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400th Anniversary
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Friday, 29 March 2013
The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov
Topic: Books

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Vladimir Alexandrov, Professor of Slavic Languages at Yale University is the author of a highly recommended new book, The Black Russian.

The incredible true story of Frederick Bruce Thomas, born in 1872, the son of former slaves.  After the Civil War, his parents became prosperous land owners in the Mississippi Delta. He spent his youth on his family’s farm until a white planter tried to steal it. When his father was brutally murdered, he left the south and his home forever.

In Chicago and New York, he trained as a waiter. Moving to London and then across Europe, Frederick settled in color-blind Moscow, changing his name to Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas. Eventually he became the owner of the open-air entertainment garden the Aquarium, which was filled with variety theaters and restaurants. After opening the acclaimed theater complex Maxim, he became a millionaire in Tsarist Russia.

The Bolshevik Revolution forced him to flee to Odessa, and from there he barely escaped with his family to Constantinople. With no money, he managed to start over again. His adaptability and aptitude for creating restaurants and entertainment spaces against all odds made him rich again until his luck finally ran out, and his creditors caught up with him. Thrown into debtor’s prison, he died in Constantinople in 1928.

Watch the video for more information on this title or visit our online bookshop.

© Royal Russia. 29 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:14 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 March 2013 11:31 AM EDT
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Thursday, 28 March 2013
Tsar Nicholas II's Rare Vintages Highlight Auction
Topic: Auctions


A rare 1915 White Muscat, bottled for Czar Nicholas II's summer palace — and among the last to appear in his cellar before his murder in Russia's 1917 October Revolution — joins a broad selection of 20th century vintages in Heritage Auctions' Signature® Wine Auction event. The March 29 auction starts at 6 p.m. in Beverly Hills, with a real-time simulcast to Hong Kong on March 30 at 9 a.m.

Wines from the Massandra Collection, which make up 145 lots of tokays, muscats, sherry and port, were bottled at the winery, which was built in the 1890s. Workers spent three years carving tunnels deep into Crimea's granite mountains, perfecting cellars suitable for aging these unique and treasured fortified wines.

"The wines offer spectacular drinking, but they're also thought and conversation provoking, which is just one reason I enjoy them so much," said Frank Martell, Director of Fine and Rare Wine at Heritage. "Massandra's wines are so historically important that sharing them becomes an entirely different type of memory created with friends."

The 145 lots in this sale were hand-selected by Martell at the winery, where he sampled all but one wine so that relevant tasting notes and ratings accompany each lot, the first time this has been the case in the United States.

Included in this selection are a 1901 Tokay Ai Danil, estimated to bring $1,200+, and a 1905 Rose Muscat Livadia, estimated to bring $1,800+, which are among the last remaining bottles that were actually produced for the Tsar and his family. Also highlighted in this collection is a six-pack of 1923 White Muscat, (estimate: $2,600+ for the lot), and a six-pack of 1954 White Muscat Livadia, which carries a pre-auction estimate of $1,400+. It is important to note that the '23 Muscat and '54 Lividia received nearly flawless ratings of 98 and 99 points, respectively.

"There are 47 Massandra vintages on offer in this auction touching upon almost the entire catalog of what is produced at this legendary estate," Martell said. "I hope that as many people as possible bring home some of this outstanding wine and share it. With so many individual vintages available, it's easy to celebrate milestone birthdays or anniversaries with a wine whose journey began alongside your own. These bottles have spent a lifetime waiting for your occasion."

Among the leading French offerings in the auction, a 1945 Chateau Latour Pauillac is expected to fetch $24,000+, while a collector's choice, 12-bottle assortment of 1993 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti may bring $20,000+.

The auction also features a strong selection of French large format bottles starting with two Jeroboams of 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, expected to bring $15,000+ each and a single Imperial expected to reach $20,000+.

Two imperials of 1982 Chateau Latour are expected to bring $15,000+ each, while three individual imperials of 1982 La Mission Haut Brion are expected to bring better than $6,000 each.

Additional lots include a 12-bottle lot of 1970 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, estimated at $15,000+, a 12-bottle lot of 1989 La Tache Domaine de la Romanee Conti, expected to break $11,000, and a six-bottle Magnum lot of 2003 Chateau Ausone, which carries a pre-auction estimate of $10,000+.

© Heritage Auctions. 28 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:52 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 28 March 2013 5:57 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Jewels from Imperial St. Petersburg
Topic: Books

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Jewels from Imperial St. Petersburg is more than just a sumptuously and exquisitely illustrated book about “Russian jewelry.”

Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm enlightens us about the provenance of these masterpieces as well as details about each owner and contractor of every particular work of art examined.

The author exposes the reader to names that have been either been relegated to the back burner of history or ignored due to the shining glare of the more familiar and celebrated names such as Faberge, which is a name that is clearly synonymous with Imperial Russia and certainly within the world of fine jewelry masterpieces.

Regarding Faberge, the reader will note that the illustrative examples of the master’s work are not just the world famous eggs but extraordinary pieces of fine jewelry with very few examples of the more decorative, non-wearable items that we have all become so enthralled with.

The jewelry we are exposed to in this book is so beyond the scope of what we know as wearable jewelry that Ms. Tillander-Godenhielm gives the reader an entirely new perspective on life in St. Petersburg during this abbreviated period of time.

In essence, the author not only tells the story of these inconceivable treasures but she also educates us on a sociological tangent with respect to “lifestyles of the rich and royal” during that time frame.

Suffice it to say Jewels from Imperial St. Petersburg is a book for jewelry lovers, the culturally enlightened, and history aficionados who share an interest in the Romanovs and Imperial Russia.

Large hard cover with 296 pages, 375 colour photographs.

Note: this review by Jeffrey Felner is condensed from the New York Journal of Books.

© Paul Gilbert - Bookseller. 27 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:45 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:55 PM EDT
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Russian Empresses: Fashion and Style. Late 18th - Early 20th Centuries
Topic: Exhibitions

A new exhibition, Russian Empresses: Fashion and Style, Late 18th - Early 20th Centuries will open on April 3, 2013 in the Moscow Exhibition Hall of the Federal State Archives, situated at Ulitsa Bolshoya Pirogovskaya, 17. 

The exhibition has been organized by the Federal Archival Agency, the State Archive of the Russian Federation, the State Hermitage Museum with the participation of the State Historical Museum, the Gatchina State Museum, Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts, the Russian State Historical Archive, the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, and will include items from a private collection in Denmark.

The exhibition coincides with the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, and reveals two fascinating topics: fashion and style of the Russian empresses.

The exhibition focuses on the fashion and style of seven Russian empresses dating from the late 18th - early 19th centuries.

The Russian Empresses were known throughout Europe for their tastes in style and fashion, quite often becoming trend setters themselves. Their outfits, accessories, jewelry, striking in elegance and luxury was part of the image of the Russian state.

The seven empresses represented in the exhibition were all very different in style, fashion, and personality: Catherine the Great (1729-1796), Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828), Elizabeth Alexeievna (1779-1826), Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860), Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880), Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928), and the last empress - Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918) .

The exhibition presents a decree of Emperor Peter I on February 28, 1702 "On the wearing of ceremonial dress on festive and ceremonial days."  

The State Archive of the Russian Federation will present drawings, several albums, notebooks, ornate appliques and watercolor paintings, wreaths of dried plants, and a storage box for notebooks. 

Of particular note is a sketch of "The Portrait of Alexandra Feodorovna," by G.G.  Chernetsova painted from life in 1835 is exhibited for the first time. 

With the support of the Royal Danish Embassy in Moscow, Russian visitors will see personal items that belonged to Empress Maria Feoodorovna and her husband Emperor Alexander III, which are now stored in a private collection in Denmark. Included are two unique documents: the list of personal items of the Empress Maria Feodorovna from Gatchina Palace and the inventory of her jewelry and other items belonging to Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1917. Included on the inventory are four pendants in the shape of eggs of jasper, amethyst, jade and rhodonite with ornaments of gold and silver, silver stack of Emperor Alexander III, photos, and also unopened envelope containing the last letter of Maria Feodorovna's son, George at Abbas-Tuman. The letter after his death, and was "returned to sender."

The dresses and gowns on display will be from the collections of the State Hermitage Museum and the Gatchina State Museum, and include  paintings, prints, porcelain and jewelry, diaries, letters, drawings, photographs and books.

The opening of the exhibition will be marked with the publication of a beautifully illustrated catalog in Russian.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 March, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:53 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 March 2013 4:53 PM EDT
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The Romanovs in the Service of the Fatherland
Topic: Exhibitions

The Romanovs in the Service of the Fatherland has opened in the exhibition hall of the St. Petersburg branch of Federal State Archives, located on Zanevsky Prospect.

