Chesme Church, St Petersburg, Russia - Famous Churches
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11-05-2020    72 times
Chesme Church St Petersburg Russia

Located at 12 Lensoveta Street, in the far south of the city between Saint Petersburg and the Summer Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, the Chesme or Chesmenskaya Church is a smallRussian OrthodoxChurch,built between 1777 and 1780 to commemorate the anniversary ofRussia's 1770victoryoverTurkishforces inChesme Bayin the Aegean Seaduring theRusso-Turkish Warof 1768-1774. It is said that Empress Catherine the Great decided to have a church built on the spot, where she received the news of the Russian victory over the Turkish Fleet.

chesme church st petersburg russia

The laying of the church's foundation was attended by King Gustav III of Sweden and was consecrated on 24 June 1780, on the tenth anniversary of Russia's great naval victory and since it was also the birthday of John the Baptist, the church was officially named the Church of the Birth of St John the Baptist.

Originally the Church belonged to the neighbouring Chesme Palace, which was built to serve as a resting place for the imperial family on their journeys from St Petersburg to the Summer Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, located 15 miles (24 km) south from the center of Saint Petersburg.

chesme church st petersburg russia

Designed by the German-Russian court architect Yury Felton, the Chesme Church looks like a fairytale gothic church and considered by many as the single most impressive church of St Petersburg. Along with the Chesme Palace, it is one of the earliest Neo-Gothic constructions in the St Petersburg area and a rare example of very early Gothic Revival influence in Russian church architecture, indicative of the triumph for ancient northern virtues in the spirit of the crusaders. Built with brick and white stone and painted pink and white, the church appears like a candy cone, with long and vertical white stripes, which create an optical illusion that the church is rising up far into the sky.

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While the entrance to the church has a neo-Gothic Rose window and a round window above it, the entrance portal has beautiful sculptures of angels. The church is generously decorated with lancet windows and doorways, decorative pinnacles and toothed parapets. Instead of the traditional onion domes, the main tower and the four smaller towers of the building have small domes, which contain pinnacles. One of the towers houses a huge bell, weighing around 100 kg. The imposing relief design on the top of the walls is in the form of the parapet with pinnacles. The interior of the church was originally decorated with Italian icons, which were destroyed in a fire in 1930 and restored subsequently. It was also damaged during theSiege of Leningrad by Nazi Germany during World War II and restored again in 1946.

chesme church st petersburg russia
Detail of the facade decorations

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chesme Church, along with the palace was used by the Soviet government as a forced labour camp and it was turned into a storehouse in 1923. During that time, the cross on the central turret of the church was replaced with a hammer, tongs and anvil, symbolizing the toil of the proletariat.

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Long after that and just before World War II, the complex was handed over to the Institute of Aviation Technology. The building of the church was thoroughly repaired and restored during 19170-1975 and transformed into a museum of the Battle of Chesme in 1977, exhibiting artifacts transformed from the Central Naval Museum. After the collapse of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991, religious control was restored to theRussian Orthodox Church and the regular church services were revived.

chesme church st petersburg russia
Inside the Chesme Church

The graveyard of the church is located behind the church. It is said that the self-proclaimed holy man Rasputin, who gained considerable influence over the royal family of imperial Russia, during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, was laid in state in the graveyard, after his murder. Later, it was named the Chesmenskoe War Cemetery and contains unnamed graves of the war heroes.

The graveyard of the church is located behind the church. It is said that the self-proclaimed holy man Rasputin, who gained considerable influence over the royal family of imperial Russia, during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, was laid in state in the graveyard, after his murder. Later, it was named the Chesmenskoe War Cemetery and contains unnamed graves of the war heroes.

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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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