Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria in St Petersburg: the only Basilica in Russia

Short description

There are about 1,700 Catholic cathedrals have the status of Basilica, but there is the only temple which was awarded this honorary status in Russia – Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Catholic religion in Russia numbered supporters. But the policy pursued by Peter the Great led to the emergence of a large number of foreign specialists, many of whom were Catholics. It had become clear that there is a need for a place of worship for them.

The Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria was built under the direction of various architects, so the building represents some kind of architectural compromise. If you look at the floor plan, you can see a Catholic cross with a transverse nave.

History

A building permit of a Catholic church was issued in 1738. The construction of it was entrusted to the architect Domenico Trezzini. Bit due to disagreements with the city authorities, without finishing the project, he left Russia in 1751. The construction was stopped.

There were several attempts to finish the building of the cathedral, but this was able to do in 1783 alone. The architects who completed the work were the Italians – Minchiani and Antonio Rinaldi. The consecration of the temple took place in the autumn of 1783, at the same time it was given the status of a Cathedral.

While the temple was being completed, services for Catholics were held in the wooden extension of the house next door.

The service in the Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria was often visited by the great Monferann, the architect of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. He was sipped after his death in this church.

Services were carried out by supporters of various denominations at different times. Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans succeeded one another.

The parish was quite large and numbered up to 30,000 before Russian Revolution of 1917. In the late 1930s, during a wave of repression, clergies were arrested and the Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria was closed. Church furnishings and holy books were thrown away.

In 1947 there was a fire, which destroyed the old organ and murals on the walls. The premises of an abandoned cathedral were used as a warehouse for several years. It was decided to restore the building in 1977. Restoration work was underway until 1984 when the next fire destroyed everything that could be saved up to this point.

The church was returned to believers in 1991. Restoration began at the same time. Most of the work was completed by 2003. The Parish of the Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria has about 1,000 people today.

Architecture

The main pediment of the church is represented by an arch, supported by columns. The figures of the four apostles and angels carrying the cross are located on the parapet of the building. These are the oldest sculptures in St. Petersburg.

The interior of the cathedral was completely destroyed by fires, so what we see today is the result of the work of restorers according to the surviving drawings. The church looks quite modest inside. Here is a huge cross preserved since the opening of the temple.

The Cathedral Cross was saved and preserved by one of the parishioners of the church – Sofia Stepulkovskaya. After half a century the shrine was returned to believers.

Schedule of services

The Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria is open from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. daily

Foreign language services are held regularly in the church:

  • Saturday at 8 p.m. – Spanish
  • Sunday at 9.30 a.m. – English
  • Sunday at 1.30 p.m. – Polish

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Alexandra
Hi! I'm an editor of PetersburgExpert blog. We look for the most interesting places in St. Petersburg and tell you about them.
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