The exhibition is organized by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Federal Archival Agency, and the Russian State Historical Archive with the participation of the State Archive of the Russian Federation, the Russian State Archive of the Navy, the Russian State Film and Photo Archive, the State Museum "Pavlovsk" Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps, the Central State Archive of Film and Photo Saint Petersburg.

The exhibition is one of the first in a series of events dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty.

For the first time visitors will have a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the complex archives of the state, military and charitable activities of the Romanov family, beginning with the Emperor Paul I.

Male members of the Russian Imperial family traditionally dedicated themselves to a military career.

Among the members of the Imperial family during the 19th - early 20th century were 2 Field Marshals, 3 Admiral-Generals, 2 General-Feldzeugmeisters, 33 generals and admirals, and 10 grand dukes were members of the State Council. During World War II, many members of the Imperial family served at the front or worked in hospitals, believing it as their personal duty to serve the Fatherland.

The grandchildren of Emperor Nicholas I are noteworthy of their service to the Fatherland.  Among them was Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915).  He made history by the pen name KR (Konstantin Romanov).  His poems and plays were widely known in the late 19th-20th centuries. As chief of the main educational institutions, he helped improve the training of subordinate institutions. Konstantin was the President of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and he personaly patronized the first Russian Polar expedition.

Another grandson, Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich (1859-1919), graduated from the Nicholas General Staff Academy. He retired from service in 1903, and dedicated his time to writing a number of historical studies.

His brother, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (1866-1933), served in the Russian Imperial Navy and became the founder and leader of the aviation industry in Russia.

The exhibition presents many unique historical items, including the April 5, 1797  Act of Succession in the Russian Empire Manifesto; a full coat of arms of the Russian Empire dating from 1800; the parish registers of members of the Russian imperial family; the Imperial manifesto of his accession to the throne of Tsar Nicholas I on December 13, 1825; reports by the St. Petersburg Board of Trustees of the Empress Maria Feodorovna; plus diaries, personal letters, correspondence the grand duchesses, including their social and charitable activities; the design of a monument to Empress Maria Feodorovna; as well as numerous photographs and personal belongings of the Romanovs .

A small exhibition booklet is available in Russian only. The exhibition runs from March 15 to April 17, 2013.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 March, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:18 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 March 2013 1:00 PM EDT
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Romanov Conference: Purveyors of the Imperial Court
Topic: Events

This years topic at the 19th Tsarskoye Selo Conference will be Purveyors of the Imperial Court. The conference will be held at the Catherine Palace from November 25-27, 2013. 

Some of the suppliers to the Court of Nicholas II are well known, one of the most famous being Carl Faberge.

It is interesting to note that between 1912-1915 more than 20% of the Court suppliers were foreign.

For example, in 1912 almost 12% of all foreign suppliers were in Darmstadt (home of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna), the same amount for Copenhagen (home of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Emperor Nicholas II), but only 8% - Berlin, 7% - of Frankfurt-am-Main, and less than 2% - in Munich.

More than 50% of the suppliers of the Imperial Court were manufacturers of food and beverages, clothing and footwear, jewelry and luxury items, furniture, dishes, perfume.

The rest were made up of coaches and car suppliers, stationery, books, and various tools and devices, pharmaceutical goods, flowers and exotic plants.

Among the suppliers were also hairdressers, photographers, painters, sculptors.

The Tsarskoye Selo Palace Museum Preserve is currently accepting applications and papers from participants. The conference will be held in Russian only.

© Paul Gilbert A Royal Russia. 27 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:52 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:16 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 26 March 2013
The Gatherer Tsar: Great Prince and Sovereign of All Russia Ivan III
Topic: Exhibitions

Ivan III became Grand Prince of Moscow in the mid-15th century. When he died in 1505, the territory he ruled had tripled in size and he was called the “gatherer of all Russians.”

A new exhibit at the Kremlin Museum looks at “the person who practically created the Russian state,” according to curator Tatyana Samoilova.

Ivan III ruled not long after the fall of Constantinople, when Moscow was first called the “Third Rome.” He took the first steps to unite the country, battling and subduing the principalities that prospered outside Moscow. He also invited Italian architects to work in the Kremlin, where they built the Annunciation and the Dormition cathedrals.

Much of the exhibit is focused on religious relics from the period, including vivid icons, crosses, reliquaries and church objects. “None of his personal effects survived to show his personal life, but I think the important thing is to show what he did,” said Samoilova.

One exception is a wooden sculpture of St. George, which looks as if it had been carved and painted just last week. St. George became the patron saint of Russia during Ivan’s reign.

