Church of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Grievers"

This simple, pale pink neo-classical church, which stands on the corner of Shpalernaya Ulitsa and Prospekt Chernishevskogo just a few paces from the banks of the Neva River, has only recently be reconsecrated, and is easily overlooked, although in fact it is one of the oldest churches in St. Petersburg.

  • Church of the Icon of the Mother of God 'Joy to all grievers' on Shpalernaya Ulitsa in St Petersburg, Russia
    Church of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy to all grievers" on Shpalernaya Ulitsa
  • 'Three cherubs' bas-relief on the wall of the church in St Petersburg, Russia
    "Three cherubs" bas-relief on the wall of the church

The building that can be seen today is the work of Italian architect Luigi Ruska, who came with his father to St. Petersburg in 1768, and worked for the Imperial Court for 30 years. This was the last work that the homesick architect completed in Russia, just before returning to his native land in 1811. The foundations and part of the walls, however, are around a century older, and were once part of the palace of Peter the Great's sister, Natalia Alekseevna, which stood on this site in the very first years of the city.

The church's name refers to a famous icon brought from the Church of the Transfiguration on Ordynka in Moscow by Natalia Alekseevna. The icon was reported to have cured the running sores of a sister of the Moscow Patriarch in 1688, and has ever since been held in high esteem for its miracle-working powers. When the church named after it was closed after the Revolution, the icon was moved to the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Moscow, where it remains to this day.

Address: 35a, Shpalernaya Ulitsa
Metro station: Chernishevskaya
From the metro: Exit the station and turn right down Prospekt Chernishevskogo. The church is across the road, on the corner of the last street before the Neva Embankment. (5 minutes)
Opening hours: Daily from 8am to 8pm.

If you happen to be in the area around Chernishevskaya, it's worth taking a quick look inside this newly restored church which, despite the neoclassical pomp of its facade, has a charming and surprisingly simple rotunda-shaped interior that has mostly been restored by volunteers. The church is particularly closely connected with several of St. Petersburg's most prominent "New Martyrs" - those who were persecuted in the Soviet Union for their religious beliefs. Saints Ekaterina and Kira of Petrograd (Ekaterina Arskaya, whose father was a Church elder, and Duchess Kira Obolenskaya), both members of the church's congregation, were executed 17 December 1937 for their refusal to renounce their faith in the Orthodox Church. A similar fate awaited the church's rector, Father Grigoriy Serbarinov, less than a month later on 8 January 1938. Both dates are marked with special prayers and liturgies in the church. The house next-door to the church, formerly the rectory, now houses the Lestvitsa Cultural-Spiritual Centre, which includes a memorial museum to the New Martyrs.