Until recently, Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral was most famous for being the tallest Orthodox Church in the world. However, more recently, it has gotten a lot of publicity as the place were three members of the Russian punk band ‘Pussy Riot’ sang a song of protest against the Orthodox Church and the Russian Government. For their actions, the members of the group were sentenced last week to two years in prison. (You can read more about the case here if you are interested.)
However, even before the actions of ‘Pussy Riot’, the church has had a tumultuous history.
Built in 1860 in remembrance of Russia’s defeat of Napoleon in 1812, the church was covered in brilliant paintings and gilded with over 20 tons of gold. The cathedral quickly became a focal point of religious life in Moscow and was the site of the first playing of Tchaikovsy’s 1812 Overture.
Unfortunately though, the church was torn down in 1931 by Joseph Stalin during his secularization of the country. Stalin, finding the value of the gold and the church’s location too tempting, decided that it was the perfect place for what would have been the world’s tallest building, the Palace of Soviets. According to plans, the building would have been 1,392 feet tall, 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building (Take that America!). But that’s not all, On top of this monstrous building was to be placed a 260 foot tall statue of Lenin (Vladamir, not John).
While the buildings foundations were built, the construction never got above ground due to the costs of fighting World War 2. Instead, the buildings foundations were later turned into the world’s largest outdoor swimming pool after Stalin’s death.
In 1990, the Orthodox church received permission from the government to rebuild the cathedral, and the rebuilt copy was consecrated in 2000.
Today, Christ the Savior Cathedral has once again become one of the more prominent religious sites in Moscow. Standing 105 meters above the Moskva River, the cathedral is one of the must see sites in Moscow.