Finding Nemo

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Sacred Space

Most gruesome-named, best church ever.
There are certain things that elevate travel beyond the ordinary. Make it magic.

A sunset on an exotic beach.

Having random drinks with random friends that speak in random accents.

Summiting a mountain at sunrise, surrounded by glaciers.

But perhaps above all of these are the times I find myself in a place of sacredness.

I am not religious. In fact, I would say I am closer to an atheist than a believer of ... anything in particular. But I am also a human being. And I cannot help but catch my breath a little and feel goosebumps on my spine when I encounter such places. Where there is stillness. Reflection. A chance to quiet the mind and breathe ...

It could be a gothic candle-filled church in Prague. Or a peaceful shinto waterfall in Japan. Or an ancient cosmic Buddhist temple in the jungle. Or a light-filled, airy mosque.

Today, in St Petersburg, I found such place. A place of light and swirling colors and whimsy, a place that made me look up in surprised joy.

This was the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. One cannot help but compare it to the equally gorgeous St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square, after which it was intentionally modeled. They both are topped with those swirling rainbow onion domes that make me hungry for candy for some reason. But even though it was built much more recently, the St Pete version wins hands down.

Whereas the inside of St Basil's is an underwhelming series of small cramped chapels with fading paint, the Church of the Savior is brimming floor-to-ceiling with rich mosaics and paintings, gold leaf trim, and a spectacular blue star-filled ceiling. The gorgeous details draw your eye around the room. Shafts of light stream in from the stain-glassed windows, the kind of stunning light that might shine through a gap in dark clouds.

It is perfect.

Skittles, right? Right?

Simply incredible.

The light, the colors, ... a special place.