ST. ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, also known as Isaakievskiy Sobor, is one of the main churches in Saint Petersburg and had originally been the largest basilica in Russia before the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow was built. In the 19th century the architect Auguste Montferrand considered ladies in crinoline and believed that only seven thousand people could attend the church at the same time. However, nowadays it can admit more than twelve thousand people at a time.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is a staple of the Late Classicism that also incorporates a mixture of elements of new styles of that time including the Eclecticism and the Neo-Renaissance.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral Colonnaded Walkway became a signature of the city and also its biggest observation deck. It offers a magnificent view over the Neva River, the St. Isaac’s and the Palace Squares as well as the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is an absolute must-see tourist attraction in Saint Petersburg.

History

The cathedral was built between 1818 and 1858 by a French architect Auguste Montferrand. Before this cathedral there had already been three churches at this place and devoted to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great. Emperor Alexander I had examined several designs of the best architects before he chose the one of the young and inexperienced Montferrand. The cathedral took 40 years to build. Modern machines were used to move huge granite slabs to the top of the construction. However, practically everything else was done by hand. Hundreds of thousands of people put their efforts to erect such a fantastic building. Isaakievskiy Sobor became the most expensive cathedral in Europe of that time.

The cathedral consecration was a great event for the city and was celebrated as a state holiday. Emperor Alexander II attended the ceremony that lasted approximately seven hours. There were auditorium seats for spectators around the building. The price of these seats was relatively high. Some enterprising citizens even leased their apartments with a good view on the cathedral. Although many people were eager to watch the ceremony, at the beginning the cathedral wasn’t really popular among the citizens. It was called the “Inkpot” for a while because of its proportion and shape.

Legend has it that the cathedral took so many years to build because a soothsayer predicted Auguste Montferrand to die straight after the construction works would be finished. Interestingly enough, the architect did in fact die within a month after the church consecration. It was rumored that the ghost of Montferrand wandered around the cathedral and couldn’t come inside of it. According to another legend, the royal Romanov dynasty would be replaced after the removal of construction scaffolding. Coincidentally, the scaffolding was completely taken down only in 1916. And in 1917 Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the imperial throne. During the revolution the church was looted, almost all golden and silver decorations were taken away. In 1930th Saint Isaac’s Cathedral was reopened as an anti-religious museum.

During World War II, the gorgeous golden dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral visible from afar was painted gray to avoid enemy aircrafts attacks. The dome itself was not damaged because it was used as a point of orientation by Germans. However, nowadays there are still bullet and shrapnel marks on walls and columns of the cathedral. The basement was used to store the most valuable masterpieces from museums and palaces of Saint Petersburg.

Today, church services are held here only on major ecclesiastical occasions. Besides, various concerts, excursions and other events take place regularly in St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The cathedral church at the moment is Kazan cathedral.

The top things to see in St. Isaac's Cathedral

You should undoubtedly check the lavish decorations both of the cathedral exterior and interior.

Over 40 different minerals were used for its facing. The plinth was clad in granite, the walls and floors inside were clad in Russian, Italian and French marble, and the columns were made of malachite and lapis lazuli. A lot of monolithic granite columns support the exterior of the building. Many-columned porticoes surround the square building on all four sides. About 100 kilos of gold was used to cover the giant dome which is surrounded by four smaller ones.

The cathedral was adorned with around 400 works including sculptures, paintings and mosaics. The interior was done by the best decorators of the time. Among them were prominent painters such as Karl Bryullov, Fyodor Bruni and sculptors such as Pyotr Klodt, Ivan Vitali and Alexander Loganovsky.

We also highly recommend that you walk up the 300 steps to the cathedral's colonnade, and enjoy the panoramic view over the city.

Opening hours

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

From 10.30 am to 6 pm. Last admission is at 5.30 pm.

Evening openings of the Cathedral in the summer only (April 27 — September 30):

6 pm to 10.30 pm.

Last admission 30 min before closing.

Closed: Wednesday

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral Colonnade

Daily from 10.30 am to 6 pm (May 1 — October 31). Starting from November 1 and until April 30 the Colonnade is closed every 3rd Wednesday of the month.

Evening openings of the Colonnade in the summer only (April 27 — September 30):

6 pm to 10.30 pm.

Last admission 30 min before closing.

Perks of visiting St. Isaac's Cathedral with CityPass

With St. Petersburg CityPass you can easily access St. Isaac’s Cathedral without any lines and tickets. You just need to show your pass in the ticket office. Handy tips and useful information about the museum can be found in the guidebook that goes with your CityPass.

If you don’t have a pass yet, it can be purchased next to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral.

More about bonuses of St. Petersburg CityPass: https://russiacitypass.com/en/petersburg

Contacts and location

Contacts

Address:
4, St. Isaac's Square, Saint Petersburg

Subway:
Admiralteyskaya

Phone:
+7(812) 315-9732

Site:
www.cathedral.ru


Timetable
Monday

10.30 - 18.00

Tuesday

10.30 - 18.00

Wednesday

Closed

Thursday

10.30 - 18.00

Friday

10.30 - 18.00

Saturday

10.30 - 18.00

Sunday

10.30 - 18.00

  • Good
    2018-11-19
    “Great value for money. With this Pass we’ve saved more than 100 euros!”
    “We’ve visited more than 5 museums and took 2 excursions BUS TOUR CITY SIGHTSEEING ST. PETERSBURG and CITY SIGHTSEEING NEVA.”
  • Great
    2018-11-15
    “What to see in Moscow? There are many options. As for us, we went to Pokrovsky Sobor straight after buying CityPass. According to the guidebooks, it is one of the best places to visit in Moscow. We saw Pokrovsky Cathedral on many postcards and knew that it was a religious symbol of Moscow, that’s why it was our first choice. And only then we went to the Kremlin. Being so individual the exterior and interior of St. Basil’s Cathedral are impressive. It’s a true eye candy! We really liked the picturesque view of the Red Square and the Moskva River from the cathedral viewpoint. By the way, using the pass we skipped the line which was great! The line was huge during the FIFA World Cup. Apparently, it is not so easy to get the tickets to St. Basil's Cathedral during the high season. With Moscow СityPass you just need to show it to security guards and they will let you go to the ticket office to validate the pass. Inside the church you can also get an audio guide. Highly recommended!”
  • Great
    2016-09-02
    Es war supergeil, ich habe viel gesehen. Wie versprochen habe ich viel gespart. Also es war toll, jeder Zeit wieder.
  • Great
    2016-08-20
    Great oportunity to explore Moscow!! Thank you very much! In addition to the entry to museums, a map and a guidebook we have got a lot of different bonuses.... An audioguide, taxi and sales in cafees :) That was an amazing trip!
  • Great
    2015-06-23
    Thank you Moscow CityPass for unfogettable time in Moscow! We've bought 2 Passes, for me and my girlfriend. We saved around 90 euros and a lot of time! It was awesome to enter Kremlin and Tretyakov gallery without queues, because threre were really huge queues! And of course discounts in the top restaurants was preety addition :) Recomended to everyone who is going to Moscow ^ - ^
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