An acquaintance of mine soon will travel to Russia due to United Airlines’ currently incredibly cheap deals from Dulles to Moscow. So, I prepared a list of recommendations for her, one of which is Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
I believe that Christ the Savior is Moscow’s cathedral, but it is difficult to tell which of the “cathedrals” is the current patriarchal church because so many former ones remain. Moreover, it appears that Russians use the term sobor (собор) to designate any important church; so, the English equivalent is not really “cathedral” but something more like “basilica.”
Tsar Alexander I initiated the building of the new cathedral in gratitude to God for Russia’s defeat of Napoleon. His brother Tsar Nicholas chose the final design, and the cathedral was consecrated in A.D. 1883 on the coronation of Tsar Alexander III, Nicholas’ grandson. During the Soviet years, Stalin had the cathedral blown up, and the site became a public swimming pool. After the fall of the Communists, Russians rebuilt the cathedral, and it was consecrated on the feast of the Transfiguration in A.D. 2000. My brother Aaron and I attended the liturgy there for the same feast when we visited Moscow.
The cathedral is massive but beautiful. As you can see in the photograph above, it is built upon a base that covers a lot of area. Inside, in addition to the main church, there are museums, auditoriums, numerous chapels, and other facilities. In this, Christ the Savior strikes me as a Russian Orthodox equivalent to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Like Christ the Savior, the basilica is an all purpose center for worship, administration, and pilgrimage. They are similar in other ways, as well. I harbor significant reservations about the interior iconography of both churches. Christ the Savior has the Westernized style of nineteenth century Russian iconography, and the basilica has the chaotic and confused style of modern Roman Catholic religious art. Nonetheless, I am quite fond of both. If you are ever in the Russian or American capital cities, spend some hours visiting one of these monuments to the glory of God.