The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is an iconic landmark for residents of St. Petersburg, Russia as well as a tourist destination for thousands of travelers each year. With its famous onion-shaped domes and colorful exterior, this unique church closely resembles the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, as both landmarks share similarities in color and design.

The beauty of this structure is only surpassed by the rich and cultural history behind it. The church was first built in 1883 to honor the memory of Alexander II, who was responsible for the emancipation of serfs in 1861 that put an end to Russian slavery. The church stands in the very place where a bomb was thrown into his carriage by a young man who opposed the reforms by Alexander II.

Construction lasted around 24 years, and then 27 years to restore after early Soviet vandalism of the church. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the church was vandalized and looted, severely damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in 1932.

During the Second World War, when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables.

In 1970, the church began a 27-year restoration project. When it was reopened in August 1997, it was not restored as an official place of worship. It now serves as a museum, tourist attraction and historical monument.

The decades of deterioration and then restoration culminated in the dramatic reopening of the church in August 1997. Thousands of eager visitors swamped the church best known for its eye-catching colorful domes and being decorated with jeweler’s enamel, crystal and topaz. Its multi-colored exterior makes the church stand apart from other buildings in St. Petersburg.

Likewise, the breathtaking interior is more than 23,130 square feet and is considered the largest mosaic collection in Europe. The inside of the main dome of the church is decorated with the iconic mosaic painting of the Christ Pantocrator and is one of the most treasured art pieces.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is now a museum and welcomes visitors year-round. For more information, visit www.saintpetersburg.com/cathedrals.