The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Храм Христа Спасителя) "Khram Khrista Spasitelya" is now considered as the main cathedral of Russian Orthdodoxy. This church, built on the bank of the Moskva River, and only a few blocks west of the Kremlin has quite a history.
When the last of Napoleon's soldiers left Moscow, Tsar Alexander I signed a manifest, 25 December 1812, declaring his intention to build a Cathedral in honor of Christ the Saviour "to signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her" and as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people.
A convent and church on the site had to be relocated, so that the cornerstone was not laid until 1839. The Cathedral had taken many years to build and did not emerge from its scaffolding until 1860. Some of the best Russian painters (Ivan Kramskoi, Vasily Surikov, Vasily Vereshchagin) continued to embellish the interior for another twenty years.
After the Revolution and, more specifically, the death of Lenin, the prominent site of the cathedral was chosen by the Soviets as the site for a monument to socialism known as the Palace of Soviets. This monument was to rise in modernistic, buttressed tiers to support a gigantic statue of Lenin perched on top of a dome with his arm raised in blessing.
On 5 December 1931, by order of Stalin's minister Kaganovich, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was dynamited and reduced to rubble. It took more than a year to clear the debris from the site. The original marble high reliefs were preserved and are now on display at the Donskoy Monastery. For a long time, they were the only reminder of the largest Orthodox church ever built.
The construction of the Palace of Soviets was delayed owing to a lack of funds, problems with flooding from the nearby Moskva River, and the outbreak of war. The flooded foundation hole remained on the site until, under Nikita Khrushchev, it was transformed into the world's largest open air swimming pool, it was called the Moskva Pool.
Heated to 27 degrees C year around, the result was a thick fog much of the year which led to the KGB using the pool as a convenient way to "eliminate" certain undesirables by taking them for "a swim" while out of sight of the public and even other swimmers.
With the end of the Soviet rule, the Russian Orthodox Church received permission to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February 1990. A temporary cornerstone was laid by the end of the year. The restorer Aleksey Denisov was called upon to design a replica of extraordinary accuracy.
A construction fund was initiated in 1992 and funds began to pour in from ordinary citizens in the autumn of 1994. In this year the pool was demolished and the cathedral reconstruction commenced. About one million Muscovites donated money for the project.
In addition to being the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, there is the smaller Church of the Transfiguration on a lower level as well as the Chapel of the Derzhavnaya Icon. In the basement there a large hall for church assemblies, a small convent for nuns who serve the church, and underground parking.
This church served as the venue when the last Russian Tsar, and his family were glorified as saints in 2000. On 17 May 2007, the Act of Canonical Communion between the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was signed there. The full restoration of communion with the Moscow Patriarchate was celebrated by a Divine Liturgy at which the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexius II and the First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Laurus, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy for the first time in history.
At night, from a Trolleybus window.
The first Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who died of heart failure on 23 April 2007, lay in state in the cathedral prior to his burial in Novodevichy Cemetery.
The Cathedral holds around 5,000-6,000 at one time and is the tallest Eastern Orthodox church in the world and currently the largest operating Orthodox Church in the world.