Saint Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg


Saint Isaac
Photo from by Ivan Smelov [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Saint Isaac's Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor (Russian: Исаа́киевский Собо́р) in Saint Petersburg, Russia is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral (sobor) in the city. It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest (by the volume under the cupola) cathedral in the world. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint.


The church on St Isaac's Square was ordered by Tsar Alexander I, to replace an earlier Rinaldiesque structure, and was the fourth consecutive church standing at this place. A specially appointed commission examined several designs, including that of the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand (1786–1858), who had studied in the atelier of Napoleon's designer, Charles Percier. Montferrand's design was criticised by some members of the commission for the dry and allegedly boring rhythm of its four identical pedimented octastyle porticos. It was also suggested that despite gigantic dimensions, the edifice would look squat and not very impressive. The members of the commission, which consisted of well-known Russian architects, were also particularly concerned by necessity to build a new huge building on the old unsecure foundation. The emperor, who favoured the ponderous Empire style of architecture, had to step in and solve the dispute in Montferrand's favour.

The cathedral took 40 years to construct, under Montferrand's direction, from 1818 to 1858. To secure the construction, the cathedral's foundation was strengthened by driving 25 000 piles into the fenland of Saint Petersburg. Innovative methods were created to erect the giant columns of the portico. The construction costs of the cathedral totalled an incredible sum of 1 000 000 gold rubles. Under the Soviet government, the building was stripped of religious trappings. In 1931, it was turned into the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, the dove sculpture was removed, and replaced by a Foucault pendulum. On April 12, 1931, the first public demonstration of the Foucault pendulum was held to visualize Copernicus’s theory. In 1937, the museum was transformed into the museum of the Cathedral, and former collections were transferred to the Museum of the History of Religion (located in the Kazan Cathedral).

During World War II, the dome was painted over in gray to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft. On its top, in the skylight, a geodesical intersection point was placed, to determine the positions of German artillery batteries.

With the fall of communism, the museum was removed and regular worship activity has resumed in the cathedral, but only in the left-hand side chapel. The main body of the cathedral is used for services on feast days only.

As of 2015, the church is still a museum.


The neoclassical exterior expresses the traditional Russian-Byzantine formula of a Greek-cross ground plan with a large central dome and four subsidiary domes. It is similar to Andrea Palladio's Villa La Rotonda, with a full dome on a high drum substituted for the Villa's low central saucer dome. The design of the cathedral in general and the dome in particular later influenced the design of the United States Capitol dome, Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin and the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki.

The exterior is faced with gray and pink stone, and features a total of 112 red granite columns with Corinthian capitals, each hewn and erected as a single block: 48 at ground level, 24 on the rotunda of the uppermost dome, 8 on each of four side domes, and 2 framing each of four windows. The rotunda is encircled by a walkway accessible to tourists. 24 statues stand on the roof, and another 24 on top of the rotunda.


The cathedral's main dome rises 101.5 metres (333 ft) and is plated with pure gold. The dome is decorated with twelve statues of angels by Josef Hermann. These angels were likely the first large sculptures produced by the then novel process of electrotyping, which was an alternative to traditional bronze casting of sculptures. Montferrand's design of the dome is based on a supporting cast iron structure. It was the third historical instance of cast iron cupola after the Leaning Tower of Nevyansk (1732) and Mainz Cathedral (1826).


St. Isaac's Cathedral Interior

The cathedral's bronze doors, covered in reliefs by Ivan Vitali, are patterned after the celebrated doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Suspended underneath the peak of the dome is a sculpted white dove representing the Holy Spirit. Internal features such as columns, pilasters, floor, and statue of Montferrand are composed of multicolored granites and marbles gathered from all parts of Russia. The iconostasis is framed by eight columns of semiprecious stone: six of malachite and two smaller ones of lazurite. The four pediments are also richly sculpted.

The interior was originally decorated with scores of paintings by Karl Bryullov and other great Russian masters of the day. When these paintings began to deteriorate due to the cold, damp conditions inside the cathedral, Montferrand ordered them to be painstakingly reproduced as mosaics, a technique introduced in Russia by Mikhail Lomonosov. This work was never completed.


William Handyside and other engineers used a number of technological innovations in the construction of the building. The portico columns were raised with the use of large wooden frameworks before the walls were erected. The building rests on 10,000 tree trunks that were sunk by a large number of workers into the marshy banks upon which the cathedral is situated. The dome was gilded by a technique similar to spraypainting; the solution used included toxic mercury, the vapors of which caused the deaths of sixty workers.). The dozen gilded statues of angels, each six metres tall, facing each other across the interior of the rotunda, were constructed using galvanoplastic technology, making them only millimeters thick and very lightweight. St. Isaac's Cathedral represents the first use of this technique in architecture.

