The heads of state and government of more than 40 countries attended the celebrations for the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg. Among them were leaders of the European Union, central and east European countries, the CIS, Canada, China, India and Japan.
The distinguished guests, accompanied by Metropolitan Vladimir of St Petersburg and Ladoga, looked at the extravagant interior of one of the world’s largest Orthodox cathedrals.
The heads of state and government had a lively conversation in front of the cathedral. President Putin talked with Finnish President Tarja Halonen, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
St Isaac’s Cathedral was built in honour of Peter the Great and was named after St Isaac of Dalmatia, whose day (May 30) happens to be the birthday of the Russian Emperor. The first wooden church was built on St Isaac’s Square in 1702, but the church has since been rebuilt and redesigned many times.
The modern cathedral was designed by Auguste Monferrand in 1818–1858. The cathedral is over 100 metres tall and the external diameter of its dome is 25 metres. The indoor floor space is over 4,000 square metres and the cathedral can hold 14,000 people. It is encircled by a grand row of 112 marble columns.