Among the plain and boring grey buildings of Stalin’s time, you can see an amazingly beautiful temple. Its graceful silhouette resembles medieval European Gothic. This is the Church of Saint John the Baptist at Chesme Palace, better known as the Chesme Church. It is a single architectural ensemble with the eponymous palace located next to it.
Empress of Russia Catherine the Great loved to travel across Russia. To make that trips more comfortable, travelling palaces were built along the routes. So the empress could stop for a short rest. One of them was a palace on the road from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoye Selo. Today you can get there in half an hour, and in that era, such a trip took much longer.
Russian rulers had traditionally been very pious people, and therefore churches were often built near the palaces. This had also occurred with the Chesme Palace. The history of the church begins with the glorious victory of the Russian fleet over the Turks during the Battle of Chesme in 1770.
The birth of the church took place only 7 years after the momentous battle. Catherine the Great and Swedish king Gustav III attended this solemn ceremony.
Development of the project was entrusted to the architect Yuri Felten. The church was being built by the summer of 1780 – the tenth anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Chesme. The new church was handed over to the chapter of the Order of St. George. For this reason, for some time it was also called St. George.
The church was closed and used as a storehouse in 1923. The bells were removed from the bell tower. Instead of crosses, Soviet symbols were erected on the domes. There were sculptures in the form of a hammer and an anvil.
In 1930 there was a fire that destroyed the magnificent interior and unique iconostasis. Even more, the church, as well as the palace, suffered during World War II. Buildings were at the forefront of the defence of the city. In 1947, the church was preserved, and then it was decided to restore it as a historical and architectural monument.
The building of the church was made in the pseudo-Gothic style. Today it is still called neo-gothic. The architectural forms were created in the form of a quatrefoil, and the construction of the church is basically square. However, outside the temple seems round. Semicircular protrusions, which called apses, attached to all sides of the building.
You can see two white statues of Faith and Hope above the entrance to the left and right. One holds a cross and a bowl, the other – a flame and a palm branch. The bas-relief, which is the All-Seeing Eye of the Lord, is surrounded by cherubs.
There are several small narrow ornamental turrets with battlements and high lancet windows. The colour of the walls is red-pink. They are decorated by a large number of vertical white lines and lace patterns.
Inside the temple is decorated with white traction, as well as rosettes and panels. But at the same time, the interior looks simple and strict. The main thing that attracts attention is the iconostasis, which is a copy of the original one, the one that burned down during a fire in the 30s. It was created according to the drawing of the architect of the church – Y. Felten. The iconostasis is made in white colour and decorated with carvings from gilding. The iconographic images are bright and written in Italian style.
The Chesme Church is a functioning temple. Services are held every day.
Lensovet st, 12
How to get
Leaving the Moskovskaya station, walk along Moskovsky Prospect to Aviation Street. Then follow it to the intersection with Lensovet street and turn left.
- The territory where the church and the palace were built was called the Frog Marsh in Finnish, and therefore the green frog was the coat of arms of the Chesme palace.
- Catherine II loved this place and came to the temple twice a year. A special royal place was built to her.
- The museum in the church building was closed after the robbery. At night, when the caretaker left his post, valuable exhibits and church utensils were stolen from the museum.