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Saturday, 19 July 2014
A Russian Moment No 41 - The Yelagin Palace, St. Petersburg
Topic: A Russian Moment


The Yelagin Palace was built during the reign of Alexander I for his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Paul I)
 
This charming summer palace located on one of the islands in the north-west of St. Petersburg was commissioned in 1818 by Emperor Alexander I from the young architect, Carlo Rossi, who would go on to become the undisputed master of neo-classicism in the city. 

The land and the original palace had been bought for the Imperial Estates from the heirs of Ivan Yelagin, a historian, poet, and statesman in the reign of Catherine the Great. Alexander chose it as the site of a summer residence for his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Paul I), who found the journey between the city and her permanent home at Pavlovsk too wearisome. Rossi was responsible not only for the design of the palace building, but also for the stables and kitchen building, the pavilion with a granite pier, the guardhouse, the music pavilion and for much of the interior decoration of the palace, which feature richly painted marble walls and intricately inlaid wooden doors. The palace was completed in 1826.

Sadly, the palace served as the summer residence of Maria Feodorovna for only two years. After Maria Feodorovna's death in 1828, the Yelagin Palace became the summer residence of her younger son, Nicholas Pavlovich (Emperor Nicholas I). The palace then remained deserted for long periods of time. Emperor Nicholas II leased it to his prime ministers such as Sergei Witte, Pyotr Stolypin, and Ivan Goremykin. 

After the Revolution, the palace was briefly turned into a museum by the Bolshevik government. The palace was badly damaged during the Siege of Leningrad, but fully restored in the 1950s based on photographs and the original blueprints and used as a resort for workers. Since 1987, the Yelagin Palace has been home to the Museum of Decorative and Applied Art and Interiors from the 18th-20th Centuries. Exhibitions are hosted on the second floor of the building, while the ground floor is devoted to Rossi's restored interiors. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:31 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 19 July 2014 8:39 AM EDT
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Saturday, 12 July 2014
A Russian Moment No 40 - Monument to Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: A Russian Moment


A bronze bust of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich overlooks the Great Pond in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo
 
A bronze bust of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (1843-1865) mounted on a granite pedestal, is located on the banks of the Great Pond in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo. Emperor Alexander II commissioned the Russian sculptor Alexander Mikhailovich Opekushin to create the memorial bust of his son and heir to the Russian throne in 1872-1873. 

In 1917 the bust was placed in the vaults of the Catherine Palace Museum. For many years after World War II it was put on display alongside other sculptures in the Hermitage Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo. It was then moved to the Cameron Gallery, dedicated to Alexander II. Before the 300-year anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo a bronze copy of the bust was produced. In the summer of 2010, the replica was mounted on a pedestal and reinstalled at its original location in the Catherine Park. The original remains in the storage vaults of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve.

Irina Stepanenko, a senior researcher at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve notes: "Judging by the extant photographs and memoirs of his contemporaries, the Tsesarevich was quite a fragile young man who failed to achieve his birthright as heir to the throne. The sculpture looks older, more serious, than he was probably in real life." 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:16 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 July 2014 3:30 AM EDT
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Saturday, 5 July 2014
A Russian Moment No 39 - New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow
Topic: A Russian Moment


Restoration work on the New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow is scheduled to be completed by 2016
 
The New Jerusalem Monastery is located on the banks of the Istra River, 64 km to the northwest of Moscow. It was founded in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon whose vision was to recreate the holy sites of Palestine near Moscow. The monastery was built by Belorussian masters. New Jerusalem’s first architect was Peter Zaborsky. Thirty-one masters took part in the construction.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the monastery became one of the places for Russian pilgrimages. In 1903, Emperor Nicholas II visited the monastery, where Patriarch Nikon is buried. Once the Moscow-Vindava railroad line was constructed, the number of visitors grew. By 1913, approximately 35,000 people visited the monastery every year.

After the October Revolution of 1918, the monastery was closed. In 1921, museums opened up on its premises.

In 1994, New Jerusalem Monastery ceased to function as a museum and returned to its status as a monastery. In 2002, the World Monuments Fund put the New Jerusalem Monastery on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
 
In 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and then Patriarch Alexy II visited the monastery and later that year organized a Charity Fund for the Reconstruction of the New Jerusalem Monastery, with Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov appointed its head. 

The following year, in March 2009, President Medvedev signed a presidential decree for the restoration and renovation of the New Jerusalem Monastery. The federal government was instructed to subsidize the monastery restoration fund from the federal budget starting in 2009, estimating it will cost about 13–20 billion Russian roubles.

In an attempt to raise funds for the monastery restoration, a museum was opened. The storage funds of the museum are overflowing with more than 170,000 historical artifacts, with only one per cent on display at any given time. In 2010, the New Jerusalem Museum welcomed 300,000 visitors. By the summer of 2011, more than 350,000 tickets had been sold. The cost of visiting the museum is approximately $2. If you’d like to take photos, that’ll cost another $5. 

