Just to the east of the center of Darmstadt, Germany is a magnificent structure that certainly looks a bit out of place in a German city. Formerly known as the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Maria Magdalena Darmstadt, this massive chapel speaks to the opulence experienced by royalty during the late 19th century. The golden onion domes and magnificent religious imagery provide a taste of Russia in the heart of Germany.
Alexandra Feodorovna, the wife of Tsar Nicholas II, was born in Darmstadt. She was required to convert to Orthodoxy before the marriage. The royal family expected to make regular visits to the Tsarina’s family in Darmstadt, so three years after taking the throne, Nicholas arranged for this Russian Orthodox chapel to be constructed.
Leon Benois, a Russian architect, designed and constructed the chapel. Soil and stones from across the Russian empire were imported to be included in the design. The entire chapel was constructed between 1897-1899, all paid for from Nicholas’s personal funds. It was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and includes various mosaics that depict the patrons of the tsar’s family.