The Cathedral of St Nicholas and the Epiphany was begun in 1753 on the orders of Empress Elizabeth. It is one of the most striking works by Savva Chevakinsky (1713-1780), the most gifted pupil of Rastrelli.
The construction was supervised by Admiral General Prince Mikhail Golitsyn (1681-1764), president of the Admiralty from 1750, and the site was formerly a naval drill-ground. In his design, Chevakinsky skilfully united Rastrelli's Baroque with the pre-Petrine architectural tradition, creating a beautiful, harmonious building crowned by five widely-spaced domes of equal height. Inside the cathedral contains a unique assemblage of 18th-century icons, probably the best in St Petersburg.
The St Nicholas Cathedral is one of the few churches that remained open in Russia under the Soviets and services continued here even during the siege. The involvement in the construction of the Admiralty, under whose authority it remained until 1808, and also the dedication of the altar of the lower church to Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers, made the cathedral the chief church of Russian sailors. The completion of the building and consecration of the upper (Epiphany) church took place in 1762, at the start of the reign of Catherine II, who donated icons mounted in gold to the cathedral to mark major naval victories. In 1900 the cathedral returned to the administration of the Naval Department, with the word Naval added to its name. In 1905, in the garden to the north, a monument (architect: Yakov Filotei; sculptor: Artemy Ober) was set up to the heroes of the ironclad Emperor Alexander III, one of the ships lost at Tsushima.
Nicolas-Epiphany (Naval Cathedral), photo
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