How the Spassky Old Fair Cathedral was built in Nizhny Novgorod

Why the cathedral was built at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair

 The famous Nizhny Novgorod Fair until 1816 was located in Makaryevo village, which is located 80 km from Nizhny Novgorod. This historical place was written by A.S. Pushkin in the poem “Evgeny Onegin”: “Makariev hassles, boils with abundance of his…”.

In 1816, almost all wooden buildings were destroyed during a fire that happened at the fair. By order of Emperor Alexander the First, it was decided to transfer Makaryev Fair to Nizhny Novgorod.

For the construction of the fair, a place was chosen on 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 river transport. The Russian people who went to the fair needed an Orthodox church.

From the history of the construction of the cathedral

, the supervision of the construction was entrusted to engineer Augustine Betancourt. Of descent, he was Spanish and was in Russian service. Emperor Alexander the First awarded the talented engineer the title of General—Letainant.


merits to Russia of this man are enormous. Betancourt not only designed all the structures of the fair on Nizhny Novgorod Land, but also many other buildings and structures on the territory of Russia. According to his project, the factory “Gozzznak” in Moscow, the Moscow Manezh, the first arch bridge over the Neva in St. Petersburg, the foundry and cannon factory in Kazan and many other objects were built.

Betancourt prepared sketches of the fairground shopping complex. He was faced with the task of finding an architect who was to embody what was conceived in stone.

Betancourt’s choice fell to the young French architect Auguste Montferrand. He was familiar with St. Petersburg and highly valued his architectural abilities.

In August 1818, an Orthodox church was laid out by Auguste Montferrand, which later became the main cathedral Nizhny Novgorod Diocese In laying the foundation, Montferrand encountered difficulties, which were caused by the undermining of the construction area by flood waters. He removed this obstacle by carrying out large-scale work to strengthen the soil beneath the building.

The cathedral was central to the main line of the fairground complex. Beneath the cathedral, Montferrand designed a vaulted underground room, as required by the rules for building worship rooms. From the side of the fair, Chinese trade ranks led to the cathedral. They were buildings built in eastern traditions, with concave roofs.

Construction of the temple was completed in 1822. Originally the church was called St. Macarius Church, then it began to be called Spassky. In 1881, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built on the territory of the fair, which became known as Novofairmarochny, and Spassky — Starofairmarochny.

Flood waters continued to gradually erode the bulk soil beneath the temple. In the mid-19th century cracks appeared in the walls of the cathedral. With the money of Nizhny Novgorod merchants the building was renovated. The restoration of the temple was handled by engineer Robert Yakovlevich Kilewein. Upon completion of the renovation and restoration, the cathedral was re-consecrated. This event occurred on 31 July 1888.

The cathedral is now In

Soviet times, the building of the cathedral was in a rundown state, in it a warehouse was set up. The administration building, which is near the cathedral, has been turned into an apartment building.

The restoration of the Spassky Old Fair Cathedral of the Nizhny Novgorod Diocese took place in 1991. Until 2009, the church was the cathedral of Nizhny Novgorod. Now it is active, it hosts Orthodox services.

Spassky Old Fair Cathedral is a unique monument of Late Classicism architecture. It is the decoration of Nizhny Novgorod, left to us as a legacy by the outstanding architect Auguste Montferran.

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