The meticulous and painstakingly detailed work on constructing the St. Isaac's Cathedral took 40 years to complete, and left an expression in the Finnish language, rakentaa kuin Iisakin kirkkoa ("to build like St. Isaac's Church"), for lengthy and never-ending megaprojects.


Photo (31)

Катедрала Светог Исака - Saint Isaac's Cathedral - Isaakievskiy Sobor  - Исаaкиевский Собoр - Санкт Петербургcreation MonferanКатедрала Светог Исака - Saint Isaac's Cathedral - Isaakievskiy Sobor  - Исаaкиевский Собoр - Санкт ПетербургSin coches, sin gente.   Без машин, без людей.St. Petersburg - a city of spectacular architecture and a golden dome!Исаакиевский собор на рассвете. St. Isaac's Cathedral at dawn.Interior of St. Isaac's Cathedral. — Исаакиевский собор.  Придел Св. Екатерины.Bas-relief of St.Isaac cathedralSan Pietroburgo, cupola della Cattedrale di Sant'IsaccoInterior of St. Isaac's Cathedral. — Исаакиевский собор. Придел Св. Александра Невского.Предновогодний пейзажSt. Isaak Cathedral at nightSt. Isaac Cathedral in Saint Petersburg DSCN4991_1Санкт ПетербургIMG_6886Санкт-Петербург, Адмиралтейство, Эрмитаж, Петропавловская крепость, Арсенал, вид с Исаакиевского СобораВид на здание Сената и Синода (сейчас - Конституционного суда РФ) с коллонады Исаакиевского соборавид с колоннады Исаакиевского собора (fullsize)Léningrad - Nicolas Ier et St IsaacIsaac Kathedrale in St. PetersburgSt. Isaac's Cathedral. — Исаакиевский собор.Вид на Мариинский ДворецВеликолепный вид - Magnificent views...Исаакиевский соборMariinsky Palace. — Мариинский дворец.НебоView from Isakii 4View from St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Hermitagepanoramica de san petersburgoИсаакиевский собор зимним вечером

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All days except Wednesday at 10:30-18:00


