The full name of St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral is Nicholas-Epiphany Cathedral (Nikolo-Bogoyavlensky Sobor), as it consists of two churches: the lower church is consecrated in the name of Nicholas the Wonderworker, the patron saint of sailors, and the upper one is the Epiphany Church. It is believed that the cathedral appeared - though very belatedly - because of the desire of Peter the Great to see a temple in St. Petersburg, which would be on par with the Cathedral of the Assumption in Astrakhan. However, it did not happen during Peter’s lifetime: St. Nicholas Cathedral was built only in 1762. Catherine II ordered to build a new stone church in place of the tottering one on Nikolskaya Ploshchad, on the model of the Astrakhan Cathedral. It was meant to be the main church of Russian Fleet and a place to mark its victories.
The construction of the Cathedral was commissioned to Rastrelli’s apprentice Savva Chevakinsky. First he built a four-tiered bell tower and then a Baroque church with Corinthian columns, stucco molding and balconies with patterned grids. Catherine II gave the cathedral 10 images. Later, a garden was set up in front of the church, where in 1908 a monument was erected in memory of the officers and soldiers killed at the Battle of Tsushima, and the lower church contains plaques installed since the Russo-Japanese War in memory of the killed sailors. In 1989 there appeared a memorial plaque for the crew of the sunken submarine "Komsomolets". In Soviet times, the cathedral was not closed and hosted divine services. The future Patriarch Alexy II used to live here.