Inside the lower church of the Russian Orthodox Church in Florence

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Following my recent tour of this gorgeous landmark in Florence, I posted on the exterior. Now let’s enter the building, starting with the lower church.

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The lower church, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, was consecrated on October 2, 1902 in the presence of the Russian ambassador from Rome, the new rector and many Russian residents.

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The lower church is decorated with sacred images in exquisite triptychs, Byzantine-style icons and tall figures of saints.

When the Russian diplomatic mission opened in Florence in 1815, it also had a chapel that housed a reliquary, which Tsar Alexander I had carried with him on his long military campaigns against Napoleon.

Before this church was built, Florence’s Russian community would congregate in the private chapels of its more illustrious members, such as that of Michail Boutourline, the son of the millionaire bibliophile Count Dimitri Boutourline, or that of the wealthy, aristocratic Demidoff family.  The Demidoff’s donated many iconostases and other objects from San Donato for the new church in 1880.

 

 

but in the end it was richly adorned with marble, frescoes and numerous other important decorative elements too, including the imposing Royal Gates.

True impetus was given to the church-building project when Archipriest Vladimir Levitsky (1840–1923) arrived in town in 1878. Despite many setbacks regarding, for instance, the designation of the land where the church should be built, Levitsky persevered and, in 1890, travelled to St. Petersburg to present the procurator-general of the synod with drawings prepared by the chosen architect, Preobrazhensky. Whilst a decree authorising the construction of the church was issued in May 1891, it took another seven years before the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally gave its permission.

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