Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky (Warsaw)

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Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky was an Orthodox cathedral in Warsaw, built from 1894 to 1912 and destroyed 1924-1926.

Contents

Construction

The idea of building a new Orthodox cathedral in Warsaw came from the Tsarist governor Josif Khurko. In a letter sent to Tsar Alexander III he stated that the churches built so far in Warsaw could not serve all the Russian Orthodox population, which exceeded 40 thousand people. He also claimed that a new, splendid Orthodox church would show Russian domination in the region.

The tsar responded positively to Khurko's letter and inaugurated a committee that was to organise the construction works. Many Russian citizens donated money, the rest of the necessary funds was collected from taxes. In 1900, the first phase of construction was completed and a special group of Petersburg artists started decorating the interior with mosaics, frescoes and precious stones. Next to the Cathedral, a belltower was erected. It had 70 metres height and was the tallest building in contemporary Warsaw. There were 14 bells, of which the biggest one was also one of the biggest in Russian Empire. The Cathedral was opened on May 20, 1912.

Abandon

Only three years later, Russian began leaving Warsaw at the start of World War I in fear of it becoming the frontline. The Orthodox clergy took with them most of liturgic objects. After the German troops entered Warsaw, they pillaged the church (taking away the whole roof), then turned it to their Protestant military chapel. In 1918, they retired from the city and the Cathedral was abandoned again.

Destruction

After Poland regained its independence, Polish nationalist circles started lobbying for the Cathedral's immediate destruction. They claimed that the building was no longer necessary (Russian community in Warsaw was respectively smaller after the war) and that its architecture did not fit the area. They also repeated that the Cathedral was built for political and not religious reasons. The intelllectuals and Social Democrats defended the church, underlining its high artistic value and reminding all about freedom of faith that was declared in the Polish constitution. There was also a project to turn the Cathedral into a Roman Catholic church. However, the nationalist position finally won, and the Cathedral was torn down in 1924-1926 with the use of explosives. Only some of the mosaics were saved and have been preserved in the Church of Mary Magdalen in Warsaw since then.

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