• Georgy Smirnov
Keywords: five-domed churches, central plan, cupola, Russian Baroque architecture


The article deals with two unknown projects made by the Swiss-
Italian architect Pietro Antonio Trezzini, who was active in Russia
between 1726 and 1751. According to the Commission of the Senate,
in 1747 Trezzini designed a five-domed cathedral in Stavropol, for
which he provided two design options. One of these projects, which
was approved by Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, was realized between
1750 and 1757. In both projects, Trezzini presented the cathedral
as a monumental five-domed centrally planned church, which is
an integral part of Trezzini’s designs. All but one of the Orthodox
churches designed by the architect had five domes (we know of
13 such designs, including all the alternative versions). Although
Trezzini was not a initiator of this new type of five-domed centrally
planned church, his work displays the most mature and diverse
development of this approach in Russian Baroque architecture. The article describes the general features of Trezziniʼs churches and
certain individual ones as well.
Trezzini’s projects for five-domed churches were directly related
to the revival of a traditional type of Orthodox church proclaimed
by the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. This idea was widely reflected in
Russian church architecture of the time, but its concrete realisation
was rather varied. An attempt is made in article to characterise this
situation by briefly focusing on a comparison of Trezzini’s designs
and the five-domed centrally planned churches designed by other
The five-domed churches, which were revived in mid-18th century
Russia and persistently promoted as a national and Orthodox solution,
actually had nothing in common with local medieval tradition.
Typologically, the five-domed Russian churches of the mid-18th
century were rooted in European architecture, namely in Italian
Renaissance and Central European Baroque architecture. The most
important European sources of inspiration were probably St Peter’s
Cathedral in Rome (a project by Michelangelo), the Church of St
Catherine in Stockholm and the Frauenkirche in Dresden, which the
leading mid-18th century architects in Russia were undoubtedly
familiar with European, primarily Italian, churches with two
symmetrically placed towers on the western facade and a dome
over the intersection, for example, Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome,
should also be taken into consideration.

Author Biography

Georgy Smirnov

Georgy Smirnov is the leading researcher at the Department of the
Inventory of Historic Buildings at the State Institute for Art Studies
in Moscow. He studied art history at the University of Moscow.
In 2003, he received a PhD with a work titled Architecture of Public
Buildings in Russian Provincial Towns in the 2nd Half of the 18th Century.
His main fields of research are Russian 18th century architecture
(especially Baroque and Neoclassical) and Central Europe in the
16th–18th centuries. Smirnov has released numerous publications
on the history of Russian architecture and Baroque architecture in
Central Europe. Recent publications include: Inventory of Historic
Buildings and Monuments of Russia. Tver Region (Svod pamyatnikov arkhitektury I monumentalnogo iskusstva Rossii. Tverskaya oblast), vol. 1–4 (ed. by G. K. Smirnov, 2003–2016); History of Russian Art, vol. 13.
Russian Provincial Art of the second half of the 18th Century (Istoriya
rysskogo iskusstva, Tom 13. Provinzialnoe iskusstvo vtoroi poloviny 18
veka) (ed. by G. K. Smirnov, under completing).