In 2011, the Kazan cathedral in St Petersburg will have its 200 anniversary, counting from the day of its consecration. The Kazan cathedral is the main cathedral of the Petersburg eparchy of the Russian orthodox church. It was named after the icon “Our Lady of Kazan”. The exhibition displays the history of the construction of the Kazan cathedral and its significance for life in St Petersburg and for Russian art. The construction of the Kazan cathedral took 11 years, from 1800 until 1811. The project’s architect was one of Russia’s finest, Andrej Nikiforovich Voronikhin.
The Kazan cathedral was built on Nevsky Prospect, on the site of an older church. It had been a church dedicated to the nativity of the Virgin Mary, containing a copy of the miracle-working icon “Our Lady of Kazan”. Displayed here are gravures from drawings of Russian artist Mikhail Makhaev in 1753 for an anniversary edition devoted to St Petersburg. These prints demonstrate how important the church was for the skyline of St Petersburg at the time. Moreover, one can find on display paintings and graphic works depicting the exterior and interior of the church, as well as the coronation of Russian empress Catherine II on the steps of the church.
The history of the design and construction of the cathedral.
Kazan cathedral is one of the biggest sacral constructions in the whole orthodox world. The idea of a church was developed over a number of years. Already in 1782 the grand duke Pavel Petrovich expressed the view that it was necessary to have a church in Saint-Petersburg similar to St. Paul´s cathedral. In the late 1790s the architects Thomas de Thomon, Gonzago and Cameron created drawings for a future cathedral.
All the projects included half circle colonnades in front of the north façade similar to the colonnades of St. Paul´s Cathedral in Rome. For example, one can find on display the project drawn by Thomas de Thomon from the State Hermitage Museum. In 1800, the architect Voronikhin was commissioned to design the Kazan cathedral. One of the steps of the architect’s thought is illustrated by a project from the State Research Museum after A. V. Schusev in Moscow “Voronikhin. Project of Kazan Cathedral. Preliminary version“. Voronikhin´s project was approved and the construction started. Yet, in 1810, the architect developed the project further. Based on the previous drawing, he designed a project with two colonnades and a half circle square separated by a grid with pylons and the statues of the apostles Peter and Paul in front of the pylons. This idea was only realized in part. You can see the grid separating the cathedral from Nevsky prospekt.
Decoration of the Kazansky Cathedral. Iconostasis. Paintings. Sculptures. Utensils.
The interior and the exterior of the Kazan cathedral is decorated with sculptures made by famous Russian sculptors such as Pimenov, Martos, Demut-Malinovsky, Prokofyev, Schedrin. Paintings also play an important part of the cathedral’s interiors. The painters of the iconostasis and the murals were outstanding Russian artists - Brullov, Bruni, Kiprensky, Borovikovsky and others. All these works were in an academic style, copying old Italian renaissance artists. The exhibition gives visitors a unique opportunity to see the paintings of the iconostasis previously located in different museums, collected in one place.
Interestingly, in one of the halls devoted to the Kazan cathedral in the Art Academy there is a constant item, the plaster cast of the Eastern doors of the Florentine Baptistery of Lorenzo Giberti. This copy was ordered by N. A. Demidov and given by him as a present to the Art Academy in 1774. It later served as a model for the Kazan Cathedral Doors in Petersburg.
The history of the iconostasis of the cathedral is no less interesting. Voronikhin’s version of the iconostasis existed until 1836, but was deconstructed because of damages that had appeared with the passing of the years. There were a couple of ideas for a new iconostasis, one of which, made by Konstantine Ton, was realised. About 40 poods of trophy silver gained during the Napoleonic War in 1812 were used to decorate the new iconostasis.
Displayed are, for the first time, drawings for the building of the Kazan cathedral made by Auguste Montferrand, V. Geste, I. Sharleman, A. Brullov. (Saint Petersburg University of Architecture and Constructing).
Kazan Cathedral – the monument of military honor, 1812.
During the Patriotic War of 1812 Kazan cathedral was turned into a storage building for sacral relicts and trophies. Among the trophies were a military flags and standards, keys of the conquered cities, marshal’s batons. The relics of the 1812 war, examples of weapons and a modern military uniforms bring back the patriotic atmosphere of the time. Paintings and graphic art (political satire, portraits of war participants) of the XIX century are also on display.
In 1813, field marshal Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, whose military genius contributed to the Russian Empire’s victory over Napoleon, was buried in the crypt of the cathedral. This episode of the history of Kazan cathedral is illustrated in an engraving of M. N. Vorobjev “Funeral procession with the coffin of M. I. Kutuzov”, 1814 (State Museum of the History of Religion). Monuments of field marshals Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolli were placed in front of the cathedral in 1837. These monuments were made according to the project of the famous Russian sculptor B. I. Orlovsky and became an integral part of the ensemble of the Kazan cathedral. Models of these monuments are on display in the exhibition.
The Kazan cathedral became a starting point of the ‘Golden age’ of Russian architecture. Saint-Petersburg finally got the panoramic view to match its status as the capital of the Russian empire. Nevsky prospect became not only a main street leading from Saint Aleksander-Nevsky Monastery to the city centre but also a representative city avenue. Related to this, one can find at the exhibition the ‘Panorama of Nevsky Prospect’ which was lithographed by V. S. Sadovnikov according to the drawings of P. S. Ivanov and I. A. Ivanov. (collection of the Art Academy Museum). Watercoloured lithographs picture more than 9 meters of the left side of Nevsky prospect (1836) and more than 7 meters of the right side of Nevsky (1831).