A Russian Moment 13 - The Grand Kremlin Palace Topic: A Russian Moment
Rich in both Romanov and Russian history, the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow is one of the most magnificent buildings in the Russian capital. The present palace was built on the initiative of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855) on the site of the former wooden palace of Tsar Ivan III and Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. Construction was carried out by a number of architects under the supervision of the Emperor's favourite architect, Konstantin Thon, who is often regarded as the "patriarch" of the Russian Byzantine style.
The palace consists of 700 chambers, including the main hall with grand staircase, five ceremonial Parade or Order halls, ceremonial quarters of the sovereign, living quarters of the Imperial family, and service rooms which are located on the ground floor.
The Grand Kremlin Palace was the official residence of the Russian Emperors while they were in Moscow. The palace was used extensively during the Coronation ceremonies throughout the more than 300 year reign of the Romanov dynasty, serving as a residence, and playing host to magnificent balls and gala dinners.
Between 1933-34, the Alexandrovsky and Andreyevsky Halls were destroyed and replaced with the Hall of the Supreme Council of the USSR. The former Halls were lavishly restored to their original between 1994-98, on the order of President Boris Yeltsin, at a cost of $800 million.
The Grand Kremlin Palace is not open to the public as a museum, as it is the official residence of the Russian president. However, from time to time, tours are offered (at a hefty sum). Entering the palace is a security nightmare. Visitors are subjected to bag searches, metal detectors, plus you must check your camera (no photography allowed), and you must present your passport and visa before entering. Visitors are accompanied by a guide and constantly under the watchful eye of armed security who shadow the group for the duration of the visit.
Despite this, a visit to the Grand Kremlin Palace is one of the highlights of a visit to Moscow. It includes the Terem Palace, the Palace of Facets, the Tsarina's Golden Chamber, several of the former apartments of the Russian sovereigns, but the highlight has to be the five magnificent Parade or Order Halls: Georgievsky, Vladimirsky, Aleksandrovsky, Andreyevsky, and Ekaterininsky.
Paul Gilbert (Administrator, Royal Russia) in the Andreyevsky Hall, Grand Kremlin Palace in 2000
On October 27th 2000, I had the rare honour of visiting the Grand Kremlin Palace during one of the tours which I used to host. On that particular day the group were permitted to take photographs of the interiors. That day also happened to be my 44th birthday and remains one of the highlights of my many visits to Russia.
The Photographic Atelier of Tsarskoye Selo Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
Photo: Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna and Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark on their wedding day, taken in the Portrait Hall of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. Credit: Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve
Tsarskoye Selo will host a new exhibition to be held June 15 to September 30, 2013, at the Upper Bathhouse of the Catherine Park in cooperation with the ROSPHOTO State Museum & Exhibition Centre. The new exhibit tells how photography came to Tsarskoye Selo, how the tsar’s court influenced a fashion for photographing, and how the Romanov family helped boost the quality of daguerreotypes and photographs in Russia.
After the first pewter-plate photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 and then his partner Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented a photographic process using silver on a copper plate in 1839, the daguerreotype came to Russia under Tsar Nicholas I and was called “writing with light”.
Photography became a favourite hobby of the Tsar’s family which, like any other, loved its life chronicled in pictures. The photographs of the “most august family” used for the press and postcards were taken by professionals, who could be entitled a “court supplier and photographer” after 8–10 years of flawless service.
During Alexander III’s reign, photography bloomed and competed with portrait painting. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, their children, Dowager Empress Maria Fiodorovna and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich took photography lessons from professional “light-writers”. Particularly noteworthy on the current display are a touching photograph of little Tsarevich Alexei standing together with a guard near a snow-covered Alexander Palace and an album of photographs by Anna Vyrubova, Tsarina Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting and close friend.
In 1860 the architect Ippolito Monighetti built an addition to the Llama Pavilion in the Alexander Park, which was used by the Romanovs as a photographic studio and laboratory. After the Tsar’s special permission of 1866, photographic ateliers opened in the town of Tsarskoye Selo: Mikhail Kozlovski’s on Konyushennaya St, the workshop of Wilhelm Lapré on Moskovskaya St, and the photographic studio “K.E. von Gann and Co” of Alexander Yagelsky on Shirokaya St.