One of the most beautiful pieces on show is a cross that was brought to Moscow by Sophia Paleologue, the niece of the last emperor of Constantinople, who became Ivan III’s second wife. The cross was an attempt to bring Catholicism to the court, said Samoilova, but it was taken away from the papal legate who accompanied Sophia before it reached the Kremlin. Thereafter, it was kept in the Uspensky Cathedral.

Behind a magnifying glass, a gold coin bears the words “Grand Prince Ivan Vasiliyevich,” cast when Ivan was at the zenith of his power. It also has a two-headed eagle, the first appearance of the symbol of the Russian state.

A non-Russian speaker will find the exhibit less than informative, as only the names of individual exhibits are translated into English. But even if you speak Russian, the exhibit will only give you a partial picture of the reign and the man behind the throne.

Ivan III’s time was one of intrigue and battle comparable to that of the Tudors and the Borgias, Kommersant newspaper wrote in a review of the exhibit. And indeed, the times were bloody. As Ivan conquered the other principalities, he battled his own brothers, powerful princes in their own right. He also claimed his grandson from his first wife as his heir, then changed his mind to plump for Vasily, the son of Paleologue, who would become Vasily III, the next tsar. The former heir was thrown in jail, where he died.

“None of this is in the exhibit, and viewers instead are offered up abstract ideologies and a softspoken, serene image of Ivan III,” wrote critic Sergei Khodnev.

© The Moscow News. 26 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:42 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 26 March 2013 6:47 AM EDT
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Monday, 25 March 2013
State Hermitage Museum Constantly Buys Art Works
Topic: State Hermitage Museum


St. Petersburg's Hermitage museum has spent 68.4 million rubles in 2012 buying art works to enlarge its collections.

In 2011 the Hermitage spent 39.4 million and in 2010 75.4 million rubles for the purpose, the museum said in a statement.

"Madonna and Child" by Gaetano Gandolfi (1734-1802) and "Landscape with a shepherdess and her flock" by Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712-1774) were last year's biggest acquisitions, with 5.5 million rubles paid for the former and 2 million for the latter.

"A view of the red study of Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna in the Anichkov Palace" by 19th-century painter Luigi Premazzi, a vase-shaped mantel clock by Robert Osmond made around 1760, and two ice-cream vases with lids dating to 1808 that belonged to Imperial Chancellor Count Nikolai Rumyantsev were other additions to the Hermitage collections in 2012.

"Currently, the expert purchasing commission comprises 19 people. The director of the Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky, is the chairman of the commission. A separate decision is made on the purchase of each item and on its purchasing price. On a compulsory basis, the museum seeks the approval of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation for the acquisition of any item costing more than 100,000 rubles," it said.

The commission considers buying works offered for sale by Russian and foreign auction houses, antiquarians and private individuals.

The Hermitage permanently monitors the art market for any items that might be worth buying. It receives several offers by email daily.

Every Thursday, the museum's new acquisitions section holds its doors open to anyone who would like to offer something for sale. Priority attention is given to items that could be put on permanent display or fill gaps in current Hermitage collections.

The most expensive acquisitions are usually items bought for the western European arts departments, the Russian cultural history section, and the Orient unit.

All acquisitions for the modern art section are gifts, and the eastern Europe and Siberia archeological unit is mainly replenished with archeological finds.

Some of the most significant acquisitions in 2010 and 2011 were a china collection from Paris gallery Popoff & Co, "Hunters outside a tavern" by August Querfurt, and "Seaside view" by Antonio Marini.

© Rossiyskaya Gazeta. 25 March, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:56 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 25 March 2013 8:43 AM EDT
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Christie's Offers Exceptional Faberge Works
Topic: Faberge


Christie’s sale of Russian Works of Art on Monday, April 15 in New York features one of the strongest offerings of Fabergé to come to the market in recent years. Highlighting the sale is Property from a Distinguished Midwest Private Collection, which comprises over 30 lots by Fabergé, as well as Imperial porcelain table services and silver. Other highlights include an Important Silver-Mounted Porcelain Imperial Presentation Vase by Fabergé and the Imperial Porcelain Factory; an impressive section of cloisonné enamel from a Private Arizona Collection; a Collar and Badge of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called from a Private Collector; and a wide selection of late 19th/early 20th Century bronzes. With over 160 total lots and more than 60 by Fabergé, the sale is expected to realize in excess of $3.2 million.

