Topic: Winter Palace
Next year marks the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum, an occasion which will be marked by some very exciting exhibitions and events. Among them is the long-awaited restoration of the former Grand Church of the Winter Palace.
The restoration of the church will also include a reconstruction of the three-tier iconostasis (the original iconstasis was destroyed by the Soviets in 1938) at the cost of 128.8 million Rubles (more than 4 million USD). Specialists will reconstruct the framework of the iconostasis, manufacture the lost ornamental gilded stucco carvings, restore icons which survived, and reproduce those destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The State Hermitage will also pay 70 million Rubles for repairs to the church dome and the cross.
The Grand Church of the Winter Palace was originally built by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771) in the Baroque style in 1763. It was considered "one of the most splendid rooms" in the palace. After a devastating fire in 1837, the church was rebuilt by Vasily Stasov (1769-1848) who recreated its original look.
The space of the church is divided into three architectural volumes; two of them - the one closest to the entrance and the altar portion - are provided with double rows of windows. The central volume is crowned with a dome and accentuated by pylons with double fluted Corinthian columns. The walls are decorated with the Corinthian pilasters alternating with the arched windows that give light to the church on two sides. The lower row of the windows is separated from the upper one with the highly projected and fractured cornice. The gilded stucco ornament made of papier-mache is the principal artistic decoration of the church along with the ceiling painting The Ascension of Christ by Pyotr Basin and the images of the four evangelists by Fiodor Bruni on the vault sides under the dome. The crimson draperies and gilded chandeliers complete the impressive décor of the interior.
The new church was consecrated by Metropolitan Filaret on May 25th, 1839 in the presence of the Imperial family. At the end of the 19th century a belfry was added with five bells.
The wedding of Emperor Nicholas II and Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt took place in the church on 26 November [O.S. 14 November], 1895. Artist: Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927)
The Cathedral was the repository of multiple relics and memorabilia related to the Romanovs. It was used as the imperial family's private place of worship, with the imperial family's members usually praying in a special room beyond the sanctuary. This was the place where Nicholas II prayed at the liturgy before exiting onto the balcony to face the crowd on the day of declaring war on Germany in 1914. In May 1918, the church was officially closed for worship.
For decades the church has served as an unconsecrated exhibition hall of the State Hermitage Museum. The newly restored church will be part of a new permanent exhibit dedicated to Russian religious art. The newly restored Grand Church of the Winter Palace is scheduled to open in 2014.
Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 08 June, 2013