22.01.2017 Udesh Shalika
Amazing place. Great architecture. We can see around the city
21.01.2017 Elena Marisanova
A huge temple with a bright decoration. Really beautiful and unusual. Be sure to climb to the top observation deck(separate ticket) - breaking not so much the degrees you will see the entire city.
14.01.2017 Sarah Mosehle
Great view of the city and expresses St. Petersburg's unique confluence between Western and Eastern European influences.
12.01.2017 Stas Smile
Incredibly fascinating and a must to visit in St. Petersburg place. In order to fully experience the history of St. Isaac's Cathedral and enjoy the views of Peter be sure to purchase a ticket for the Colonnade. Inside the Cathedral you will have a fascinating tour, which is included in the ticket price. Students and holders of cards ISIC discounts.
03.01.2017 Kudesnik - Shkola SoTvortsov
Regular excursions. Guides enough, not have to wait long. All in cash can be avoided if you buy tickets near the ticket office in the terminal. There are 2 options of tickets: in the Church and in the belfry. On the tour tell the story of construction, years of experienced in the Great Patriotic war, the progress of restoration. Very interesting talk about the icons, frescoes, columns, stained glass Windows and other architectural elements. Not every Church/temple to know. Almost all can all be photographed. The temple itself is one of the best in design and decoration, much fascinating.
03.01.2017 Anton Zhukov
One of the best excursions for its price! Rather cheap entrance price and really beautiful cathedral!
28.12.2016 LyubLyu Lyu
Indescribable joy! The interior is fascinating. The temple is active. The cost of entrance.ticket 250 p. (excluding the colonnade)
18.12.2016 Galina Kalugina
Amazing cathedral with a great view to the city. It has stained glass altar which is pretty unusual for orthodox churches.
23.11.2016 Just Man
Letom vecherom takoi vid's kryshy...
21.10.2016 Andrea Cammarata
Nice cathedral to visit if you are in the city. On the top you get a beautiful view of Saint Petersburg.
20.10.2016 Vitaliy Provintsev
The Cathedral is striking in its beauty and size. At the sight of the interior of the Cathedral just opens his mouth. Entrance costs 250 rubles per adult, a child walked free (but not every day). Inside the temple there is small temple. Loved climbing Colorado (150 rubles per person). Older think will be quite difficult to climb the stairs on Colorado stairs too much and vyakulata. Much fat there at all to do anything. Because after climbing the long stairs have to squeeze through a crack that would pocast on the final ladder. When you get to Colorado, there will be a televised tour of the panorama - good to hear. If the cold and wind at the colonnade you have all maple nose will freeze (dress warmly). Podytozhim. If you are in St. Petersburg you must visit this Cathedral. The only thing I didn't like, what a marvelous beautiful the temple was used as a market place (solid retail shops inside).
20.10.2016 Nils Haccius
One of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Definitely do not miss the chance to see St. Petersburg from the top of the church!
12.10.2016 Tatyana Molodtsova
One of the symbols of my the best city on Earth ?. St. Isaac's Cathedral is beautiful and majestic at any time of the year. And don't forget to climb to the colonnade (by the way, this can be done up to 22 hours). Only 262 steps, you can admire breathtaking views of the city centre, and if you're lucky with the weather ?, and more new areas. On the colonnade constantly broadcast information about the historical buildings that you see.
12.10.2016 Natalya Mak
The beautiful Cathedral. Particularly impressive observation deck in the city, but what would it take to get there is challenging climbing steep stairs, the Elevator never works. For the view of the city is simply stunning. Fun for any resident or visitor to the city.
17.09.2016 Olga
I love this place, extraordinary, breathtaking in its power
08.09.2016 Alexey Khazov
One of the best cathedrals built in Russia in all times. What can I say even I don't know. If you come to Peter with those who have not been here, going to Isaac in the compulsory program.
06.09.2016 Pavel Egorov
Petersburg (Pavel Egorov, Antler) Graceful, austere Emperor, Great, noble and dashing, Russia light, its fairway Rose abode of the Holy. He is young at heart, full of strength, Shine with mind and light, Forever the Fatherland enlightened A scholar is a righteous Covenant. In a wonderful stone outfit Shines glorious St. Petersburg, Curly, status rite Does being a playwright. Plays music great, Flowing blood of the Neva water From gilding draws flare, Blows fierce people. Yellow strict homes White system of colonnades, Deprives the mind words, Arrange a night masquerade. In the Imperial free, All, all to him, Ideological, power, popular, Of valuable Golden fleece. He was not Peter's great creation, He is the Emperor himself, Having received the spirit the incarnation Rose Peter the Great here.
30.08.2016 Kirill Resheten
To describe the Cathedral itself... don't see the point. One of the historical and cultural places of Saint-Petersburg. BUT! Night. Climb to the colonnade. And the top, view the city at night. UNFORGETTABLE!
27.08.2016 Slava
Pokrasnevshie of the cathedrals. Cash right of the main façade (St. Isaac's square): separately paid a visit to the Cathedral (about 300 rubles) and the colonnade (150 rubles).
26.08.2016 Chiara Iuffrida
Great view of Saint Petersburg but the ticket costs too much (300 r. only for the view) . Nice place but nothing more.
22.08.2016 Pedja (PJ)
Beautiful view from the top but it gets crowded. Go in the evening for great panoramic views.
22.08.2016 Pedja (PJ)
Wonderful view from the top but it gets crowded. Go in the evening for a great panoramic views.
20.08.2016 Viktor Bondarenko
