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Sunday, 2 June 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 14
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches

Earlier this week the Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas at Kronstadt marked its 100th anniversary, therefore it seems only fitting that this beautiful and historic cathedral should be this weeks selection.

The cathedral was built in 1903-1913 as the main church of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Imperial Navy and dedicated to all fallen seamen. On October 27, 1901 the 14,000 strong garrison of Kronstadt was summoned for the groundbreaking on Anchor Square. Earthwork and work on concrete foundations and a granite base continued through 1902; the walls were laid down in a massive ceremony May 8, 1903 with the Emperor Nicholas II in attendance.

Despite social unrest that culminated in the Russian revolution of 1905, the cathedral was structurally complete in 1907; heating and ventilation were made operational in 1908, enabling year-round work on the finishes. In 1907 , the architect brothers Vasily and Georgy Kosyakov switched to producing detailed drawings and instructions to craftsmen and suppliers of interior finishes. On August 19, 1908 they presented the revised album of these drawings to Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra who responded with numerous amendments and changes that were implemented by spring of 1909.

In the summer of 1909 the external finishes were completed, and the scaffolds removed. The building was clad in black granite (base and columns) and yellow brick (walls) with terra cotta inserts. Inside, the iconostasis was made of marble from the Urals. The four portals were decorated with mosaic images of Theotokos, Saint Nicholas, Peter, Paul, John of Rila and Mitrofan of Voronezh by Foma Raylian. Most of interior paintings were executed by the school of Mikhail Vasilyev; icons were painted by Alexey Troitsky. The adjacent park was designed by E. G. Gilbikh.

The cathedral was equipped with an independent central heating and a central vacuum cleaning system employing a complex network of pressurized manifolds and valves. Electrical lighting employed 5 thousand light bulbs.

The cathedral was consecrated in a public ceremony attended by Emperor Nicholas II and his family June 10, 1913. The total cost reached an unprecedented amount of 1,955,000 roubles, not including donations in kind and unpaid labor by the seamen and civilians.

The cathedral operated as such for only 16 years. On October 14, 1929 it was closed by the Soviets; the valuables were nationalized to the state treasury. A small portion of these relics were displayed at the Navy Museum and the State Russian Museum in Leningrad.

In 1930—1931 the cathedral was desecrated: its crosses and bells were toppled over and hauled to the foundries. One bell, weighing 4,726 kilograms (second largest) remained in place — either due to technical difficulties or deliberately, as an emergency alarm signal. Internal marble items, including the iconostasis and the memorial boards with names of the fallen seamen, were ripped out, broken or cut and reused for ordinary construction needs. A small number of memorial boards ended up in the Navy Museum and were "written off" in 1970.

In 1932 the cathedral hall was converted to a cinema, frivolously named New Star but later renamed Maxim Gorky; in 1939 the cinema was upgraded to a House of the Officers (akin to a community center) of the Kronstadt garrison. During World War II the cathedral was closed; the dome received three direct artillery hits. Post-war "reconstruction" of 1953—54 converted the cathedral to a functioning concert hall. This time, the builders added a suspended ceiling that isolated the hall from the dome; it remained in place up to the end of 2007. A reduction of military personnel in the 1960s made the concert hall redundant; in 1980 the cathedral reopened as a branch of the Central Naval Museum.

The Church attempted to repossess the cathedral in the 1990s. After the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church the first cross to be reinstalled on the main dome was made in 1996 but was not erected due to financial problems. The second attempt, in 2002, employed a heavy helicopter and nearly ended in a disaster: a seven-meter cross fell from the dome and was damaged beyond repair; there were no human injuries. The third cross was successfully erected November 24, 2002. Three years later, November 2, 2005, the Church served the first Divine Liturgy in the Naval Cathedral since 1929. From 2008 the cathedral was operational, but was opened only on special occasions. In 2009, at Patriarch Kirill's initiative a board of trustees was established to restore the cathedral. In the ensuing years, the building underwent extensive repairs and improvements after decades of neglect.

On May 28th, 2013 His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia performed the rite of consecration of the Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas. A divine luturgy was attended by Patriarch Theophilios III of Jerusalem and Svetlana Medvedev, wife of the Russian Prime Minister, as well as delegations from the North, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific fleets of the Russian navy.

