Patriarchal Ascension military cossack cathedral

1 Yermak square, Novocherkassk
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40.110102, 47.413901

One of the most remarkable places of interest in Novocherkassk is the Ascension Cathedral, founded and consecrated in 1805, on the day of town’s foundation, dedicated to the Holy Ascension-Day. However, the construction works after the project by architect Alozij Ruska began only on October 1, 1811. The construction works were guided by the architect’s brother Jeronim Ruska. By the year 1818, the brothers Ruska left Russia and the construction was continued by architect Amvrosimov (till 1825). In 1846 while the main dome converging a part of the temple collapsed. The same thing happened to the cathedral’s second variant, constructed after the project by architect I.O. Valprede.

By the year 1891 the Cossacks decided to start the construction of the Ascension Cathedral’s third variant after the project by the academician A.A. Yashenko. By 1900, the cathedral was finished in the rough. The decorative and wooden works began in 1902. The «Second Sun of the Don land» was supposed to be opened in summer of 1904, but the guest of honor, the Emperor Nikolay II did not arrive to the ceremony, so only the Intercession church in the upper vault of the Cathedral was opened. The whole building was opened and consecrated only on May 6, 1905.

The Ascension Cathedral, elaborated in the new Byzantine style, is the third largest and most beautiful temple in Russia (after the Cathedral of the Redeemer in Moscow and the St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg). The Cathedral domes were initially covered with dark red gold, the main cross was manufactured in the Bohemia and encrusted with mountain crystal. Due to the fact, the cathedral was seen for kilometers away in the bright sunshine, like a distinctive lighthouse for believers and sufferers.

The cathedral weight is 135 thousand tons, the height (with the central cross) is 74.7 m, the basement is 15 meters deep, the subway leads from the basement to the Episcopal house (the Officers’ House at present). The temple can accommodate around 5 thousand people during one service. The cathedral was equipped with a unique heating system, that was unfortunately destroyed later on. The cathedral also had a peculiar ventilation system, intended to preserve the wall paintings and iconostases in their original form. The marble for the floor ornament was specially brought to Novocherkassk from Italy and France. The bell tower had the tower clock, that remained till present. The clock chime can be heard from far away and measures the pace of life in the town up till present.

The Cathedral interiors is so magnificent, that if you start examining the wall paintings, you might find it difficult to leave the temple. The holy and apostle images look from the temple walls and columns, illuminated by myriads of candles. The Cathedral gallery is decorated with paintings, depicting the most relevant episodes of the Don Cossack history.

The divine services are held both, in the upper part of the temple and at the burial vault, the so called Lower Intercession Temple. The majority of priests even consider the Lower temple to be warmer and more comfortable than the upper one. The Intercession Temple is nothing but the remains of one of the cathedral's previous variants, that had partially collapsed and served as the base for the contemporary Assumption Cathedral. The visitors of the Lower temple can see the magnificent and fascinating picture: the marble sarcophagi, keeping the remains of the Don land and Novocherkassk Saint Archbishop John; the town’s founder, the legendary Cossack Ataman Matvei Ivanovich Platov; heroes of the Patriotic War of the year 1812 — Vasiliy Orlov-Denisov and Peter Baklanov. The spacious and light baptistery lies to the right from the burial vault.The Cathedral was closed for some time during the Soviet period. The copper plates, covered with gold, were removed from the domes, the building itself was utilized as a construction material storage. The Cathedral was opened by the German soldiers in August, 1942, during the occupation period. The temple was not closed after that, its huge concreted vaults were basically used as supply storage for sugar, flour, grain, malt for the brew house. After the democratic reforms, the “Second Sun of the Don land” was cleaned up and partially restored. The graves of the Don land heroes, destroyed during the Soviet period, were solemnly moved back to the Cathedral on May 15, 1993. The large-scale restoration works were initiated by the regional and municipal administration in 2001, the renovation aim is to restore the Assumption Cathedral in its initial grandeur and beauty.

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