Each temple complex in essence becomes a “place of power”, around which a spiritual community forms. The Peter and Paul Cathedral is doubly special in this regard; this was where the entire Orthodox community was attending services when other churches were closed in Tatarstan.
A wooden Peter and Paul Church stood on the site of the present cathedral almost since the time of Kazan’s capture. A stone church was also built nearby in honor of the holy unmercenary brothers Cosmas and Damian.
According to legend, Kazan merchant Ivan Mikhlyaev rebuilt the old church into the Peter and Paul Cathedral in honor of Emperor Peter the Great, who was setting off for his Persian campaign. When the Emperor arrived in Kazan, he took his lodgings with the merchant. The legend goes that Mikhlyaev ran a state-owned cloth factory and he did his job well – Peter’s visit was seen as a thank you to Mikhlyaev for his service.
According to another version of events, Mikhlyaev planned to rebuild the Cathedral two years before the arrival of the emperor to the city. It was clearly time to reflect on the theme of building, as the old church could be seen directly from its windows; incidentally, the Mikhaylev House is the oldest civil building in Kazan.
It took four years to build the great church, but when construction was already coming to an end, the dome collapsed, due the inexperience of the church’s builders, who were local craftsmen and had never encountered such a large-scale project. Mikhlyaev was not going to give up on his grandiose ideas, and by the order of Peter I a Pskov master was sent to rebuild the church. According to one version, among the group invited was one Florentine master.
The Peter and Paul Cathedral was built in 1726 in Old Moscow Baroque style – a pillarless two-storey church with a dome 38 meters in height. The total height of the cathedral is 52 meters! Because of the wealth of preserved stucco at the time it received the nickname, “the stone hanging gardens of Kazan”. At the same time, a bell tower a no less ornate was erected 49 meters high.
The Cathedral was burned many times in the 18th century, it was looted during the capture of Kazan by Yemelyan Pugachev in 1774, and several fires happened in the 19th century, but each time the church was restored and repaired, thanks mainly to parish money. Through the perseverance and love of the cathedral parishioners, the Cathedral’s appearance remained almost unchanged and was handed down to us in unique fashion.
For generations, merchants Unzhenins occupied the position of churchwardens and invested in the maintenance of the cathedral. At the end of the 19th century, the cathedral required more thorough restoration. It was financed by the merchant Clivov, who repaired the church for 77,000 rubles – an enormous
The politics of Soviet functionaries did not promise anything good for most of the churches and mosques in Tatarstan: they were closed or turned into hostels, cinemas, and stores. The Peter and Paul Cathedral, as well as the Mardzhani Mosque, for a long time were the only community centers, but in 1931 a large-scale campaign began to close the Cathedral.
While the cathedral was used as a “club, for readings or as a library", the Peter and Paul community, meanwhile, opened its doors to believers from churches that had already been closed, including: the Monastery of Our Lady of Kazan, the Georgian Church, and the Feodorovsky monastery. The parishioners of other churches brought icons, utensils, and banners to the Cathedral, trying to keep them from vandals.
In 1938 in Kazan mass arrests of priests were made, including clerics of Peter and Paul Cathedral Protopope Vasily P. Ivanovsky, who had served in the Russian Orthodox Church since 1908, and deacon Ivan Gavrilov.
In the same year, a secret decree was issued to transfer the building to the Central Museum of Tatarstan as an anti-religious museum (first floor) and a lecture hall with the installation of a Foucault pendulum (second floor). The community turned the vacant building into a cemetery church.
In 1939 the cathedral was closed, and the Foucault pendulum was never installed. In the former church, the Party Archives were kept, and in 1964, the main body housed a planetarium. State Museum restoration workshops were transferred to the upper church - a miracle that saved a 25-meter beautifully carved iconostasis, which underwent two restorations during the 19th century.
Fifty years later, the Peter and Paul Cathedral was returned to the diocese, and at the same time services were resumed.
An Interesting fact: services were conducted in both Russian and Tatar - the lower church held services for the Kryashen community (baptized Tatars). This lasted until 1997, when the Tikhvin Church building was given to the Kryashens.
Nowadays, the Peter and Paul Cathedral has once again become a center of spiritual life and continues to attract residents and visitors with its unique beauty: buildings of such an appearance and destiny in the Republic are quite rare. Therefore, their importance to the Republic’s cultural heritage is particularly important.