The Spassky Old Fair Cathedral was built by the famous architect Auguste Montferrand. St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg also belongs to the legacy of this outstanding architect. These two cathedrals are similar to each other, like twin brothers.
Why the cathedral was built at the Nizhny Novgorod fair
The famous Nizhny Novgorod fair until 1816 was located in the village of Makaryevo, which is located 80 km from Nizhny Novgorod. A. S. wrote about this historical place. Pushkin in the poem "Eugene Onegin": "Makariev is busy bustling, seething with his abundance …".
In 1816, during a fire that happened at the fair, almost all the wooden buildings were destroyed. By order of Emperor Alexander the First, it was decided to transfer the Makaryevskaya Fair to Nizhny Novgorod.
For the construction of the fair, a place was chosen on the Strelka, where the two great rivers Volga and Oka merge. This decision was not accidental, because it was very convenient to bring goods to the fair by water by river transport. The Russian people who came to the fair needed an Orthodox church.
From the history of the construction of the cathedral
The construction management was entrusted to the engineer Augustin Betancourt. He was Spanish by birth and was in the Russian service. Emperor Alexander the First awarded the talented engineer the rank of general-flyer.
The merits of this person to Russia are enormous. Bettencourt not only designed all the buildings of the fair on the Nizhny Novgorod land, but also many other buildings and structures on the territory of Russia. According to his project, the Goznak factory in Moscow, the Moscow Manezh, the first arched bridge across the Neva in St. Petersburg, a foundry and cannon factory in Kazan and many other objects were built.
Betancourt prepared sketches for the fair trade complex. He was faced with the task of finding an architect who was to embody his plans in stone.
Betancourt's choice fell on the young French architect Auguste Montferrand. He was familiar with him from St. Petersburg and highly appreciated his abilities as an architect.
In August 1818, an Orthodox church was founded by Auguste Montferrand, which later became the main cathedral of the Nizhny Novgorod diocese. When laying the foundation, Montferrand faced difficulties that were caused by the erosion of the construction site by flood waters. He removed this obstacle by carrying out large-scale soil reinforcement work under the building.
The cathedral was central to the main line of the fairgrounds. Under the cathedral, Montferrand designed a vaulted underground room, as required by the rules for the construction of places of worship. From the side of the fair, Chinese shopping arcades led to the cathedral. They were buildings built in the Eastern tradition with concave roofs.
The construction of the temple was completed in 1822. Initially, the temple was called the Church of St. Macarius, then it was called Spassky. In 1881, the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky was built on the territory of the fair, which began to be called the New Fair, and Spassky - the Old Fair.
The flood waters continued to gradually erode the fill soil under the temple. In the middle of the 19th century, cracks appeared in the walls of the cathedral. The building was repaired with money from Nizhny Novgorod merchants. The restoration of the temple was carried out by the engineer Robert Yakovlevich Kilevein. After the completion of the repair and restoration, the cathedral was re-consecrated. This event took place on July 31, 1888.
In Soviet times, the building of the cathedral was in disrepair, a warehouse was arranged in it. The administrative building, which is located near the cathedral, has been converted into a residential building.
The return of the Spassky Old Fair Cathedral of the Nizhny Novgorod diocese took place in 1991. Until 2009, the temple was the cathedral of Nizhny Novgorod. Now it is active, Orthodox services are held in it.
The Spassky Old Fair Cathedral is a unique monument of late classicism architecture. It is an adornment of Nizhny Novgorod, left to us as a legacy by the outstanding architect Auguste Montferrand.