Topic: St. Petersburg
A new private museum devoted to the history of fans has opened in Kamennostrovsky Avenue in St. Petersburg.
Photo: From 1721 until 1917, the church was located in the building at 56 English Embankment
About 50 people gathered for a traditional Christmas carol service held by the Anglican Chaplaincy of St. Petersburg in the Anglican church on 56 English Embankment on Tuesday night.
It was the first time an Anglican Christmas service had taken place in the building for nearly 100 years.
The congregation included British people who live and work in St. Petersburg, including British Consul General in St. Petersburg Gareth Ward, as well as many Russians.
“It was very important to hold this service exactly in this church that once used to be the center of the British community for more than 200 years,” said Ward. “And it is very important for the British community to have access to this church again,” he added.
Alexandra Moore, a British student who has been studying Russian in the city for the last three months and who attended the carol service, said she really enjoyed it, “especially close to Christmas.”
“We’re already in a festive mood, and this service gave an outlet for our mood,” Moore said.
Mollie Arbuthnot, another British student, said attending the service “felt like being at home.”
Adrian Terris, warden of the Anglican Church in St. Petersburg and a native Scot who came to the service with his family and children, said they had been working for many years to have an opportunity to hold events in the historic British church and were “happy” to finally enjoy it thanks to the St. Petersburg Conservatory that currently owns the building and cooperated with them on the issue.
The church is located in the main hall of one of the city’s historical buildings. Mosaics depicting Biblical subjects decorate the walls of the hall, and the original signs are in English.
The church on the English Embankment hosted its first service for nearly 100 years on Remembrance Sunday last month. Weekly services had been held for years at the Swedish Lutheran church on Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa. The next service to be held at the Anglican church on the English Embankment will be at 7 p.m. on Christmas day — Dec. 25 — while services on Dec. 30 and Jan. 6 will return to the Swedish church.
Photo: Members of the congregation sing during the carol service on Tuesday evening. The historic Anglican church held its first service since the 1917 revolution last month.
The English Church, originally established in Moscow by the Russia Company, moved first to Arkhangelsk and then to St. Petersburg when it became the new capital in 1712, according to the Anglican church in St. Petersburg’s website. From 1721 until 1917, the church was located in the building at 56 English Embankment, which had been purchased by the British community. In 1815, having fallen into disrepair, the church was remodeled by the architect Giacomo Quarenghi to accommodate the congregation of more than 2,500 people, creating a new columned facade on the embankment.
“The English Church [was] the focal point of the British community’s life in pre-Revolutionary St. Petersburg... Quarenghi’s church in St. Petersburg, like St. Andrew’s Church in Moscow, is a reminder of the importance of spiritual matters for the expatriate British, but the history of the English Church in Russia goes back to at least the seventeenth century,” wrote Anthony Cross, the British author of the book “By the Banks of the Neva” published by Cambridge University Press in 1997.
Sixty years after the building was remodeled, when it again fell into disrepair, the church was remodeled in the Victorian style, with the main new features being a set of stained glass windows and an organ built by Brindley and Foster in Sheffield, England, which was considered to be the finest in northern Europe. In 1917, the church was forced to relocate to Vyborg, then the second city in the newly independent Finland, and then, with the outbreak of World War II, to Helsinki.
During the Soviet period, there were occasional visits to Leningrad by the Helsinki Anglican Chaplain, but there was no regular congregation. Following the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the first Anglican celebration of the Eucharist in St. Petersburg took place on Nov. 7 1993, with many members of the Helsinki Anglican Chaplaincy present. Since then, regular Sunday services have been held and currently take place in the Swedish Lutheran Church.
The city’s Anglican church aims to provide an Anglican community for residents of St. Petersburg, international students and visitors to the city.
“We seek to support and care for each other and we offer an open welcome to those only here for a short time,” the church says on its website.
The St. Petersburg church is part of the Anglican Church’s Eastern Deanery within the Diocese in Europe. Its area dean, the Reverand Canon Dr. Simon Stephens, is chaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican church in Moscow.
“Our services are conducted according to the traditions of the Anglican — Episcopal Church, but we welcome everybody. Our congregation is international, multicultural and multidenominational,” the church says.
St. Petersburg’s branch of the English church does not have its own permanent chaplain; services are instead led by Anglican clergy on short-term visits from the U.K. or by local clergy from the Swedish and Finnish Lutheran Churches.
© St. Petersburg Times. 19 December, 2012
St.Petersburg has a record that few are aware of. It’s the Alexander Column on Palace Square – the tallest construction of this kind in the world. Standing at 47.7 metres, it is higher than Vendome Column in Paris, Rome’s Trajan’s Column, Pompey’s Pillar in Alexandria. Few know that the Bolsheviks, upon seizing power, wanted to decorate it with a statue of… Lenin wearing a peaked cap!
