Back in December, I was invited along with two colleagues to a conference in St. Petersburg about culture and the arts, which included a section on the role of the ecclesiastical arts.
The conference was sponsored, as one organizer told me, "by Putin," i.e., the government. I found it interesting that the taxi that picked us up from the airport had a photo of Putin in an army uniform hanging from his rearview mirror (see above).
That first evening, we took a (quick) walk around the very cold but beautiful city. Being December, sunset was at about 4:30 PM, while sunrise was at about 10:30 AM.
Here's a photo of the famous St. Isaac's Cathedral, the fourth largest cathedral in the world.
The next morning, we were off to the conference, which was being held in the Russian Institute of Art, housed in one of the many old mansions built by the Russian aristocracy in the 1700s when Peter "the Great" established the new city. Because of the building's historical value, we were required to wear plastic slip-ons over our shoes.
Used to the snow, most Russians brought their dress shoes with them, and left their boots and heavy coats in the staffed cloakrooms.
The building was located right next to St. Isaac's, on St. Isaac's Square. This was the view out of conference rooms.
This is where we took our breaks and drank lots of warm tea.
That afternoon, we had a bit of free time, so I took the subway to visit the city's St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra and the Sofrino ecclesiastical store next door to it.
Here is a mural from the subway, which is one of the deepest in the world. If I remember correctly, this mural depicts the famous Battle of Kulikovo.
St Petersburg is built on a river delta across many islands, and thus has many waterways and canals. For this reason, it has sometimes been called the "Venice of the North." Here is a waterway just outside the walls of the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
A mural over one of the entrances to the monastery.
On the way back to our hotel, I walked past the grand Kazan Cathedral. To be honest, I didn't even realize it was a church until I read about it the next day. I thought it was some government building. Like most of the architecture, it was heavily influenced by western models from the 1700s. This one in particular was modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Stay tuned for part 2.