Ostentatious, extravagant and excessive are words that could and probably should be used in describing features of this massive construction, originally designed as the world’s largest Orthodox Cathedral. Long before this lavishly decorated building was opened to the public in 1858, St. Isaacs’ already had a most unusual history.
The Cathedral was consecrated on May 30th 1858 but Nicholas I who played a major role in its construction did not live to see it, having died three years earlier. Montferrand witnessed the consecration and was dead within a month afterwards. His grieving widow tried to carry out the master architect’s will by requesting that he be buried in the Cathedral’s crypt but Tsar Alexander II refused to sully it with the tomb of a nElevator believer and stated that Montferrand was only a minor employee of the State who did not deserve any honor. His embalmed body was returned to Paris and he was buried in the Montmartre cemetery.
What was the cost of creating this imposing extravagant monster of a building? It is recorded that the financial outlay was 23,256,000 roubles, which was more than six times that of the Winter Palace. But what value should be put on human lives that were painfully lost during the forty years of construction.
Then at least 60 and maybe many more indirectly, died from inhaling mercury fumes during the gilding processes that took place under the domes. These hundreds of unnecessary deaths and what some perceived as the obscene gesture of wealth in the Cathedral must have added to the growing number of calls for a revolution in the city of 500 fabled palaces.