The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. At one time it was used for storing potatoes. It remained closed and under restoration for over 30 years and was finally re-opened in 1997. It is one of the most impressive structures I have ever seen....both inside and out.
Another spectacular structure is St. Isaac's Cathedral, which was across the road from my hotel. You can climb to the top of the dome for a most fantastic view of the city. I was told that it is second only to the pyramids in terms of the amount of masonry required for its construction. (The front columns are each made of single pieces of red granite and weight 80 tonnes or 177,770 pounds each, which is remarkable when you consider that the city was built on a marsh. 25,000 piles were driven to support the structure.
It was designed by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand to be the main church of the Russian Empire, and took 40 years (1818-1858) to complete. The cathedral can accommodate 14,000 worshipers; however it now serves as a museum and services are held only on significant ecclesiastical holidays. It looks wonderful at night!