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.


The idea of building a new Orthodox cathedral in Warsaw came from Tsarist governor Josif Khurko. In the letter sent to tsar Alexander III he stated that the churches built so far in Warsaw cannot 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 the committee that was to organise the construction works. Many of Russian citizens donated money, the rest of necessary funds was collected from the taxes. In 1900 the first phase of the works was completed and the special group of Petersburg artists could start 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 20 May 1912.


Only three years later, Russian began leaving Warsaw in fear of the coming frontline. The Orthodox clergy took with them most of liturgic objects. Just after that 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.


After Poland regained its independence, the 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 of freedom of faith, that was declared in Polish constitution. There was also a project to turn the Cathedral to Roman Catholic church. However, the nationalist option finally won and the Cathedral was turned down in 1924-1926 with use of explosives. Only some of the mosaics were saved and have been preserved in the Church of Mary Magdalen in Warsaw since then.