Cathedral of the Assumption in Smolensk
The main church in Smolensk Region
Cathedral of the Assumption (Uspensky Sobor) is the main church in Smolensk region. It is located in the center of the town on a hill.
The cathedral is built in memory of the heroic defense of Smolensk in 1609-1611 on the site of the eponymous Cathedral of the 12th century.
The original Church was founded in 1101 by order of Vladimir Monomakh and was the first monument of monumental architecture in the territory of Smolensk.
In 1611, after nearly two years of defense of Smolensk from the troops of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth the last defenders blew up stockpiles of explosives that were stored in the cellars near the Cathedral hill, resulting in collapsed and part of the Cathedral, burying a lot of women and children. The invaders restored the building of the Cathedral and turned it into Catholic. After the liberation of Smolensk the old building was dismantled in 1674-1675. In 1677 the construction of a new building of the Cathedral was initiated under the supervision of the architect Alexey Korolkov. The architect has increased his size and made the retreat from the project, as a result of high apse moved from the main volume.
The suspended work was resumed only in 1712. Finally, in 1740 the architect Schedel completed the construction of the church, crowned by seven domes of blue with gold stars. In 1761 the central and western chapters of the Cathedral broke. In 1767-1772 architect Obukhov rebuilt the top, leaving the traditional five domes. The Smolensk icon of the Mother of God was kept in the Cathedral until 1941, but after the occupation of the city by German forces the icon disappeared. The Cathedral contains the relics of Mercury of Smolensk. The building of the Cathedral was not injured during the Napoleonic invasion and Nazi occupation. Amazed by the grandeur of the Cathedral, Napoleon ordered to post guards to protect it. After entering German troops in Smolensk Colonel General of the Wehrmacht, Heinz Guderian made the time to familiarize to the Cathedral, which he found intact. There was an antireligious museum in the central and left parts of the building. The right half was reserved for worship. General recalls:
...Silver altar and candlesticks, apparently tried to hide, but didn't manage to do before our arrival in the city. Anyway, all these extremely valuable things were piled together in the center of the Cathedral. I ordered to find someone from the Russian, to whom could be entrusted the responsibility for the preservation of these values. An old church caretaker was found with a long white beard, to whom I told through an interpreter, that he took under his responsibility the values and put them in place. Valuable gilded carved frame of the iconostasis were completely intact. What happened then to the Cathedral, I don't know.
However, during the invasion of Napoleon the iron helmet adopted by the French for gold has been disappeared, and during the Great Patriotic War and the spear of St. Mercury also disappeared. At present, the Church keeps the only surviving relic of St. Mercury - iron sandals of Saint patron of Smolensk.