The Alexander Column was erected in august 1834 in line with a project drafted by architect August Monferran and on orders from Emperor Nicholas I to commemorate the victory of his elder brother, Emperor Alexander I, over Napoleon in the war of 1812. The column is crowned with a sculpture depicting a gilt angel with the face of Emperor Alexander I. In its left hand the angel holds a cross, while the right is raised towards the heavens. The monument took four years to build, with 1250 piles in the foundation, while a huge chunk of pink granite was brought over by barge. Two thousand soldiers and 400 workers were required to raise the column with the help of ropes. The operation itself continued 100 hours in the presence of a crowd of onlookers. As the gigantic monolith was elevated to the pedestal, a hush set in – everyone feared the tightly-drawn hemp ropes might snap under the weight. However, when the critical moment passed, the delighted Emperor quietly told the pale with worry architect: “Monferran, you have immortalized your name!”
The Alexander Column is one of the most unique constructions in the world, since its huge granite monolith weighing 600 tons is not secured in any way, and not even dug into the ground. It is held in place on the pedestal by means of its own weight, thanks to precise engineering design. Even though the Petersburg residents were well aware of that, nonetheless, some showed little faith in the architect’s daring calculations, and preferred not to walk too close to the column. In a bid to dispel these fears, when walking his dog in the morning, Monferran, would leisurely stroll around the base of the column. Moreover, he was committed to this daily routine to the day he died.
In Soviet time, when the Bolsheviks unleashed a campaign to demolish churches and monuments, there was talk of removing this “symbol of Czarism”, as they branded it, and replacing it with a “monument to comrade Lenin”.
The instigator of the absurd idea was Grigory Zinoviyev, who was heading the Petrograd council at the time. Failing to garner support for his idea of burying Lenin in Petrograd, speedily renamed into Leningrad also at his insistence, Zinoviyev launched a campaign to “immortalize the Soviet leader’s memory”. At his instructions in 1924 a special committee was established to oversee “modification of the so-called Alexander Column”. It was planned to grace the construction with a bronze figure of Lenin in jacket and peaked cap, to replace the angel holding a cross. However, soon the committee members, some of whom were acclaimed sculptors and painters, began to realize the absurdity of the concept. That is when a different, no less odd suggestion was put forward – to replace the angel on top with a figure of a worker or soldier dressed in empire style vestments. Luckily, a majority acknowledged this would look extremely ridiculous. Besides, when they calculated the costs of such a project, it amounted to an exorbitant sum, so it was decided to postpone it.
Other revolutionary hot heads of the time suggested the column be torn down entirely. However, experts issued warnings that when the huge granite monolith collapsed to the ground, the impact would be such that nearby buildings, including the Winter Palace, would most certainly sustain a certain degree of destruction.
In 1952 Leningrad’s leading architect received a “top secret” directive from Moscow: in the course of a month to replace the angel and cross with a bust of Comrade Stalin. Architects put their heads together, puzzling over how to achieve this – back in those days it would have been highly self-destructive to procrastinate with the execution of such an order. However, they succeeded in finding a way of dodging the project altogether, arguing the extreme difficulty of its execution.
To the 300th anniversary of St.Petersburg around the column pedestal they reconstructed a beautiful cast-iron railing, removed by the Bolsheviks because its ornament contained double headed eagles with crowns.
© The Voice of Russia. 14 October, 2012
Russia’s tourist Mecca, St. Petersburg, is bracing for a large-scale renovation of its historical center worth trillions of rubles, according to Georgy Poltavchenko, the city’s governor.
The seven neighborhoods of those making up the UNESCO world heritage site are getting ready for a thorough “inventory taking” and for two others – Kolomna and Konyushennaya Ploshchad – restoration projects are to be prepared, Poltavchenko said in an interview to Gorod 812.
“When we started working, we realized that we can’t do everything at the same time, and therefore we divided the [restoration] program into stages,” the city boss told the publication. The estimated cost of the entire project is 4 trillion rubles “according to the most modest calculations,” he added.
‘St. Petersburg is not Pompeii’
The large-scale project will not preserve every historical building in the area, and the city boss doesn’t conceal this fact.
The demolition ban eating away the city center is to be lifted, Poltavchenko said. “If we don’t change the legislation, we can just give up the preservation program of the historical center,” he was quoted as saying.
“St. Petersburg is not Pompeii, thank God, it’s a living city,” he said. Historical buildings considered as having no special value and providing poor living condition for their residents are to be knocked down, he added.
Preservation activists have prepared a 200-page book listing all the threatened historical monuments in the city on the Neva for the June’s UNESCO session in the city, according to heritage watchdog Arkhnadzor.
Poltavchenko’s deputy, Sergei Vyazalov, set the price for restoration works as 75 percent less in an earlier interview with Interfax. He also said that the city’s administration was going to endorse the program in the upcoming autumn.
The city governor, however, seems to have already approved the financial schemes for the project. The restoration of the first two neighborhoods carried out between 2013 and 2015 will require 69 billion from the budget.
Five other city areas will need more 360 billion, he said, from which 160 billion are expected to come from private investors.
