Lyubeznikov, Oleg Anatolievich. The interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the 19th century: Metamorphoses of symbolic message

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For citation: Lyubeznikov, Oleg Anatolievich. The interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the 19th century: Metamorphoses of symbolic message, in Studia Slavica et Balcanica Petropolitana. 2022. № 1. Pp. 195-210. DOI

Title of the article The interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the 19th century: Metamorphoses of symbolic message

Lyubeznikov, Oleg Anatolievich ― PhD in History, Senior Lecturer, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia, Orc ID 0000-0003-3086-0696, Scopus ID 57219053706, SPIN-code 8644-2149, Author ID 713421; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In the section  Miscellanea / Miscellanea
Year 2022 Issue 1 Pages 195-210
Type of article RAR Index UDK; BBK UDK 94(470+571) «1818/1899»; BBK 63.3(2)  Index DOI

The research was supported by the Russian Science Foundation, project № 21-48-04402 «Saints and heroes from Christianization to Nationalism: Symbol, Image, Memory (Nord-West Russia, Baltic and Nordic countries)».

The article discusses the process of changing the symbolic meaning of the interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg during the 19th century. The cathedral, built according to the design of the French architect O. Montferrand, dedicated to St. Isaac of Dalmatia, whose memorial day coincided with the date of birth of Peter the Great, symbolically substantiated the idea of the inseparable unity of Orthodoxy and the monarchy with its interior decoration. The symbolic message of the interior of the temple corresponded to the ideological program of the reign of Nicholas I. The paintings, mosaics, reliefs decorating the cathedral contained images of saints named after members of the Romanov dynasty. The symbolic connection between representatives of the imperial family and those depicted saints was emphasized in documents about building works and in the official description of the cathedral. Referring to archival and published sources the author of the article set his goal to trace whether and why this «reading» of the interior changed. The process of gradual extinction of the model of interpretation proposed by Montferrand correlated with changes in the system of managing the cathedral. While all the work in the interior of the cathedral was controled of the Ministry of the Interior, the image of the memorial church of the Romanov dynasty remained inviolable. The assassination of Alexander II and the unfolding rivalry between various groups of government conservatives led to a revision of the system of managing the cathedral, to the emergence of an Economic Administration controlled by the Holy Synod and strengthening the role of the rector and clergy in the design of the temple. Occurring in the 1880s–1890s changes in the interior of the cathedral (the appearance of new icons, banners) more and more corresponded to its purely church interpretation and, apparently, reflected (at that time the still emerging, latent) demarcation between the Orthodox Church and the Russian autocracy.

Keywords St. Isaac’s Cathedral, symbolic policy, Nicholas I, O. Montferrand, E. V. Bogdanovich, interpretation, cultural studies
Full text version of the article Article language  Russian

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Tags: MISCELLANEA / MISCELLANEA, cultural studies, Art, architecture, LYUBEZNIKOV O. V.

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