Up until 1996 Kronstadt was closed to foreigners due to the fact that it was the base for the Soviet Baltic Fleet. I had the opportunity to visit the Naval Cathedral at Kronstadt in the late 1990s. Dominating the main square of the city, I was struck by its size, and on a clear day the cathedral is visible from Peterhof and St. Petersburg. Upon entering the cathedral I was disheartened to see this once glorious building reduced to a museum filled with showcases and mementoes of the Soviet navy. It is interesting to note that no memory of the Russian Imperial Navy was to be found in the museum. After years of restoration it seems only fitting that the cathedral is being given a new lease on life and a reminder of the brave men of the Russian Imperial Navy who sacrificed their lives for their country and their tsar.

Source: The Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas at Kronstadt. Official Site of the St. Petersburg Diocese [in Russian].

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 02 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:52 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 2 June 2013 10:15 AM EDT
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Saturday, 1 June 2013
God Save the Tsar - Kuban Cossack Choir
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds
Topic: Cossacks

I have always held a great interest and respect for the Cossacks and their contribution to the history of Imperial Russia. Their  sense of being a separate and elite community gave them a strong sense of loyalty to the Tsarist government.

Before the Revolution, the Kuban Cossacks were entrusted as the private guard of Tsar Nicholas II.

I am pleased to offer this haunting rendition of God Save the Tsar performed by the Kuban Cossack Choir during a concert marking their 195th anniversary in 2006.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russian. 01 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:18 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 1 June 2013 5:42 PM EDT
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Friday, 31 May 2013
Faberge Museum Announces Major New Acquisitions Plan
Topic: Faberge


The Faberge Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated to Faberge. Alexander Ivanov (pictured above) opened the museum in May 2009 in the German spa city of Baden Baden.

In the first five months of 2013, the Faberge Museum added close to 50 items to its collection. These included a magnificent Faberge snuffbox with the monogram of Emperor Nicholas II that was purchased at A La Vieille Russie vintage jewelry and Faberge shop on Fifth Avenue in New York.

The museum has an ambitious acquisitions plan, aiming to buy as many as 300 Faberge items this year, said Alexander Ivanov, the museum’s owner. This is in part motivated to compensate for recent losses to the museum’s collection due to a divorce settlement between Mr Ivanov and his former wife.

"In addition to about 600 Faberge items, as part as our settlement my ex-wife received a large number of paintings, icons, jewelry, and old photos from Russian and European imperial houses," said Mr Ivanov.

Among the Faberge items that left the collection are: the ice carrier; the famous Romanov griffin clock; a green-enameled snuff box with portrait of Nicholas II; pelican and kiwi hardstone figures; the Ksheshschinsky jeweled tree; a ring belonging to the Russian Emperor, and a service table.

"Despite these losses, the Faberge Museum continues to be the largest and finest Faberge collection in the world," said Mr Ivanov. "Every great collection has its ups and downs, and we will continue to grow the collection in quality and quantity. In addition to Faberge, I actively grow my new collection of ancient gold jewelry."

© Faberge Art Museum. 31 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:43 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 31 May 2013 7:47 AM EDT
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Thursday, 30 May 2013
Porcelain of the Romanovs
Topic: Exhibitions

The Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts will host an exhibition showcasing unique pieces of porcelain from the Romanovs. The collection is on loan from the State Museum of Ceramics at the Koskovo Museum near Moscow, and is dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.

The exhibition will feature more than a dozen services, which before the Revolution were housed in the store rooms of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. They showcase the works of both Russian and European masters, reflecting the evolution of artistic styles and variations of Court etiquette over the last 200 years of the Romanov dynasty.

Visitors will see examples of Russian rococo, neo-classical examples by Sevres and the Imperial Porcelain Factory. Also on display are copies of the Coronation albums of Emperor Alexander II (1856) and Emperor Nicholas II (1896).

The exhibition runs from May 31st to August 4th, 2013 at the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts at Ulitsa Voevodina, 5.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:07 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 30 May 2013 10:25 AM EDT
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A Rare Book with an Imperial Provenance
Topic: Books

In November 2012 a rare First edition of Les Dernières années de la cour de Tzarskoïé-Sélo. Volume 1: 1906-1910 [Translated from the Russian by Jeanson. Paris: Payot, 1928.] by Aleksandr Ivanovich Spiridovich (1873-1952) sold at Christie's in London for $4,800 USD.

