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Church on Spilled Blood

May 7, 2009 at 5:19 am
By Jennifer Hightower

Having just returned from a four-day excursion to St. Petersburg, our group saw many unforgettable sights. One of these, the Church on Spilled Blood, was among the most impressive. I had seen this church several years ago - it was impressive then in the pouring rain and overcast skies, but much more so in this last visit. We had unexpectedly good weather in St. Petersburg - a place known for its cold, damp weather. We turned a corner, and before I knew it, the Church was right there, shining in our midst.

What has always intrigued me about the Church on Spilled Blood is not only its beautiful exterior, which I feel is perhaps the most beautiful in the combined cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow, but also the history behind this sacred place. It was constructed beginning in 1883 under the orders of Alexander III as a memorial to his father Alexander II. Alexander II is famously known as the "Tsar Liberator". However, it can be said that the freedoms he gave to the people were thrown back in his face when a revolutionary threw a bomb into his carriage, wounding him fatally. The story behind Alexander's death is more than that of a simple bomb. Several previous attempts had been made on his life, and it was only after the second bomb thrown on that day that Alexander died. The conspirators were not a very wealthy group; it was their persistence that allowed them to succeed in their plot.

You may be asking why this place has the name "The Church on Spilled Blood". The reason for this is that after Alexander II suffered the wounds from the bomb he bled on the cobblestone path, where the Church now stands. His son wanted Alexander II to be remembered and honored in a grand way.

The architecture behind the Church on Spilled Blood is a major attraction for tourists and visitors - and for a good reason! It is built in accordance with the style of medieval Russian architecture. Other churches in the area mostly reflect the Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Thousands of mosaics are contained within the church. The walls are literally covered in such mosaics. And to give you an idea of how detailed each one is, the average mosaic tile is the size of half a fingernail and sometimes smaller! From afar, the mosaics resemble paintings. It is only when you get up close to them that you can see each individual tile. The beauty and hard work behind these mosaics is something I have never encountered in my life.

To think that this church was looted and severely damaged during the Revolution of 1917 is something hard to imagine. Many, if not most, of the buildings we saw on our tour had been partly destroyed either in the revolution of during World War II. I found it to be a very inspiring site that Russia has restored these historic sites. The Church on Spilled Blood is a place I can guarantee I will not forget for many years to come. 

In Saint Petersburg, our group saw many sites that reflected a similar beauty to that of The Church on Spilled Blood.  The city showed us its best side during our trip - the unusual sunny weather and the array of hidden historical sites unfolded in an almost magical way.  Behind each line of apartment buildings there seemed to be a new treasure to discover.  The Church on Spilled Blood was for me the ultimate culmination of all of of Saint Petersburg's historical and cultural gems.