’s rule in the early 18th century, but many of the city’s religious buildings date back to 15th and 14th centuries. Explore our guide to the most beautiful and historically important religious sights in St Petersburg.

Church of the Savior on Blood

Located just behind the main avenue in Nevsky Prospekt, the Church of the Savior on Blood was constructed in the beginning of the 20th century. It was built at the location of the death of Emperor Alexander II in 1881. Despite the city’s architecture being excerpted mainly in baroque and neo-classical styles, this cathedral goes back to the roots of the medieval Russian architecture. The church’s decorations, namely its walls and ceilings, contain a vast collection of detailed and carefully placed mosaics occupying approximately 7,500 square meters, which depict scenes and characters from the Bible. It is believed to be the largest collection of mosaics in the world. The interior decorations feature works by some of the most renowned Russian artists, including Viktor Vasnetsov and Mikhail Vrubel.

Opening hours: 10.30 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily; closed on Wednesdays

Griboyedov Canal Embankment, 2A, Saint Petersburg, +7 812 315 1636

The Peter and Paul Cathedral

The Peter and Paul Cathedral is a landmark of Saint Petersburg, no less important than the more famous St. Isaac’s Cathedral, but it is often overlooked by visitors. The fortress, which was actually used as a military rather than defense base, marks the birthplace of the city. The cathedral built on the site was designed in a baroque style by the Italian architect Dominico Trezzini, and mingles details typical of West European church architecture, such as the rectangular shape, tall towers and dome. The interior presents a spacious hall with a nave and side aisles, which is atypical of classical Orthodox church architecture. The vaults are decorated with fresco paintings in various colors, and gold-pleated mouldings. The cathedral is very well lit because of the 12 wide windows which create an atmosphere of harmony. The Peter and Paul Cathedral symbolizes imperial Russia, since the cathedral once served as a burial site for the imperial family.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m.-6.45 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-6.45 p.m.

Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Petersburg, +7 812 230 6431

Kazan Cathedral

This cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, the most sacred icon in Russia. It was modeled on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. However, the Russian Orthodox Church disapproved of the plans to replicate a Catholic basilica in Russia, because of difference in religious opinion. Nevertheless, the design of architect Voronikhin found support among the royal family and courtiers. The interior of the Kazan Cathedral is ample, featuring various sculptures and icons produced by the best Russian artists of the period. The attention-grabbing massive bronze doors to the cathedral are a copy of the original doors of the Baptistery in Florence, Italy. The cathedral was built in an imperial style, reminiscent of the temples of the Roman Empire. Kazan Cathedral became the first religious sight in Russia to be built in an decisively European style. Its architecture and interior decorations, including sculptures and paintings, are united in a unique harmony and elegance. Kazan Cathedral presented Russia as a unified country, which sought to level the country with Europe in terms of knowledge and perception of beauty.

Opening hours: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

Kazan Square, 2, St Petersburg, +7 812 314-46-63

Saint Isaac's Cathedral

Map View
St Isaac's Cathedral
St Isaac's Cathedral | © archer10/Flickr
St Isaac’s Cathedral is an outstanding example of the mid-19th century Russian neo-classical architectural style, and is the biggest Orthodox cathedral in Saint Petersburg. St Isaac’s Cathedral is also the largest Orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world. Tsar Alexander I ordered the church to be built under the directorship of the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand. The cathedral’s foundation was made more stable by driving 25,000 piles into the swampy ground of St Petersburg. The exterior walls of this incredible site was faced with grey and pink stone, and 112 red granite columns were erected around the cathedral. The cathedral’s dome was decorated with pure gold and twelve statues of angels. The cost of the entire building totaled the incredible amount of one million golden rubles. The Soviet government denounced the religious meaning of the cathedral and established a Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism on the site. After the fall of Communism, the cathedral has remained open as a museum, whilst regular worship practice was resumed on the left-hand side.

Opening hours: 10.30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; closed on Wednesdays

Smolny Cathedral

Smolny Cathedral is one of the most captivating churches in Saint Petersburg, and its beauty shines especially bright at sunrise or sunset, when the sun gently bathes the blue façade and domes of the church in its rich golden rays. The cathedral was designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1748. Rastrelli also constructed the Winter Palace and the palace at Tsarskoe Selo. The aim behind the construction of this site was to impress the Empress Elizabeth the Great, who unfortunately passed away prior to the termination of work, and so the cathedral remained unfinished. Before the cathedral had completely fallen into despair, it was revived and completed by another architect in 1835. The entrance to the cathedral graces a half-circle iron-traced fence, whereas the entrance steps to the altar were decorated with a crystal balustrade, and the walls and columns were ornamented with white marble. The cathedral’s Ark of the Covenant is made of 81 kg of silver. The Revolution brought Smolny a similar fate to other religious sights: the interior was heavily damaged and for many years, the building remained closed.

Opening hours: 10.30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; closed on Wednesdays

Pl. Rastrelli, 1, Saint Petersburg, +7 812 710-31-59

Chesme Church

Map View
Chesme Church
Chesme Church | © Fotorus/Flickr
Chesme Church is definitely one of the most unusual churches to appear on this list. Located in the southern part of the city, it was established during the reign of Catherine the Great as the house church for the Chesme Palace, which is situated between Saint Petersburg and the summer residence of the royal family, the Summer Palace, in Tsarskoe Selo. It was ornamented in a style typical for many Russian churches, gothic style, by the German-Russian court architect Yury Felton. The foundation is shaped in the form of a striped pink cake and with five sharp neo-gothic domes. This unique church has remained almost intact during the period of repressions and abandonment of religious monuments under the Soviet government, and the land surrounding the church has been used as a burial for the war heroes of the Siege of Leningrad.

Opening hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.

Cathedral of St. Andrew the First-Called

The Cathedral of St. Andrew the First-Called was erected in 1764 to replace a wooden church on Vasilievsky Island. It is dedicated to Apostle Andrew, whom Peter the Great considered as his patron. The exterior of the site has been completed in creamy pink and white colors, with soft decorations and fragile tall towers. The interior of the church is much richer, with vestments in the main altar made of pure silver and weighing 115kg, the gospels in a silver frame, weighing in at 14.5kg, and an altarpiece of the Lord of Hosts, a beautiful artwork by an unknown artist. It is a lesser known church, not often visited by tourists, because of its remoteness from the city center and the slight difficulty in finding it. It is, however, well worth a visit.

Opening hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.

6 Liniya V.O., 11, Saint Petersburg, +7 812 323 34 18