Chesme Church

Saint Petersburg, Russia | C.1780

Photo Credit: @piffpaffpuff

Playful and charming, this pink church holds the appearance of a dream toy castle for young children. In reality, the structure is the Church of Saint John the Baptist at Chesme Palace. Also referred to as the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, it is a small Russian Orthodox Church in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The church was commissioned in remembrance of the tenth anniversary of Russia’s 1770 victory over Turkish forces in Chesme Bay in the Aegean Sea during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774. The date also coincided with the birthday of John the Baptists, thus heralding the church’s name.

Russian court architect Yury Felten, who was known for crafting unique churches around Russia, was hired to design the church for Chesme Palace in 1780 at the direction of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. The final design resembles a wedding-cake structure with striped detailed walls and five gothic turrets stand in place of traditional onion domes. This truly unique church has survived almost fully intact to this day despite the turmoil it has endured.

The church and the Chesme Palace became a labor camp when the Soviet government occupied it and in 1923. During this time the church did not hold services and was used as a storehouse. Between 1941 and 1945, the church suffered damages during the “Great Patriotic War”. Finally, during the Second World War, the Institute of Aviation Technology took possession of the Church and the Chesme Palace which still occupies the palace today.

During 1970-75, it was fully restored under the supervision of the architects M.I. Tolstov and A.P. Kulikov, and in 1977, the church became a museum honoring the Battle of Chesme. It included artifacts from the Central Naval Museum. Likewise, it was also used as a burial site for war heroes who were lost during the Siege of Leningrad.

People continue to flock to the church to pay their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Mourners can now participate in a religious service while they are on site, as religious control was officially restored to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991, and regular church services have been reactivated.

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