Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
The Arsenal situated in the Alexander Park and Tsarskoye Selo as it looks today.
Before the Revolution, visitors to the Arsenal at Tsarskoye Selo were struck by the beauty of its interiors, including its arched windows with medieval stained glass windows. Today, the building which is situated in the Alexander Park lies in ruins. After numerous appeals, the Ministry of Culture has allocated funds for "priority restoration work" to be carried out to save the historic building.
Considered the most striking of the Neo-Gothic pavilions in the Alexander Park, the Arsenal was constructed in the early 19th century on the site of Monbijou. The former hunting lodge of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna was built in the Baroque style by Rastrelli. It was Emperor Nicholas I who ordered the construction of the new Arsenal.
Monbijou Pavilion. Photo Credit: Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve
Monbijou was partially dismantled in 1819 by the architect Adam Menelaws, and following his death was completed by the Emperor's favourite architect, Konstantin Thon in 1834.
In 1827, the Arsenal became the first public weaponry museum in Russia after Nicholas I had his large weapons collection moved there from the Anitchkov Palace in St. Petersburg.
Once restoration begins, restorers will reply on a series of watercolours by the artist A. Rokstule who painted the interiors of this unique, three-story castle-palace.
Each room displayed a separate group of objects united by a central theme. Thus, the foyer contained suits of armour creating the illusion of an honour guard; the Albanian Room showcased the most valuable objects from the Oriental collection, including Japanese, Chinese, Persian and Turkish weapons; and at the foot of the staircase stood a group of figures demonstrating the initiation of a knight. Marvellous Spanish, Italian and German swords could be viewed in the study, and the library across the hall was filled with firearms.
The interior of the Arsenal was splendid: arrow-shaped windows filled with authentic medieval stained glass acquired at auctions in various European countries. The elegance of light, twisting columns, octagonal halls, delighted visitors. Other rooms included a bed-chamber and a Hall of Knights complete with a round table.
The foot of the staircase in the Arsenal.
During World War II the Arsenal was badly damaged. Now, after more than 70 years of falling into decay and near ruin, the building will be restored and reopened as a museum.
"The state of the building is in a state of emergency," said Natalya Kudryavtseva, Chief Architect at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. "Workers are not permitted inside the building until scaffolding has been set up. The stairs have been completely destroyed, and it is not safe."
Original fragments of stucco have been found inside the Arsenal, and the structure itself, including the roof have stood the test of time and still in good shape despite more than 70 years of neglect.
The first stage of restoration will secure the doors and windows of the building, reinforce the facade, and begin the restoration of the brick masonry. The debris found in the basement took two weeks to clean up.
There is a legend of an underground passage that linked the Arsenal to the Catherine Palace, however, restorers have not found any evidence of such a tunnel.
The restoration of the Arsenal is expected to take any where from three to five years to complete, at which time it will once again house the extant weapons collection of Emperor Nicholas I, currently in the storage reserves of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 06 December, 2012