Peterhof Displays Beautiful Alexander II Paperweight Topic: Alexander II
Photo credit: Peterhof State Museum Reserve
This beautiful paperweight from the Peterhof State Museum Reserve offers a portrait of Grand Duke Alexander Nicholayevich in baptismal clothes. The future Alexander II was born on 29th (O.S. 17th) April 1818 in the Moscow Kremlin. It is interesting to note that Alexander II and Peter I were the only Russian sovereigns native of Moscow. The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for the August baby were held in May 1818 at the cathedral at the Chudov Monastery in Moscow. A gala dinner marking this occasion was held by Alexander’s paternal grandmother Empress Maria Feodorovna. The memory of those happy days is preserved in this paperweight. The image of the baby Alexander is set in a gold frame and mounted on a malachite base. The future "Tsar Liberator" is presented as a pretty blue-eyed baby in a bonnet and smock. The object was bequeathed by Maria Feodorovna to her "beloved daughter-in-law Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the mother of Alexander II. This beautiful family heirloom, a deeply personal item at that, somehow survived all the vicissitudes of history, and survived to this day.
The paperweight is currently on display in the Treasury at Peterhof, along with the carrying basket and baptismal clothes of Alexander II. This unique museum houses new acquisitions including jewellery, costumes (dresses and uniforms), personal items of the Russian emperors and their families, from Peter I to Nicholas II. The treasures in this museum are housed in the former private apartments of Catherine the Great and updated on a regular basis.
Poster announcing this years White Flower Day at Livadia
Livadia Palace, situated near Yalta in the Crimea was the setting for the White Flower Day on Sunday, May 19th. The tradition of this charitable sale originated in the early twentieth century by the last Empress of Russia, Alexandra Feodorona.
Beginning in 1911, the whole community took part including members of the Imperial family and the nobility who were vacationing at their palaces in the region, and the local townsfolk. They flocked in numbers to contribute to the good deeds by buying bouquets of white daisies, paying what they could whether it was a few kopecks or hundreds of rubles. Each donation helped alleviate the suffering of those in need. The grand duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and their little brother Alexis eagerly assisted their mother at the open stalls.
The noble cause was reinstituted in 2005, and has since been held annually on the second Sunday after Easter. The event is held at the Church of the Exaltation at Livadia Palace. Money collected in this year's auction will be spent on new equipment and the training of nurses at a new retirement home to be opened in the territory of the Yalta City Hospital, as well as helping the poor and sick to fight tuberculosis.
The symbol of this holiday is the white daisy, which today is distributed to all who make a donation. The people of Yalta took an active interest in the event, including the local women who donated their baked goods, handicrafts and flowers, while local school children donated their drawings, and handicrafts made of white flowers.
White Flower Day at the Martha Mary Convent in Moscow. Photo credit: Pravmir.ru
White Flower Day is held in a growing number of cities across Russia, including Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg.
Tsarskoye Selo Marks 145th Anniversary of Nicholas II's Birth Topic: Nicholas II
Following the Romanov 400th Anniversary Commemoration Project at Tsarskoye Selo, May 18th became the day to honour the Last Emperor of Russia.
Nicholas II was born in the Alexander Palace on May 18 (Old Style May 6), 1868.
145 years later, his Working Study was graced with a bouquet in the Russian Style.
The floral composition included cornflowers, bluebells, asters and grasses.
The Sovereign loved Russian nature and enjoyed long strolls in the parks of Tsarskoye Selo, where he and his spouse Alexandra moved two weeks after their wedding in 1894. Nicholas wrote in his journal, "Words cannot describe the bliss of two of us living in such a good place as Tsarskoye!"
Marius Bauer and the Coronation of Tsar Nicholas II Topic: Exhibitions
In 1896 the Dutch artist Marius Bauer (1867-1932) was present at the crowning of Nicholas II in Moscow.
He was invited there by the Chronika magazine, in which he later shared with readers his enthusiastic impressions about splendor and shine of this event.
On returning to Holland he created a unique series of canvasses, water colors and engravings, using sketches and studies made by him in Russia. For the first time his works of art are going to be displayed in the place where their concept was born. However the exhibition is not limited to the Russian subject matter, but aims at demonstrating Marius Baeur’s creativity in all its richness and variety. The visitors will see Bauer as a gifted orientalist, refined aquarellist and a talented graphic artist, whose etchings remind of great Dutch masters of the 17th century, including Rembrandt.
More than twenty paintings, thirty water colors, fifty etchings, illustrations and sketch albums presented at the exhibition make it possible to get a comprehensive idea of Bauer’s rich art heritage.
The exhibition will be held from May 23 till September 9 in the Museum of Oriental Arts in Moscow.
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 12 Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
TheCathedral of the Assumption or Cathedral of the Dormition (Uspensky Sobor in Russian) was built between 1475 and 1479 AD by the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti. It is located on the north side of Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin, where a narrow alley separates the north from the Patriarch's Palace with the Twelve Apostles Church.
