The only Minor basilica in Russia
The Catholic parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria was founded in 1716. In 1738, Empress Anna Ioannovna granted permission for the construction of a Catholic Church on Nevsky Prospekt, but the process was faced with great difficulties. The initial project was developed by Pietro Antonio Trezzini, but the work that began under his leadership was discontinued in 1751 after the architect's departure to his homeland. An attempt to complete the construction in the 1760s, made by the architect J. B. Vallin de la Mothe, was also unsuccessful. All this time, the collegium worked in a temporary church, organized in a neighboring house (nowadays - house №34 on Nevsky Prospect). Only in 1782, the construction of the temple was completed under the leadership of the Italian architects Minciani and A. Rinaldi; the latter was also the head of the church collegium. On October 7, 1783, the church, which received the status of a cathedral, was consecrated in honor of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of Empress Catherine II.
Church of St. Catherine is associated with the names of many prominent people. In 1798, the last king of Poland, Stanislav Augustus Poniatowski, was buried here (subsequently reburied in Poland), as was, in 1813, the French general Jean Victor Moreau. The parishioner of the church was the famous architect Montferrand, the author of the St. Isaac's Cathedral. He got married in this church and later baptized his son here. After his death, a funeral service for him was performed here, after which his widow took the coffin with her husband’s body to France.
Among the parishioners of the temple were a number of Russian nobles who converted to Catholicism: Princess Z.A. Volkonskaya, Decembrist M.S. Lunin, Prince I.S. Gagarin and others.
In February 1984, due to arson, a severe fire broke out in the building, which brought the work of the instaurators to nought and destroyed the whole interior of the church. All the sculpture, murals, marble altars and the 12-meter pipe organ of the late 18th century perished in the fire. After that, the burnt temple remained closed and the windows were boarded up. The offices of the Museum of Atheism as well as private apartments were arranged in the monastery building.
The regular work of the Catholic Church in Russia resumed in the early 1990s. The newly formed parish of St. Catherine was registered in 1991 and in February 1992, the city authorities decided to return the building to the church. Nowadays, the parish has about a thousand parishioners.
In 2013, the church was granted the status of a Minor basilica, making it the only basilica in Russia.