The two descriptions coincide in content and structure. Baedeker again stresses size and dimensions whereas Keller informs the reader that the church was built on marshes. Both texts emphasize the building’s grandness: its magnificent architecture and lavish decoration render it a marvelous tourist sight. Moreover, they both recommend the view from the dome as a way to enhance the tourist’s visual experience of Petersburg.
Yet, little attention is paid to the church as a religious site. Instead, its splendor has displaced its religious function. In his introduction to the city, Keller describes the churches of Petersburg as “the most splendid of any modern churches in the world” and recommends them as prime tourist attractions.
But how do the two guidebooks represent Russian religious practices? When discussing Russia’s religion, both Baedeker and Keller express astonishment thus anticipating and shaping the foreign tourist’s response to its strangeness.
In his “Introduction” Baedeker writes: “Every foreigner will be struck by the frequency with which the people cross themselves, by their obeisances and prostrations before every open church door, and by the kissing of the floor and the relics inside the churches. Though the Russian attaches great importance to the observance of all these rites and customs, he welcomes strangers to his churches, and places no difficulties in their way in examining the churches and their contents even during divine services.” In other words, not only are Russians accommodating but they are also accustomed to being observed by strangers.
Similarly, Keller’s introduction highlights the peculiarity of Russian religious practices: “Russia! What a crowd of thoughts come flying as the word strikes the ear! – The ikona in the corner of every room; the gold – or blue – domed basilica in every street; the long-haired priests chanting in deep bass; the pedestrian ceaselessly crossing himself.” When describing Petersburg’s streets and people, Keller is struck with the Russian priests as a peculiar picture of Russian life: “One very often meets priests of the Greek Orthodox Church. They wear long hair and close fitting cloaks with very wide sleeves.” Keller’s words transform Russian religious traits into signs for the country itself, into markers of its touristic value.
Both guidebooks stress the building’s magnificent architecture and lavish decoration to highlight its value as a tourist attraction. As in all four stops, the Baedeker emphasizes size and dimensions as a way of seeing and comprehending the sight. If St. Issaac’s is presented as a marvel of Western European architecture, it is also a locus of fabulous Eastern wealth and foreign religious practices. This blend of familiar and exotic constitutes the cathedral as a tourist attraction and might be said to underlie the two guidebooks’ representation of Petersburg.
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The Senate and Synod
The Main Map
To the S.W. of the Alexander Garden lies Isaac Square, bounded on the E. side by the War Office, a large triangular building by Ricard de Monferrand. In the centre of the square stands St. Isaac’s cathedral, or Cathedral of St. Isaac of Dalmatia, the largest church in St. Petersburg, built in 1819-58, in the place of an earlier church, after plans of the French architect Ricard de Monferrand. The cost of the building amounted to 23,000,000 rb. The cathedral, built of granite and marble with a lavish disregard of cost, is in the shape of a cross 364 ft. long and 315 ft. wide, and is crowned by an enormous gilded dome, visible at a great distance. The doors are approached by wide granite steps. The chief entrances, in the longer (N. and S.) sides, form beautiful Porticoes, modeled on that of the Pantheon in Rome, each with 16 monolith columns of polished red Finnish granite, 54 ft. high and 7 ft. thick, with bronze bases and capitals, arranged in three rows. In the shorter sides (E. and W.) are smaller porticoes, with eight columns each. The columns are surmounted by four pediments (those on the longer sides 112 ft. long), adorned with large bronze reliefs...
[a description of the reliefs follows]
Above are statues of the Evengelists and Apostles; the statues of angels at the corners of the roof are by Vitali. – The gilded Centre Dome, 87 ft. in diameter, rests on a drum surrounded by 24 hollow columns encased in granite, and each 42 ½ ft. high. The dome is crowned by a lantern 40 ½ ft. high, with 8 pillars; from the top rises a cross 19 ft. high. The inner height of the dome from the floor is 269 ft. (St. Peter’s in Rome is 404 ft, St. Paul’s in London, 225 ft.); the height of the whole building to the top of the cross is 333 ½ ft. Four smaller domes surround the central one. (p. 109)
[A detailed description of the cathedral’s interior follows]
The dome (562 steps up to the lantern) affords a fine view over the city and the Neva. It is reached from the S. side, to the right of the entrance to the church (1-5 persons 1 rb., each addit. pers. 20 cop.).
St. Isaac's Square lies to the S. W. of the Alexander Gardens and is bounded by a great triangular erection, the War Office (Voyennoye Ministerstvo), In the centre rises the great St. Isaac's Cathedral (Isaakievsky Sobor), the largest and most magnificent church in St. Petersburg. It was built by the great French architect Richard de Monferrand under Catherine II in 1765 on the place where a wooden church built by Peter the Great stood (named St. Isaac of Dalmatia), and which was destroyed by a fire. To erect St. Isaac's Cathedal [sic] it was necessary to drive over twelve hundred huge piles into the marshy ground. The church is built in extravagant magnificence of granite and marble, its cross-shaped and crowning the massive building great gold dome can be seen from a great distance. Granite steps lead to all the entrances. The main entrances are formed by sixteen monoliths, of polished Finish red granite with bases and capitals of bronze, arranged in three rows in imitation of the entrance Hall of the Pantheon in Rome. The columns are 55 feet high. On the columns rest tympans with great bronze reliefs...
[a description of the reliefs follows]
The gilded Centre Dome is 70 feet in diameter and rests on 24, 40 feet high, hollow pillars and over this is a cupola resting on eight columns. At the extreme summit there is a cross 20 feet high.
In the interior the height from the floor to the top of (he Dome is 280 feet tSt. Paul's in London 230 feet). There arc four small golden cupolas round the great Dome.
[A detailed description of the interior follows]
The cupola (562 steps up) affords a very fine view over the city and the Neva. Entrance to this on the south side, to the right of the entrance to the church (1-5 persons 1 R., for each one above that number 20 cop.).