Soon after the battle of Poltava Tsar Peter I issued an order to build the Peter and Paul men’s monastery on the battlefield. One of its churches had to bear the name of Saint Sampsoniy, because the battle occurred on June 27th, the day the Saint is remembered and celebrated. However, unlike the church, the monastery was never built on the battlefield.
In 1840, on the proposal of Governor-General Count Stroganov, a contest for the best project of the Saint Sampsoniy Church was announced. The jury recognized the best project created by the architect Joseph Charlemagne. According to the author’s plan, the church should be placed on the arches above the common grave of the Russian warriors. In 1841, the project of Joseph Charlemagne was approved by the emperor, provided that the church should be built not above the grave but next to it, to not disturb the remains of the buried soldiers. The foundation of the church was laid on June 27, 1852. The construction work was carried out under the supervision of the local architect Khoruzhenko. The church was consecrated on July 15, 1856. It was a simple five-cupola church built in the Old Slavonic style.
At the end of the 19th century a special local commission considered it necessary to expand the Saint Sampsoniy church. The project of the church reconstruction was elaborated by the architect Nikonov in 1890. The construction work was carried out under the supervision of the provincial architect Neumann. All four walls, apart from the corners, were disassembled and rebuilt into semicircular arches that connected the middle part with side chapels. As a result, the new Saint Sampsoniy Church got a shape of a cross in the plan view. Its brick basement was faced with granite slabs. On the west side a large porch was attached to the church. The floor in the temple was covered with multicolored ceramic tiles. The oak carved iconostasis was designed by architect Nikonov and manufactured in the Astafiev’s wood curving workshop in Moscow. All icons for the church were painted by the artist Malyshev. Walls and domes paintings were created by artist Malashechkin. At the end of September 1895, the reconstruction of the church was completed, and on October 1, 1895 the church was re-consecrated.
On the eve of the bicentenary of the battle of Poltava the Saint Sampsoniy Church has undergone a new change. The local architect Nosov added an entrance part with the bell tower on the top to the church. During the last reconstruction not only an exterior but also an interior has been changed significantly. Walls, overhead vaults, and the central dome drum were covered with highly artistic wall paintings drawn in the style of the famous painter Viktor Vasnetsov.
The old wooden iconostasis was replaced by a marble, single-tiered iconostasis. Columns of the new iconostasis were made of onyx and decorated with nephrite rings, and its cornice was decorated with a Byzantine mosaic.
There are two marble plaques in the narthex saying that the iconostasis and wall paintings were designed and created by the artist Sokol, and all marble works were done by the company “Menzioni”.
The high artistic quality of the wall paintings and iconostasis of the Saint Sampsoniy church on the battlefield, give every reason to affirm that they represent a unique example of the sacral art.
The church was active until 1930 (since 1925 it belonged to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church). When the church was closed in mid 1930s, its bell tower was dismantled. In 1949, when Poltava was under the German occupation, Saint Sampsoniy church was reopened, but in 1949 it was closed again. The church building was transferred to the Poltava Battle museum to be used as a home for the “Panorama of the Battle of Poltava “, but in reality it was used as a warehouse for storing equipment for Poltava movie theatres. In 1991 the Saint Sampsoniy Church resumed its activity as a parish orthodox church.