Nikolskaya Cathedral, a complex that includes Nikolo-Nizskaya Church and Church of the Intercession, has been the main church of Kazan for more than 40 years. In 1946, it became the diocese’s cathedral church and thus the nucleus of all Orthodox activity, unifying believers in the most difficult years.
In 1565, a wooden church was built on the site of the present cathedral. In 1703, a “warmed” Church of the Intercession was opened next door for use during winter.
At the end of the 17th century, the one-domed Nikolo-Nizskaya Church was opened at this site. It was given this name, meaning lower, because there were already several churches dedicated to St. Nicholas in Kazan, including the Church of Nikola Ratny in the Kremlin and the Church of Nikola Gostiny behind Gostiny Dvor. Thus, the name of the new church required some clarification. According to conventional wisdom, the name Nizskaya was chosen because the church was located downhill from the Kremlin.
In the 1720s and 1730s, a five-tiered bell tower with a height of about 30 meters was attached to the church. The baroque bell tower is known as a “leaning” tower (although Suyumbike Tower is more famous in this regard) and decorated with glazed, leafy ceramics. This decorative technique was popular in Kazan during the 18th century, but now can be seen firsthand only on the bell tower of Nikolskaya Cathedral.
In 1883, the old Nikolo-Nizskaya Church was dismantled and rebuilt in just two years. In 1892, the Church of the Intercession was also renovated.
Although the people who attended services here were far from rich, the funds for the renovation projects were raised thanks to the work of parish priest Nikolai Varushkin as well as donations from wealthy Kazan merchants.
The five-cupola, six-pillared Church of the Intercession, like a small version of the Moscow Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Assumption, is noteworthy due to its oil paintings by artist Vasily Turin, known for his lithographs of views of Kazan from the first half of the 19th century. The interior of the church has remained almost unchanged, with a majority of painted pillars, rare for churches, and a nave featuring a carved cross of Calvary with the crucified Christ.
The single-domed chapel of St. Nicholas is narrow and similar to a gallery, with more light and color. Electricity was installed in 1901. The stained-glass windows are bright red and in the shape of a cross. The walls feature the stories of the earthly lives of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.
The iconostasis resembles Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. In the right corner in front of the iconostasis is a copy of the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Kazan. The cathedral also has a copy of the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Tikhvin, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary of St. Theodore (from Feodorovsky Convent), and the miraculous Kuyukovskaya icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.
After Nikolo-Nizskaya Church was closed in 1930, the only place to attend an Orthodox service in Kazan was in the church of Yaroslavl Wonderworkers at Arsk Cemetery.
Through the efforts of the religious community, in 1946 Nikolskaya Cathedral again brought believers together. The archbishop Hermogenes played a large role in this, as he helped the church receive the status of a cathedral church. He restored the diocesan spiritual management and also was able to open other new churches. Church life in general experienced a revival. For this reason, even after the opening of many other churches, Nikolskaya Cathedral remains the seat of the archbishop.