Tsar Ivan III had invited Fioravanti, a celebrated architect and engineer from Bologna, Italy, to come to Moscow and entrusted him with the task of building the cathedral from scratch in the traditions of Russian architecture. The cathedral in Vladimir was once again taken as a model for the building, and so Fioravanti travelled to Vladimir in order to study Russian methods of building. He designed a light and spacious masterpiece that combined the spirit of the Renaissance with Russian traditions.
The foundation for the new cathedral was laid in 1475, and in 1479 the new cathedral was consecrated by Metropolitan Geronty. The interior was painted with frescoes and adorned with many holy images, including Our Lady of Vladimir and the Blachernitissa.
The church's magnificent interior decoration is dominated by its fresco paintings. The huge iconostasis dates from 1547, but its two highest tiers are later additions from 1626 and 1653/1654 under Patriarch Nikon. It addition to its liturgical function, the iconostasis also served as a sort of trophy wall, in that Russian Tsars would add the most important icons from cities they had conquered to its collection. One of the oldest, icons with the bust of Saint George dates from the 12th century and was transferred to Moscow by Tsar Ivan IV on the conquest of the city of Veliky Novgorod in 1561.
In 1547 the coronation of the first Russian Tsar, Ivan IV (the Terrible), took place in this cathedral, while from 1721 it was the scene of the coronation of the Russian emperors. The last coronation (Emperor Nicholas II) took place here on May 26th [O.S. May 14th] 1896. The ritual installation of metropolitans and patriarchs of the Orthodox Church also took place in this cathedral, and their tombs are also to be found here. The patriarchate was abolished by Peter the Great and only restored after February Revolution of 1917.
On November 21, 1917 the cathedral was the setting for the installation of Tikhon (Belavin), the Moscow metropolitan, as patriarch. Subsequently he was canonized. After the transfer of the Bolshevik government to Moscow services in the Kremlin cathedrals were prohibited. It was only with Lenin's special permission that the final Easter service was held in 1918. The final moments of this Easter service was the subject of an unfinished painting by Pavel Korin entitled Farewell to Rus. Most of the church treasures were transferred to the Kremlin Armory, or were sold overseas.
According to legend, in the winter of 1941, when the Nazis had reached the threshold of Moscow, Joseph Stalin secretly ordered a service to be held in the Assumption Cathedral to pray for the country's salvation from the invading Germans. In 1991 the Assumption Cathedral was returned to the Church, although a museum still operates within it.
HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna attends a Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Assumption
On March 6th, 2013 a Divine Liturgy was performed by Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, Kirill to mark the 400th anniversary of the election of the first Romanov tsar, Mikhail Feodorovich on March 6th [O.S. February 21st] 1613. The Liturgy was attended by HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Russian Imperial House.
Ekaterinburg Marks 400th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty Topic: 400th Anniversary
HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and Patriarch Kirill I visiting the Romanov exhibit in Ekaterinburg
The Head of the Russian Imperial House, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill I, have arrived in Ekaterinburg to take part in the celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, including the 145th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas II on May 18th, 1868.
The first stop was Ganina Yama where His Holiness laid the first stone for a new church and its consecration. The original wooden Church of the Mother of God was destroyed during a fire in 2010.
This was followed by a litany, and prayer at the cross marking the spot where the bodies of the last tsar, his family and faithful retainers were dumped into the abandoned mineshaft by the Bolsheviks in the early morning hours of July 18th, 1918.
His Holiness said: "During the 300-year-reign of the Romanov dynasty, Russia was a great power stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The country's economic, social and political development were quickly outpacing those of other nations. In modern terms, its GDP was close to the second place in the world."
Patriarch Kirill I consecrates the new Church of the Mother of God at Ganina Yama
On the last tsar, he added: "The Monastery at Ganina Yama is a holy place. It provides an opportunity to remember the spiritual heroism of Nicholas II and his family, who accepted their deaths in gentleness, peace, forgiveness of enemies, in all humility and surrendering to God's hands. It is important that in light of the fact that the gravest crimes were committed on this site, that we erected this monastery."
"Despite the fact that during Soviet times everything connected with the royal family was distorted, despite the ridicule and reproach, like a concrete slab through which grass can not grow, their memory has always been alive in the hearts of people," he said.
Several thousand faithful arrived at Ganina Yama by bus, car and on foot from Ekaterinburg, and other towns in the surrounding region of Sverdlovsk.
The next stop was Ekaterinburg, where the Patriarch and Grand Duchess Maria stopped at the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the former Ipatiev House. Together they visited the nearby Patriarchal Compound where an exhibition featuring rare archival materials related to the House of Romanov is on display. The exhibit also included a collection of watercolours and personal items of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the youngest sister of Nicholas II.
In the evening, His Holiness held a Divine Liturgy at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Ekaterinburg.