Very beautiful, both inside and outside. Highly recommended for a visit. Collonade with beautiful views of Peter.
14.08.2016 H
Here was the most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen! And don't miss climbing 300 stairs, you can see St. Petersburg like a panorama photo?
14.08.2016 Dunbar Buzz
Spectacular cathedral. The style is closer to Catholic as influenced by the architect. The faces of the few human statues are Icons staying within the rules of the Orthodox Church. A must see. Gift shop. No public WC.
09.08.2016 Eric Flammin
Wonderful cathedral and what a point of sigh from the colonnade! By night it's marvelous to take photos of the city. But I was disappointed that tripods were not allowed! I put the reflex on the floor to have good quality shots.
05.08.2016 Paul Pricker
Recently, I was at colonnade. Oshushenie that to the sky you can reach out a hand. No 200+ stairs is not a barrier. The city in the palm of your hand. The Cathedral is just gigantic proportions - very impressive!
02.08.2016 Rina Ostin
Very beautiful view from the colonnade, no wonder it is twice more expensive than inside. The Museum is beautiful but small exhibits.
24.07.2016 Ma
Magnificent architecture...also it has a great view when you go on the top of it...highly recomended!
20.07.2016 Oleg Moiseev
St. Isaac's Cathedral impresses with its size. There is a huge all the icons, statues, doors, Windows and images of saints. The Museum and the Church side by side inside the Cathedral. Keep this in mind! Don't forget to visit the colonnade, which offers a magnificent view of the city. The Cathedral is very popular among tourists keep this in mind when visiting.
15.07.2016 Alexandr Seredin
Very useful and great. At the same time, calmly and sternly. Global and massive architecture.
10.07.2016 Christine
Great for a panoramic view of the city. You can purchase a ticket just to climb the stairs for the view.
08.07.2016 Anton Ivanov
The most wonderful Cathedral! Solemn, majestic, monumental, spacious and atmospheric! A must see!
08.07.2016 Sergey
Great evening walks on the colonnade from 300 R. a Chic look! Tickets are easier to buy in cash, and virtually no queues at vending machines around the map. There are machines next to the cash register and next to the entrance.
27.06.2016 Richard Chang
It is a must see great Cathedral in San Petersburg. From many huge columns and gold dome exterior to the luxury richly decorated interior, plus the great view from the balcony around outside of the dome. It is well worth the ticket price and 200 steps climbing.
24.06.2016 Sophie Kwok
The colonial is awesome, though too much people. You can go after 6pm when there is less people as the ticket is more expensive. The museum is less attractive, not much difference from other churches, can skip if not super enthusiastic in churches.
21.06.2016 M
Stand out cathedral ! I didn't go inside but the outside is amazing. I paid to do the walk above the cathedral and I was well worth it.
14.06.2016 Vitaliy M
A very beautiful place! I recommend everyone to visit! That would not have to stand in queues for a day you can smoke e-tickets! It is quick and easy. If you already have a Cathedral, there are vending machines for tickets, they tend to turn less or not at all.
12.06.2016 Aleksandr Korovin
Very beautiful Cathedral. It impresses with its grandeur. Very interesting excursions. Collonade with beautiful views of Saint Petersburg
11.06.2016 Vitaliy Voropinov
The building is very beautiful. The architect did a good job, it is a pity that their offspring survived quite a while. One of the iconic landmarks of the city. It is a pity that not managed to climb to the observation deck and see the city from above.
03.06.2016 Natalia Khmelevskaya
Beautiful both inside and outside. Colonnade with gorgeous views of the city , within guided tours, which tells the story of the buildings and the interior of the Cathedral. The Cathedral has an active parish, where on Sundays at 8 am you can come to the service, to pray, of course then you enter free. The rest of the time inside 250 rubles per person. On the colonnade 150 rubles per person.
26.05.2016 Ale
The most beautiful Cathedral in St. Petersburg. I love this place. You can get inside for free by visiting the service. And occasionally it is possible to hear beautiful singing of the choir!
21.05.2016 Rimma
A very beautiful Museum and a functioning Church. Stunning views from the colonnade.
21.05.2016 Gregory Pozhvanov
St. Isaac's Cathedral – one of the symbols of St. Petersburg is definitely worth a visit if you are first time in St. Petersburg. On the colonnade you can climb once on a Sunny day and take pictures of the standard types for the future the University embankment, the Admiralty and the surrounding blocks. The second time there is nothing special to do.
It is a bit hard work to climb up the stairs, but you will see the wonderful view of St. Petersburg once you get there.
16.05.2016 Anechka
Captures the spirit ) and the top of the Cathedral can be seen from the restaurant Attic , near
12.05.2016 Antony Etherington
Stunning from the external impressive in your face size to the internal spectacular decor don't miss out
01.05.2016 Sergey
Despite the fact that giving machines coin two coin buttons they give the same. a lot of people buying two copies of coins. the impression that it was made specially
27.04.2016 Arthur
More sober than the Church of the Savior, but still amazing! Go to the top, you'll have a great panorama of the city!
22.04.2016 Katya Ron
Saint Petersburg is a fantastic ,incredibly beautiful city.Well, a lot of attractions ,cathedrals,palaces, etc. St. Isaac's Cathedral a must to visit ,and the best and climb to the colonnade ,get a lot of good,crazy and fantastic emotions .You will see the city ,the city is visible as on the palm .Very sorry that I do not live in this city ,but sure will come .


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