The Russian Orthodox Churches are just amazing. Much like Moscow, the churches that remain standing fall into two categories: those attached to Palaces (as family places of worship) and those that were purpose built as a memorial. St Issac’s was built in 1818 to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. It is lavishly decorated with marble and other stones (malachite columns). It was closed during the communist era, which is how it survived to the present day.
In the case of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, the son of Alexander II built that church on the spot where his father was murdered by a terrorist bomb. The multi colored onion dome church in Moscow, Saint Basil (that celebrated the victory over Kazan) was the most spectacular memorial in the land. So, Alexander III believed Alexander II deserved one even more spectacular . . . . He commissioned The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The frescos and paintings were spectacular and all the gold leaf, I can not see churches in the same way again. The mosaics stretch from floor to ceiling (70,000 square feet in total). It survived the communist revolution by reinventing the space as a barn and a stable.
The Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul is the building with the singular gilded spire, and was St Petersburg tallest building for over 200 years. It contains icons created in 1720. The colors are still vibrant and the artistry is awe inspiring. Peter the Great moved the capital of Russia from Moscow to St Petersburg in 1712. Therefore, all the leaders since that date were buried here in the Peter and Paul Fortress, including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and all the way till Nicholas II (and his family) the final Czar of Russia. This church survived the communist revolution as a prison.