Editor's Note: During a recent visit to St. Petersburg I was walking across the Troitsky Bridge which spans the Neva River while taking in the beautiful views of the city. It was from this vantage point that I noticed a number of new modern glass and steel buildings nestled between historic buildings, as well as building cranes in various locations on the horizon. Sadly, the historic skyline of St. Petersburg has already been ruined, thanks to greedy developers and crooked politicians. Paul Gilbert
© The Moscow News. 21 August, 2012
St. Petersburg officials are exploring the possibilities of breathing new life into the infamous Kresty Prison on the Arsenalnaya Embankment.
Turning the prison into a hotel, a museum, an art gallery, a business center and even a creative cluster complete with studios of local artists are just some of the ideas that have already been voiced.
Although in no way a postcard view, Kresty became one of the city’s iconic images long before St. Petersburg earned the unflattering nickname of Russia’s criminal capital in the turbulent 1990s. It has housed members of the Russian Imperial family, including the Grand Dukes Nicholas and George Mikhailovich, Grand Duke Dimitri Constantinovich as well as some of the country’s most high-profile prisoners, including politicians Lev Trotsky and Alexander Kerensky. The prison has also been the setting for dozens of thrillers and crime series.
Built in 1890 and designed by the architect Antony Tomishko, Kresty is scheduled to relocate to Kolpino in 2015.
The jail got its nickname, Kresty (Crosses) very shortly after it received its first inmates. The two four-story wings of the prison are designed in the form of a cross. According to legend, Tomishko initially designed the jail for 999 cells, but there was a 1000th cell, where the architect himself was locked up and buried after allegedly saying to the tsar, “Look what a beautiful prison I have built for you.” Although no proof has ever been found for the legend, speculation about the mythical 1000th cell still circulates. There are in fact 960 cells in the prison.
The prison has not undergone large-scale renovation since it was built.
Many of the country’s prisons are located in historical buildings, many of which were built back in tsarist times.
The fate of the historic prison will be made in the autumn when City Hall plans to announce a tender for potential investors to redevelop the territory of the prison and its surroundings.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 July, 2012
The bells of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg will be restored by the end of this year, says the Deputy Director of Operations Boris Pokrovsky.
The bells were cast in 1845-1846, according to the drawings by Auguste Montferrand. They were dismantled during the Soviet regime in 1931.
Nine new bells will be cast with work expected to be completed in November to late December. Once completed, the bells will then hoisted and installed in their original locations. The largest of the bells will be installed in the south-west bell tower.
Pokrovsky announced that the bells will ring out during major religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
In 1818, Emperor Alexander I commissioned Auguste Montferrand to build St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Construction lasted 40 years and was completed in 1858, three years after the death of Emperor Nicholas I.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 July, 2012
On the list of at-risk buildings is the dacha of Gausvald, built in 1898.
St. Petersburg's grand boulevards and classical facades seem timeless, yet the city's architectural heritage is vanishing at an alarming rate, according to a new report.
In the past 12 years, more than 150 historical buildings have been destroyed in the northern capital, say Elena Minchenok and Clementine Cecil, co-editors of "St. Petersburg: Heritage at Risk," published Monday.
Hundreds more are at risk of demolition, says the report, released by the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society (MAPS), Zhivoi Gorod ("Living City") and SAVE Europe's Heritage.
Among those currently at risk: the late Soviet-era Morskoi Vokzal seaport and the nation's first art nouveau building, the Gausvald Dacha, built in 1898.
Other architectural monuments, such as the "House of Literature," an apartment building where Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Turgenev and other Russian literary legends once stayed, have already been lost.
The report, whose release was timed to correspond with a UNESCO meeting in St. Petersburg, details dozens of buildings, from crumbling country estates to derelict factories, most threatened by developers and neglect.
"If we'd included everything, the book would have weighed as much as a bag of bricks," said Minchenok, a founder of Zhivoi Gorod, a St. Petersburg-based preservationist NGO.
Minchenok and Cecil, chairwoman of MAPS and director of SAVE Europe's Heritage, say the state is not doing enough to protect the city's architectural heritage and, in many cases, is helping developers destroy it.
"This book is a call for the city and federal authorities to treat the city — Russia's window to Europe — according to the international treaties that the nation has signed, as well as to halve the amount of demolition, the construction of sham replicas and the dereliction of a World Heritage Site," they write.
Downtown St. Petersburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means that development is technically limited.
But high profit margins lead developers and urban planners to make exception after exception, permanently changing the face and character of the city, the editors say.
The book is a call to discussion as much as a call to arms, stressing the importance of dialogue between preservationists, citizens, government and developers in order to retain the city's unique spaces, the editors say.
"You can't think of St. Petersburg as a series of valuable buildings. You have to think about it holistically," Minchenok said at a news conference held at the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow.
The city's neglected Soviet-era heritage should get more attention, the editors say.
"One of the most important ideas of this report is that St. Petersburg is not only a classical city, it's also a 20th-century city," Cecil said. "The Soviet architectural heritage is just as important as the imperial heritage."
The report is the fourth such collaboration by MAPS and SAVE Europe's Heritage, coming after two about Moscow and one about Samara.
Minchenok and Cecil announced that their next report would be about derelict churches in rural Russia.
© Moscow Times. 26 June, 2012
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