In 1733 the Church of the Nativity of Virgin Mary were built at the intersection of Nevsky Avenue and the Griboyedov Canal where there was moved the venerable Icon of Our Lady of Kazan. Eventually, the church became the place where they commemorated the victories of the Russian army.
But by the end of 18 century the church got dilapidated and the emperor Paul I decided to built on its site a spacious Kazan Cathedral, which had to become one of the largest churches in St. Petersburg. All well-known architects of that time took part in the contest, but in the end they chose the project of a young architect Voronikhin, former serf of the count Stroganov.
He suggested to build a cathedral with a huge colonnade facing Nevsky Avenue. So appeared the façade facing Nevsky Avenue. As is known, the altar of an Orthodox church needs to be on the east side, while the main door – on the west side (opposite the altar). This was the problem with building churches on Nevsky Avenue as they were sideways to the main street of the city.
Although Kazan Cathedral was laid down in 1801 it was finished in 1811, only a year before the war with Napoleon. The church was built using only Russian materials, but compositionally its colonnade of 96 columns resembles St. Peter`s Cathedral in Rome. It was just there that a public prayer had been held before Kutuzov departed to the army in 1812, and he was buried there in 1813.
The miracle-making Icon of Our Lady of Kazan is the main sacred thing of Kazan Cathedral. The icon itself was found in Kazan in 1579. Twenty years after Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan there happened a big fire in the city, and the 8-year-old daughter Matrena of the archer Onuchin saw the God`s Mother in her dream, who told her that the miracle-making icon was under the ruins of a house. Miracles began to happen at the icon, and in the course of time the icon became one of the most venerable in Russia.
In the same 1579 the copy of the icon was sent to Ivan the Terrible in Moscow, where it was kept at the Kazan Cathedral on Red Square. Peter I moved this copy to St. Petersburg. By that time the copy was also believed to be miracle-making. In 1904 the church in Kazan was robbed and the original Kazan icon disappeared, so today in Russia there remained but this venerable copy of this icon, which is kept at the Kazan Cathedral.
By that time Kazan Cathedral, the same as Church of the Nativity of Virgin Mary, became the place where the victories of the Russian army were commemorated. There were put 107 captured colours of the French army, including the marshal`s baton of Davout, captured in a battle, as well as the keys from seventeen European cities and eight fortresses, which surrendered to the Russian army. In 1835 before Kazan Cathedral there were set up two monuments to the Russian military leaders: Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly.