Fire Badly Damages Trinity Cathedral

Firefighters putting out the last of the blaze at the Trinity Cathedral on Friday.

ST. PETERSBURG -- A fire raged through the 19th-century Trinity Cathedral in St. Petersburg on Friday, bringing down the massive main cupola atop the stately church and sending clerics scurrying to save treasured icons.

The blaze erupted in the early evening and burned through scaffolding outside the soaring blue central dome of the cathedral. The central dome collapsed, and one of four smaller cupolas surrounding it -- painted a striking light blue and in some cases spangled with gold stars -- was also destroyed by the fire, St. Petersburg emergency department spokeswoman Lyudmila Rubasova said.

There were no reports of injuries, she said.

After the main dome collapsed, flames leaped up from the rim where it had stood.

Firefighters battled to save the other three domes as emergency workers and church employees removed icons and other religious articles from the Russian Orthodox cathedral. A helicopter brought in to fight the blaze dumped water on the historic structure.

Before the fire, the domes towered from a solid base marked by classical columns.

The 80-meter-high cathedral was consecrated in 1835 and is considered an architectural monument. Rossia state television said the main dome was the second-largest wooden cupola in Europe, and Channel One said that writer Fyodor Dostoevsky had been married there. It was used as a storehouse during the Soviet era and was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, but acting St. Petersburg emergency department chief Leonid Belyayev said it apparently started on the scaffolding on the outside of the church, which was undergoing restoration.

He said the most valuable of the icons and other items from the cathedral had been saved, and that structural damage beneath the roof area was minor.

Dmitry Lovetsky / AP
The Trinity Cathedral, pictured in February 2004, was consecrated in 1835.

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