St. Isaac's Cathedral

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral


in Leningrad, a masterpiece of late Russian classicism. Before the Revolution of 1917, St. Isaac’s Cathedral was the principal church in St. Petersburg. It was founded in honor of Peter I and named for St. Isaac of Dalmatia, on whose holy day (May 30, Old Style) Peter was born.

In 1710 the wooden church of St. Isaac of Dalmatia was constructed near the Admiralty building. In 1717 it was replaced by a stone church, which was torn down in the middle of the 18th century. The first St. Isaac’s Cathedral was constructed from 1768 to 1802 on a newly created city square (now St. Isaac’s Square). It was designed by the architect A. Rinaldi and built by the architect V.F. Brenna. The cathedral was hastily completed with an unfinished belfry. Because it did not harmonize with the solemn architecture of the city’s center, a competition was held for the design of a new cathedral during the first decade of the 19th century.

The present St. Isaac’s Cathedral was constructed from 1818 to 1858, following a design by A.A. Montferrand. His design was perfected by a special commission (1821–25). The commission’s members included V.P. Stasov and A.A. Mikhailov II. The construction of St. Isaac’s Cathedral was one of the greatest technical achievements in the history of Russian architecture.

The large bulky building is crowned with a dome (21.83 m in diameter) and is surrounded on all four sides by porticoes with eight columns. The pediments of the porticoes have corner statues; the tympana are decorated with haut-reliefs. The sculptors included I.P. Vitali, A.V. Loganovskii, and P.K. Klodt. The interior of the cathedral was adorned with malachite, porphyry, and multicolored marble. There are mosaics and murals (among the painters were K.P. Briullov and F.A. Bruni). A Foucault pendulum, 93 m long, hangs from the cathedral’s dome.

The cathedral’s height is 101.52 m. Including the porticoes, its length is 111.5 m and its width is 97.6 m. Although St. Isaac’s Cathedral is out of scale with the surrounding buildings, it is one of the most important elements in the planning of Leningrad. The cathedral determines the distinctive skyline of the city. In 1931, St. Isaac’s Cathedral was opened as a public museum.


Kolotov, M.G. Isaakievskii sobor. Leningrad-Moscow, 1964; [5th ed., Leningrad] 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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