Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, St. Petersburg, Russia

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan or simply Kazan Cathedral is the cathedra of the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. This church located on Nevsky Prospect is dedicated to the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, probably the most venerated icon in Russia, and is the heir repository of the copy originally brought to St. Petersburg by Tsar Peter I.



According to the legend, in the late 16th century, a little girl living in Kazan had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told her to go to a burnt-down house and find an icon in the ashes. An icon of the Virgin Mary was actually found and began to work miracles. In 1612 it accompanied Prince Dmitri Pozharsky's men when they liberated Moscow from the Poles. After that it was kept in the Moscow Kremlin. In 1710, Tsar Peter I ordered a copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan that he had placed in a chapel in Petrogradskaya Side. The icon was later moved to a wooden church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.

In 1733, to replace the wooden church, Empress Anna Ionnova ordered a stone church, also dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, built on the present site of the Kazan Cathedral. This church, which was dedicated on June 17, 1737, became the home of the much revered Icon of Our Lady of Kazan that Peter I had ordered. The church became the main church of St. Petersburg. The church was where Empress Catherine II became an Orthodox Christian and married her husband, Emperor Peter III. By the end of the century the church had been granted the status of a cathedral, but had become dilapidated. On ascending the throne in 1796, Emperor Paul I ordered a new larger cathedral to be built to house the national icon as a replacement for the church of the Virgin Mary.



The construction of the new cathedral began on August 27, 1801 and continued for 10 years. The architect, Andrey Voronikhin, modeled the new building after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The new building had a larger dome, and porticos, with a semicircular colonnade of Corinthian columns on the north side of the basilica. A similar colonnade was planned for the south side of the building, but was never built. There are 3 entrances to the cathedral, on the north, south, and west sides of the building. Although the Russian Orthodox Church strongly disapproved of the plans to create a replica of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Russia's then capital, many courtiers supported Voronikhin's Empire Style design.

After Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, and Mikhail Kutuzov, the commander-in-chief of the defending Russian army, asked Our Lady of Kazan for help, the church's purpose was to be changed. With the defeat of Napoleon's army, General Kutuzov's appeal to the cathedral's wonderworking icon changed the purpose of the cathedral, to a perception of cathedral as primarily a memorial to the Russian victory against Napoleon. In 1813, Kutuzov died and his body was interred in the cathedral's north chapel, a chapel that began to be seen as a monument to the 1812 war. Alexander Pushkin wrote celebrated lines meditating over his Kutuzov sepulcher. In 1815, keys to 17 cities and 8 fortresses were brought by the victorious Russian army from Europe and placed in the cathedral's sacristy. In 1837, Boris Orlovsky designed two magnificent bronze statues of Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly that were placed in front of the cathedral.