Brief information on Saint Sophia Cathedral of Harbin  

During those frosty winters when you visit Harbin’s famous ice festival, don’t forget to spend some time admiring the city’s beautiful Russian Orthodox Church: Saint Sophia Cathedral. Situated in Tou Long St in Daoli district at the heart of Harbin, this church was originally built for use by the Russian army, who arrived in the city not long after the completion of the Trans-Siberian railway. Harbin is of course only around 200km from China’s border with Russia and used to have the world’s largest Russian migrant population. This long cultural interchange is still noticeable in the streets around the cathedral, particularly in Zhongyang Dajie where shops still sell many kinds of Russian goods. But the Saint Sophia Cathedral itself is ample evidence of the relationship between the two nations.

The cathedral began life as a wooden structure in 1907, giving the Russian troops an uplifting piece of home. But in 1923 work started on a more permanent building and this work continued until the church’s completion in 1932. Down through the years the cathedral was not always cherished and indeed, at one point, it was used as a warehouse. It was restored in 1997 and now the green domes and spires with their brilliant gold crosses reach to the heavens as though they had sprouted from the icy earth as miraculous wintry flowers. At night, with lights trained upon its stone, the cathedral glows gold and the bulbous domes appear almost dark blue, the whole giving the effect of a photo negative. The building is an excellent example of neo-Byzantine architecture with additional Roman elements. It stands at around 53 metres and covers an area of 721 square metres. The bell tower has seven bronze bells, which in the past were rung out in peals on important days, but now you are more likely to hear music played in time to the soaring jets of water in the fountain on the square outside the cathedral. The square and the cathedral provide a space of calm in the midst of busy Harbin city.

Saint Sophia Cathedral is no longer a functioning place of worship. In November 1996, it was classified as a key national heritage conservation unit and the building was converted into an architectural museum. As you wander across the dark lacquered wooden floor inside, you can gaze at many photos of old Harbin, beautifully exhibited among bright religious icons and below the faded frescos of the old church. If you are interested in the history of Harbin or in the art of architecture, you will enjoy this museum.

The cathedral is centrally located and easily reached by bus or taxi from the railway station. In addition, the entry fee is not very expensive. Before you make your way to the ice festival, relax beneath the impressive onion dome of Saint Sophia Cathedral and let your mind be taken back to an earlier era.

*You can download the bilingual note to show it to a taxi driver or someone else to find your way to Saint Sophia Cathedral of Harbin if you plan to visit Saint Sophia Cathedral of Harbin and have language problems.



Hours: 8:00-18:00
Address: Diduan Street, Daoli District, Harbin
Transportation: take Bus 1, 2, 13, 15, 64, 66 and 11.
Admission: CNY 11

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Ben Arterburn's review on Saint Sophia Cathedral of Harbin : (2221 views)
St. Sophia Cathedral, located at Harbin City, is the biggest Orthodox Church in the Far East Area and a representative Byzantine architecture. It is 53.35 meters high and occupies an area of 721 square meters. In Dec. 1996, St. Sophia Cathedral was l

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