The book was a presentation copy inscribed by the author to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) -- probably the last book she read before her death on 13 October, 1928. Spiridovich's inscription is dated 04 July 1928; Maria's daughter, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960), sister of Tsar Nicholas II, returned the book to Spiridovich in November of the same year with the inscription, in Russian: 'I return to you your book, with the page marked where Mother stopped before she could reach the end'. The page marked is page 119, and describes Rasputin embarking on his pilgrimage to Mount Athos.

In 1906, General Spiridovich had been charged with Nicholas II's personal safety, a post which he helf for 10 years. In 1915, he was awarded the rank of Major General. In 1915, he was awarded the rank of Major General. In August 1916 Spiridovich was appointed Mayor of Yalta. 

After the February Revolution Spiridovitch, who was visiting St. Petersburg, was arrested under the personal order of Alexander Kerensky. On October 2, he was released by accident, and managed to leave Russia. He and his second wife and children managed to escape from Petersburg and re-settle in Paris in 1920.

During his years in exile Spiridovich wrote several books, including Les Dernières années de la cour de Tzarskoïé-Sélo in two volumes which provide an intimate, first-hand account of life at Tsarskoe Selo up to 1914.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:07 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 30 May 2013 9:57 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Vintage Photo of Nicholas II No. 15
Topic: Nicholas II

Emperor Nicholas II photographed in 1914 at the gates of the General Headquarters (Stavka) at Baranavichy. At the beginning of the First World War, Baranavichy was chosen as the location of the Stavka, which was later moved to Mogilev in August 1915.

In 1914, the commander-in-chief of the Russian armed forces at Baranavichy was the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich (1856-1929). Tsar Nicholas II assumed supreme command over the armed forces in the summer of 1915.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:25 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 May 2013 4:47 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Patriarch Consecrates Naval Cathedral at Kronstadt
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 39 seconds
Topic: Russian Church

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia performed the rite of consecration of the Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas at Kronstadt today, marking its 100th anniversary.

A divine luturgy was attended by Patriarch Theophilios III of Jerusalem and Svetlana Medvedev, wife of the Russian Prime Minister, as well as delegations from the North, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific fleets of the Russian navy.

The Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas was originally built in 1903-1913, and served as the main church of the Russian Imperial Navy's Baltic Fleet, and dedicated to the memory of all fallen seamen.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:32 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 May 2013 8:02 AM EDT
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Monday, 27 May 2013
Watercolours of HIH Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna
Topic: Olga Alexandrovna GD

An exhibition of paintings, drawings and artifacts of HIH Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna opened on May 19th in Ekaterinburg. In attendance were His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia, and HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Russian Imperial House.

The exhibit presents more than 200 works in watercolour and perosnal belongings of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the youngest daughter of Tsar Alexander III who died in Toronto, Canada in 1960. Also on display is a commemorative mural, a gift from her brother, Tsar Nicholas II marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913.

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and Mrs. Olga Kulikovsky at the exhibition's premiere on May 19th

The exhibit in honour of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty has been organized by Mrs. Olga Kulikovsky, the widow of Tihon Kulikovsky (1917-1993), the eldest son of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna.

The exhibit will run until June 7th at the Poklevskii-Kozell House, a branch of the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum, and reopen in the Patriarchal Compound, next to the Church on the Blood from June 10th to July 28th. From Ekaterinburg, the exhibit will then move to Tobolsk.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:03 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 27 May 2013 8:28 AM EDT
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Sunday, 26 May 2013
New Monument to Alexander II at Nizhny Novgorod
Topic: Alexander II

A new monument to Emperor Alexander II by the Russian sculptor Alexander Apollonov was unveiled today at the Pechersky Ascension Monastery in the city of Nizhny Novgorod.

The monument's inauguration marks the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, and in memory of a visit made to the monastery in 1858 by Emperor Alexander II and his wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:48 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 May 2013 12:00 PM EDT
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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.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:30 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 May 2013 11:26 AM EDT
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