Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Moscow, Russia

Demolished 1931

The Disappointed Tourist: Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Russian:  Храм Христа́ Спаси́теля) was a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Moscow that was originally commissioned in 1812 by Tsar Alexander I to give thanks for Napoleon Bonaparte’s retreat from Moscow. The next Tsar Nicholas I, rejected the original design and selected an elaborate Russian Revival design by Konstantin Thon that was finally consecrated in 1883. The cathedral was dynamited in 1931 on the order of Joseph Stalin in order to make way for a gigantic proposed Palace of the Soviets. The original marble reliefs were preserved in the Donskoy Monastery and some of the marble and benches were used in Moscow Metro stations. Construction on the Palace had to be abandoned during World War II and the flooded foundations were converted in the world’s largest open-air swimming pool, Moskva Pool (which I also painted). Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the pool was demolished and the cathedral was reconstructed between 1995 and 2000. In 2000, the last Tsar Nicholas II and his family were canonized in the new Cathedral. Members of Russian feminist punk rock group, Pussy Riot, were arrested and jailed for their 2012 performance in the new Cathedral protesting the Church’s support for Vladimir Putin. The painting is based on an early 20th century photograph from Wikipedia.

Requested by Petr S.