The giant Cathedral of Christ the Savior is the largest cathedral in Russia. The present-day Cathedral is an exact replica of the original Cathedral of Christ the Savior which was pulled down in 1933 on the orders of Stalin.
The history of the Cathedral dates back to the Russian victory over Napoleon. On the Christmas Day of December 25th 1812 Emperor Alexander I issued a decree to build a new church to commemorate the victory and to thank God for his guiding hand. However, for various reasons the construction works did not begin until 1839 when Emperor Nicholas I, younger brother of Alexander I, approved a new design of the church by the Russian architect Ton. The construction works lasted for over 40 years and the new Cathedral was inaugurated in 1881.
The original design of Ton followed the classical 5-domed design of the Russian orthodox church. However, such a big cathedral has never been built in Russia which provoked a lot of controversy and debate over the cathedral's aesthetics and oversized proportions. Still the new church was completed despite the opposition by some architects and it was lavishly decorated with ornate bas-reliefs and beautiful mosaics.
In 1933 Stalin ordered the cathedral be demolished in order to provide space for a new House of Soviets. This new sky-scraper was meant to be the pinnacle construction of the Soviet regime. Plans were made to decorate it with a 100-meter tall aluminum statue of the Bolshevik leader Lenin. Fortunately, these plans were never fulfilled and the square remained unoccupied ever since.
It is not a mere fact that the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior became a symbol of Russia's religious revival. The works began in early 1990s and the new Cathedral was officially reopened for the millennium and was consecrated by the Russian Patriarch.