You know that church in all the Visit Russia photos? The one with all the colours and the beautiful towers? It is called the Church of the Saviour on Blood, and the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood and more. It is one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen, and a must if you visit St. Petersburg, Russia.
In Norway we have a saying – ‘Kjært barn har mange navn‘ – which literally translates to ‘A loved child has many names’. I am sure there is an English equivalent to the saying, but if there is I haven’t heard it yet.
Well, I believe the saying was made for it. The Church of the Saviour on Blood is also known as the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ and the Church on Spilt Blood – all with at least 3 different versions each. You know how easily on can be replaced with of and sometimes the Saviour is our Saviour. So I’m sure you understand we were confused when trying to Google Maps the thing.
Back to the saying. In this case, the emphasis must be added to the ‘loved’ part. When rounding the corner of Nevskij Prospekt (one of the main streets in St. Petersburg) it became very clear why the church has become such a staple in Russian history and tourism. There was no way to properly capture it on camera, and even an extremely edited Instagram photo couldn’t completely do it justice.
The Church was built over the spot where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881, which also explains the rather gruesome names given to this loved child. The Emperor did not die on site, but it is where he lost a lot of blood before he was taken to the Winter Palace (just a few streets down). He died there a few hours later. The church is also #1 on this list of 20 amazing things to do in St. Petersburg.
It has been a while since the Church was actually used for worship. It was left in a bad state after being looted and ransacked during the Russian Revolution, and ultimately closed by the Soviet Government in the early 193os. During World War 2 it was used as a morgue, and after the war as a warehouse for vegetables. This lead to another name given to this loved child, the satirical Saviour on Potatoes.
The Church is now (besides from a huge tourist attraction) a Museum of Mosaics. Not gonna lie, we weren’t super excited about that, but it was all forgotten once the ticket was bought and we entered the Church. Our guide at the Winter Palace had told us in advance that Russian Mosaics were very special, as a lot of it is melted glass, and she sure was right. The details in the Church were insane, and from a distance it all seemed painted on. But once you got closer you saw that it was all tiny pieces of melted glass.
A Shrine has been built over the exact spot where Emperor Alexander II was wounded, and the cobblestone has been left bare under it. We didn’t actually know this before entering, so it was an incredibly interesting sight to see! It was beautifully detailed, of course, just like the rest of the Church.
Visiting the Church is a must when heading to St. Petersburg, and I’m sure it was already on your list before reading this post. If not, have you added it now?