Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 13 Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
Whilst taking a stroll along Nevsky Prospekt, the main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg, one cannot fail to notice the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. Built between 1801 and 1811 by the architect Andrei Voronikhin, the cathedral was constructed to an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain.
The cathedral was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church. Some art historians assert that Emperor Paul I intended to build a similar church on the other side of Nevsky Prospect that would mirror the Kazan Cathedral but his plans failed to materialize. Although the Russian Orthodox Church strongly disapproved of the plans to create a replica of a Catholic basilica in Russia's then capital, several courtiers supported Voronikhin's Empire Style design.
Patriarch Kirill celebrates a divine liturgy marking the 200th anniversary of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan in 2011
After the war of 1812 (during which Napoleon was defeated) the church became a monument to Russian victory. Captured enemy banners were put in the cathedral and the famous Russian Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who won the most important campaign of 1812, was buried inside the church.
On February 21 1913 a solemn religious service was held in the cathedral to mark the 300th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. It was attended by Tsar Nicholas II, his family and relations, as well as the elite of the Russian state, the State Duma, marshals of the nobility, representatives of the urban estate, and peasant elders made up the throng of four thousand. The Russian newspaper, Novoe Vremia reported, "It was all brilliance, the brilliance of the ladies' diamonds, the brilliance of the medals and the stars, the brilliance of the gold and silver of the uniforms." [Source: Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, Volume Two by Richard S. Wortman. Princeton University Press (2000) ]
The cathedral was named after the "miracle-making" icon of Our Lady of Kazan, probably the most venerated icon in all of Russia. The church housed this precious icon until the early 1930s. The Bolsheviks closed the cathedral for services in 1929, and from 1932 it housed the collections of the pro-Marxist Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, which displayed numerous pieces of religious art and served anti-religious propaganda purposes.
Services were resumed in 1992, and four years later the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Now it is the mother cathedral of the metropolis of St. Petersburg. In 2011 the cathedral marked its 200th anniversary. The interiors have been undergoing restoration work in an effort to restore this historic and holy cathedral to its original.
The cathedral's interior, with its numerous columns, echoes the exterior colonnade and is reminiscent of a palatial hall, being 69 metres in length and 62 metres in height. The interior features numerous sculptures and icons created by the best Russian artists of the day. A wrought iron grille separating the cathedral from a small square behind it is sometimes cited as one of the finest ever created.
Dolls and Toys of Imperial Family to be Displayed in St. Petersburg Topic: Exhibitions
Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nicholayevna with their dolls
St. Petersburg will host a unique exhibition next week, Dolls and Toys of the Imperial Family. The exhibition is organized by The World Dolls Foundation. The curator of the exhibition, Daria Kiseleva, is an avid collector, restorer and artist of historical dolls.
The exhibition coincides with the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty and is similar to the exhibit held in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo in 2011. I had the opportunity to see some of the toys and dolls from this exhibit during my visit to the Alexander Palace last summer where they were on display in glass cases in the newly restored State Rooms.
After the revolution, a significant part of the collection of toys and dolls of the Imperial family was transferred to the Toy Museum at Zagorsk (Sergiev Posad). Among them were the dolls belonging to the four daughters of Nicholas II: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, made in the late 19th - early 20th centuries by famous Russian and German companies of the time.
The exhibition will run from May 29th to June 2nd, 2013 at the Central Exhibition Hall of the *Manege, which is situated near St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
*The Manage is the former riding academy for the Imperial Horse Guards. After the Revolution the building was used as a garage for the NKVD. A second floor was added to the building in 1931.
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.