St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda was founded in 1568. Three years earlier, Tsar Ivan the Terrible declared Vologda the capital of his Oprichnina state. The importance of Vologda at this time grew significantly, and the tsar decided to build a cathedral here on the model of the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, the main temple of Russia.
Tsar Ivan the Terrible was constantly in Vologda during the construction of St. Sophia Cathedral and personally supervised the work. By 1571, the cathedral was built. But by this time Tsar Ivan the Terrible decided to stop the policy of the Oprichnina, and his stay in Vologda no longer made sense. He left Vologda forever and work on the cathedral temporarily stopped.
There is a legend that during the inspection of the St. Sophia Cathedral inside, a piece of plaster fell on the tsar`s head. The angry tsar ordered the destruction of the temple, but the residents of Vologda persuaded not to do it. However, all construction work has stopped. For more than 15 years, the cathedral remained without interior decoration. In 1587, the son of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, Fyodor Ioannovich, resumed the construction of St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda.
In 1612, the cathedral was consecrated in honor of Sophia the Wisdom of God. Vologda has long been under the rule of the Novgorod Principality, so the consecration of the main altar of the Vologda church in honor of St. Sophia demonstrated the independence of Vologda from Veliky Novgorod. There, the main temple of the city was also St. Sophia Cathedral.
St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda has a cross-domed shape without decorative frills, classic for Russian churches. Despite the considerable size of St. Sophia Cathedral, its proportions and appearance look very harmonious. The height of the cathedral reaches 59 meters, the length of the walls is 38 meters.
St. Sophia Cathedral is painted by an artel of Yaroslavl masters led by Dmitry Plekhanov. They started painting the cathedral on July 20, 1686, and finished the work in July 1688. The total area of the fresco painting of St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda was 5 thousand square meters.
On the western side of the cathedral there is a Fresco of the Last Judgment, the area of which is 400 square meters. It is the largest fresco composition in the church in Russia.
On the right side of the fresco of the Last Judgment, the image of five European nobles in doublets and with swords catches the eye. This is a completely unique image for the church canons of Old Russian fresco painting in temples. The painting of the cathedral was carried out in the 17th century, when the Middle Ages were replaced by the era of Modern Times. At that time, bourgeois revolutions were taking place in Europe, new trends appeared in all spheres of life. Perhaps the icon painters decided to depict sinners in European clothes who are waiting for the Last Judgment.
On other walls of St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda, you can see the traditional biblical scenes for Russian churches. On the example of these frescoes, people could study the Bible. There are many scenes from the lives of Saints and Church holidays depicted here. It could also be used for educational purposes. From the Vologda tradition of icon painting, there are many icons where not only the Saint is depicted, but around, like illustrations, his deeds are depicted. Many such icons can be seen in the Vologda Kremlin Art Museum.
The iconostasis in the St. Sophia Cathedral of Vologda was created in 1737-1744 . This is the third iconostasis of the cathedral. The first iconostasis were damaged during fires in the temple. The iconostasis of St. Sophia Cathedral, preserved to this day, is made in the style of the then fashionable Baroque style.