The exceptional group of works from a Distinguished Midwest Private Collection exemplifies the refined taste of an American collector who, with regular visits to important Russian art dealers and auctions in Paris, London and New York, carefully built the collection over the course of the last quarter century. This finely curated group of Fabergé includes everything from desk clocks to photograph frames, hardstone animals to Imperial cigarette cases. Many works have been exhibited widely and benefit from remarkable Imperial provenance.

Fabergé highlights from the Distinguished Midwest Private Collection include a Jeweled Gold Box originally gifted to Princess Irene of Prussia by her sister Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, later in the collection of a German Royal Family (estimate: $40,000-60,000); an Aventurine Quartz Gum-Pot in the form of an apple originally purchased by the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna from Fabergé in 1901 (estimate: $25,000-35,000); a Gold and Bloodstone Gum-Pot formerly in the Forbes Magazine Collection (estimate: $30,000-50,000); and a vibrant blue Jeweled Enamel Imperial Presentation Cigarette Case (estimate: $50,000-70,000).

Another highlight of the Fabergé section of the sale is an Important Silver-Mounted Porcelain Imperial Presentation Vase by Fabergé and the Imperial Porcelain Factory from a New York Collector (estimate: $150,000-250,000). The vase was recorded in the ledgers of the Imperial Cabinet and was intended to be presented by Emperor Nicholas II. However, it remained in the Imperial Cabinet’s stock until the Russian Revolution in 1917. By mid-century, the vase had found its way into the collection of India Early Minshall (1885-1965), the renowned American collector of Fabergé. Minshall’s iconic collection was donated to the Cleveland Museum of Art and The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, the latter of which eventually deaccessioned the works. The present vase was among those deaccessioned works sold at Christie’s New York in 1988, where it was acquired by the present owner.

Another Fabergé highlight with extraordinary provenance is an Important Silver and Enamel Presentation Clock initially gifted to George Nikolaevich de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg (1872-1904), an officer of the Horse Guard Regiment. George Nikolaevich was a descendant of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna (1819-1876), daughter of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855), and also, Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), the first wife Napoléon Bonaparte. The clock was gifted to him in 1905 by his fellow officers of His Majesty’s squadron, presumably upon his retirement (estimate: $80,000-120,000).

The militaria section of the sale features a rare badge and collar of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called from a Private Collector (estimates: $80,000-120,000 and $150,000-250,000). Founded by Peter the Great, the order of St. Andrew was the highest and oldest Imperial award. The badge was made by the Russian Imperial court jeweler Julius Keibel in 1865 and the collar by the jeweler Eduard.

The sale also features an excellent selection of bronzes, including a portrait of Mary Clark Brabant, the daughter of an industrialist and senator from Montana, by Prince Paul Troubetzkoy (estimate: $50,000-70,000).

© Art Daily and Christie's. 25 March, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:51 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 25 March 2013 8:47 AM EDT
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Sunday, 24 March 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 4
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


One of the most beautiful cathedrals in the St. Petersburg area has to the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral at Peterhof. Every time I visit Peterhof I make a point of stopping here before heading back to St. Petersburg. 

The cathedral is located at 4/ 32 Sankt-Peterburgsky Avenue, near the entrance to the famous Peterhof Palace-Museum.

The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is considered by many to be "an architectural monument of the Old-Russian style." The construction project was ordered by Emperor Alexander III in 1893 and commissioned by the Ministry of the Imperial Court.

The construction, which lasted from 1894 to 1905 on the hill by Tsaritsyn Pond was overseen by architects N. V. Sultanov and builder V. A. Kosyakov who designed the building in the shape of 16-17th centuries Russian architecture.

The pyramidal building, which is 70 metres tall, is encircled with a covered gallery and crowned with five hip domes, holding 800 people. The walls are faced with dark red and light yellow bricks and embellished with sandstone columns and glazed tiles, and the apse features decorative arches.

Before the Revolution, the facades had been adorned with icons of saints and patrons of the members of the Imperial family. The hip-roofed belfry and a chapel are located near the entrance.

The interior frescoes were ordered by Sultanov and done by Moscow craftspeople N. M. Safonov, V. I. Kolupaev and Palekh icon painters; the icons on bronze plaques were made by V. P. Guryanov.

The main altar boasts a five-tier iconostasis made of glazed tiles; the other iconostases are from white marble.

In 1938, SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral was closed down. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, it was damaged and used as a storehouse. In the 1970s-80s, the Cathedral was restored (architect E. P. Sevastyanov), and in 1989 - returned to the eparchy; in 1994 the main altar was consecrated anew.

© Royal Russia. 24 March,  2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:16 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 24 March 2013 7:02 AM EDT
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