Historical symbol of Russia
St. Sampson Cathedral in St. Petersburg is one of few monuments of religious architecture of the first half of the18th century, still standing. The first wooden St. Sampson Church was construction by Order of emperor Peter I in late November, 1709, in memory of one of the major battles of Peter's epoch, the Poltava Battle, and was consecrated in 1710.
In those days it had been a custom to immortalize great acts and battles in triumphal arches or columns. But Czar-reformer Peter Alekseevich had justly ruled that a new church would be a closer and more understandable monument in the eyes of the Russian people. And since Swedes were defeated on June, 27, 1709, on a rememberance day of St. Sampson the Hospitable, the temple was consecrated in his name.
Symbolically, there are pig-iron boards on the walls of the cathedral's bell tower that feature the orders and speeches of Peter I before and after the Poltava Battle. Here is what the board on the southern side of the belltower reads:
"Soldiers! There has come the hour which should solve the destiny of our Fatherland; you should not think, that you battle for Peter, but for the state, which was handed to Peter, for your families, for your Fatherland, for our Orthodox Faith and Church. The glory of invincibility of the enemy should not confuse you, you have proven otherwise with many victories. Let the truth and God, your defender guide you in battle,, and as for Peter do know this: life is not dear to him; if only Russia, her, glory and well-being would live."
It is not by chance that the construction of the new church was started on what is known as the Vyborg Side of St. Petersburg. The first wooden St. Sampson church, erected in 1710, was located near Vyborg road in the northwestern direction, which road led to the realm of the Swedish king. Marching onto the battlefields of the Northern war and passing past this temple, armies had their fighting spirit lifted and felt pride in the victory of the Russian arms.
In the beginning of the 18th century this church was at a distance from the administrative center of the city, and it appeared convenient to open here in 1711 the first city cemetery. Near to the temple of St. Sampson The Hospitable is the final resting place of first St. Petersburg architects D. Trezini, A. Schlueter, J.-B. Leblond and G.I. Mattarnovi, sculptor K.B. Rastrelli, the first Russian economist I. Pososhkov, painters L. Caravaque and S. Torelli.
Near the Cathedral still standing is the monument, of which K.F. Ryleev wrote in his a series of poems entitled "Thoughts":
Sons of the Fatherland! In tears
Approach the ancient St. Sampson church:
There, near the gates
Lie Biron's enemies.
The father of the family! Bring
Your son to the tomb of the martyr,
And let him feel in his chest
The warmth of citizen loyalty!
The executed Biron's enemies, A.P. Volynsky, A.F. Hrushchov and P.M. Eropkin were buried near the temple under the order of Anna Ioannovna. Later under the decree of empress Ekaterina II a memorial plaque was set here, and in 1885 there was a monument erected here according to the project by sculptor M.A. Shchurupov.
The uniqueness of St. Sampson Cathedral lies in the mixture of architectural forms of the epoch before Peter the Great and elements of European architecture. The general style of the temple is that of Anna style baroque, at the same time as the bell-tower has an octahedral top with ñëóõîâîå windows, it is possible to attribute the cathedral to the 17th century architecture of Moscow, Yaroslavl and Solikamsk.
Of a special value is the main attraction of the church, a carved gilded iconostasis executed in the best traditions Russian wood carving of the first half of the 18th century. It contains a rare collection of icons of the first half of the eighteenth century, including images signed by I. Kvashnin and A. Pospelov.
The historical value of St. Sampson Cathedral was especially stressed in 1909 when the Russian empire celebrated the bicentennial of the Poltava victory. Celebrations culminated with opening of a monument to Peter the Great by M. Antokolsky opposite the bell-tower of the Cathedral. Then pig-iron boards were placed on the northern and southern walls of the cathedral's bell tower, featuring the orders and speeches of Peter I before and after the Poltava Battle addressed to the soldiers participants of the battle.
Thus, both the square in front of the cathedral, and the territory of the temple formed a uniform historical and cultural zone around the oldest spiritual center of St. Petersburg.
In 1999, after restoration, on the day of the 290th anniversary of the Poltava battle, there was a state museum and monument open in St. Sampson's Cathedral..
Taking into account the numerous wishes of believers and the letter of the head priest of the Cathedral Fr. Ioann Malinin, there are great feast divine services and weekend services celebrated in the church on a regular basis.