In the St. Petersburg’s existence for 300 years were built dozens of temples for religious communities, citizens of German origin. Religious buildings were erected at the enterprises, which was dominated by Lutherans, in educational and charitable institutions; in the German colonies, in some urban areas. Among them were the parishes churches of St. Anne, St. Catherine, St. Michael, St. Mary and the German reformed church. But the first German and most important German church of St. Petersburg was always the Church of S.s. Peter and Paul — the famous Petrikirche. Since 1727 the Petrikirche is located on the Nevsky Prospect. The community of the Church has traditionally been the most privileged and most numerous among Lutheran congregations of the Russian capital. Until the second third of the 10th century only German natives were Pastors in the Petrikirche. Almost all German communities were engaged in charitable activities: included schools, orphanages and kindergartens, hospitals. Particularly widespread was awareness-raising community churches of St. Peter, St. Anne and St. Catherine. In 1920-ies worship has continued, but repression of Christians of all denominations all being exacerbated. The existence of the Lutheran Community of Leningrad was discontinued in 1937, recent pastors shot. Churches were rebuilt to warehouses and cinemas.
From 1963 to 1993 in the Petrikirche was used as a public swimming baths.
In 1997, the Petrikirche was officially opened after reconstruction.
German Exhibition in St. Petersburg
The showroom and the vestibule
The main entrance of St. Peter’s Church, 1st
floor, from the entrance at a bend in the
vestibule to the right.
The permanent exhibition of the photographs and the documents concerning the history
of Germans in Saint Petersburg was dedicated at the 300th jubilee of the foundation of
Saint Petersburg and received its first visitors in February, 1999 in the rooms of the Petri
church. A more modern version of this exhibition was opened under the title ‘German St.
Petersburg’ in May, 2006. The exhibition includes 14 information desks ordered
according to the following subjects: dynastic relations, state service, urban
development, medicine, science, labour service, education, culture and arts, publication
and literature, charity, religion, the 20th century, and Germans and the Russians today.
The creators of the concept were G. Smagina and A. Semenova. Though we cannot
give a comprehensive presentation of all the chapters in German-Russian relations in
Saint Petersburg, our rough sketch can serve as an introduction. This contribution
should point out the historical, political, economic and cultural development of Saint
Petersburg and arouse great interest in it. The history of Petersburg’s Germans is
closely intertwined with the complicated destiny of the city itself. From the first days of
his foundation, Germans were a part of Russia and the changes of its history – for
good or for ill, as in the beginning of the 20th century. Germans were active in every
sector, no matter whether in state or city affairs, industry, trade, education, science or
culture. Saint Petersburg – a historically very distinctive town which represents a multinational,
cultural metropolis, however, always took German culture as part of its own.
The aim of the exhibition is to motivate visitors to the change their conception of the
historical events in the past. The first immigrants from Germany appeared on the banks
of the Neva, at the same time as Peter the Great. They were firmly resolved with him to
found at this point the capital of a new Russia, in her own Western European manner.
The difference from other Russian towns was remarkable from the beginning. The
Germans followed firstly the request of Peter I, to serve in the Russian service. During
the population census of 2010 it emerged that more than 160 ethnicities were living in
the Russian Federation, 394,000 German Russians among them. Including all of the
former Soviet republics, 750,000 Germans are counted. The Germans stand at the
moment in 23rd place of the national minorities in Russia. Furthermore, 2,700,000
German Russians have left the CIS states as emigrants and resettled to Germany.
Church hall of the Petrichurch
Main entrance of the Petrichurch, entrance from the vestibule, on the left
to the spiral stairs.
In 1937 in Leningrad one church after another was closed. Several valuable objects,
such as glass windows, valuable collections and paintings from the Petrichurch were
handed over to the Hermitage and the Russian museum. After the remodelling works in
1997, the interior equipment of the church hall has changed constructionally. The vault,
the pylons and the walls were restored. The rostrums from the swimming-pool time
were remained. Nowadays of the new ceramics floor lies 4 metres higher than the
original floor. Under it there is the concrete tub of the swimming pool. The hall has more
than approx. 1200 seats. On the left of the altar area one finds a practice organ,which
was given by the institute of church music Herford (Germany), because the original
organ (company Fuller, in 1840) was diminished in 1939 and has disappeared since
then without a trace. The church hall is filled with Romanesque-Gothic angles and takes
up practically the whole church space. The master builder A.Brullow divided the hall with
columns and formed therefore the central nave and the aisles with lofts. Side galleries
held light columns from cast iron and vault-like upper tops. In the hall one detects a
minimum of decorative elements: curve-shaped Romanesque arches and symmetrical
smooth pale yellow walls. The height of the space amounted to 18.4 m, – 924.5 m .
these dimensions allowed the total area of the space for 3000 believers. In 1838 a 2storied
baroque altar (in 1779, foreman Schumacher) decorated the hall where in 1836
the «crucifix» (painter Karl Brullow) was inserted as an altarpiece. In 1938 the picture
was shifted in the Russian museum. Since 2006 a copy of the altar painting decorates
the space. Before closing the church, it was renovated twice. In 1883 the architect
R.B.Bernhardt installed the crosswise train poles which should preserve stability. The
Petrichurch in which originally colour contrasts and gilding were avoided has won a new
picture in the 1890-s. The painting of Mesmacher on the walls, vaults, cover curves with
gothic, Renaissance-like, Greek motives provide a splendorous, Byzantine impression.
Today you can admire individual preserved painting extracts. The education exhibition
«German colony in Strelma»(dedicated to the 200th year of its foundation ) which
originated in 2010 not only thanks to efforts of professional historians, but also local
historian and descendants of the German colonists. They have photos, documents from
archives of families as right treasures provided. The exhibition exists of 13 subjectrelated
information desks which show the history of the origin, development, destruction
and attempts to the revival of the German colony in Strelna. The exhibition and the
catalogue in addition were the conception of Dr. Hist. Irina Tscherkasyanova.