Restoration work on the New Jerusalem Monastery is scheduled to be completed by 2016. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 05 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:23 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 5 July 2014 8:33 AM EDT
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Monday, 26 May 2014
A Russian Moment No 38 - Nicholas II's Birthday Marked in Ekaterinburg
Topic: A Russian Moment


On May 19th, an Imperial Ball was held at the residence of the governor of the Sverdlovsk region in Ekaterinburg. The event marked the 146th birthday of Emperor Nicholas II [born on May 18th (O.S. May 6th) 1868]. In a solemn ceremony 100 high school graduates from across the region received gold and silver medals from Governor Yevgeny Kuyvasheva and Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Metropolitan Kirill.  

The medals were presented to winners of a competitive essay on historical and spiritual topics. The works were evaluated by a special committee of teachers, historians and priests, from the Urals and Moscow.

Before the ball, young people were immersed in the history of the 19th-early 20th century. They were taught etiquette, and instructed by professional dance choreographers. They also visited the sites in and around Ekaterinburg associated with the final days of the last Russian emperor, while being instructed by historians and clergymen on the life and reign of the Nicholas II. 

Up until the Revolution, it was tradition to organize balls for alumni standouts. The first awards for secondary school students was established by the Emperor Nicholas I. In 1913, Emperor Nicholas II established medals for Success and Prosperity in honour of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. Copies of these medals were distributed to Ural graduates in Ekaterinburg last week.
 
It is interesting to note that Nicholas II's birthday is marked each year by a growing number of schools and churches across Russia.
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 May, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:32 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 27 May 2014 7:40 AM EDT
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Saturday, 24 May 2014
A Russian Moment No 37 - Springtime at Peterhof
Topic: A Russian Moment


The magnificent Church of Saints Peter and Paul form a stunning backdrop for beautiful beds of tulips that dot the parks and gardens of Peterhof.
Photo © Vladimir Kleschev
 
Snow, ice and record cold temperatures all contributed to a very long winter for much of Canada, the United States, Europe and Russia this year. The worst is now behind us and many areas are enjoying the beauty of Spring. Peterhof officially launched the 2014 Summer season on May 19th, and is currently ablaze with colour as thousands of tulips and other flowers blanket the gardens and parks.
 
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul or Grand Palace Church opened to the public in July 2011 after years of restoration. It was in this church that the children of Emperor Nicholas II were baptized, including the Tsesarevich Alexei Nicholayevich in 1904. Today, it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Peterhof complex. The Church of Saints Peter and Paul is open to visitors every day, except Monday and the last Tuesday of each month. Admission price is 400 rubles, photography is absolutely forbidden.
 
In 2011, the Peterhof State Museum published an historical guide to the Grand Palace Church. The 48-page book is richly illustrated with text in Russian only. It includes details about the baptisms and marriages of members of the Russian Imperial family which took place here.
 
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul at Peterhof is a particular favourite of mine. I visit Peterhof annually and always save it for last before heading back to St. Petersburg by hydrofoil.  
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 24 May, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 23 May 2014 1:24 PM EDT
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Sunday, 4 May 2014
A Russian Moment No 36 - Sanctuary and Royal Gates, Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg
Topic: A Russian Moment


The newly recreated Holy or Royal Gates lead into the Sanctuary which houses the main altar the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg 
 
The beauty of the interiors of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg never fail to take my breath away. Officially known as the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, it is a Russian Orthodox church built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated on March 13, 1881 by a bomb while travelling along the Griboedov Canal (the reference to Spilled Blood is to that of Tsar Alexander II's). 

Construction was started in 1883 and completed in 1907 during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, the interior of the church was badly damaged and it was closed in the 1930s when the Bolsheviks were destroying churches all over Russia. During the siege of Leningrad the church was used as a storage site for corpses. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables and got the nickname of Church of the Saviour on Potatoes. 

In 1970, management of the church was turned over to St. Isaac's Cathedral, operating as a profitable museum. Money from the museum was used to restore the church and it was reopened in August 1997 after 27 years of restoration work at a cost of 4.6 million Roubles. The interiors are decorated with over 7500 square metres of mosaics—according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood now functions primarily as a museum, but occasional services are held there. The first liturgy in more than 70 years was held on 23 May 2004, by Metropolitan of St. Petersburg Vladimir (Kotlyarov). 

In 2005 work began on a new project for the recreation of the Holy (or Royal) Gates (permanently lost in the 1920s during the Soviet period). Entirely produced with enamels and based on the pictures and lithographies of the time, the new Holy Gates have been designed by V. J. Nikolsky and S. G. Kochetova, while famous enamel artist L. Solomnikova and her atelier have been assigned the task to produce the Holy Gates, whose reconsecration has been celebrated by Orthodos bishop Amvrosij of Gatchina on 14 March 2012, the 129th anniversary of Alexander II's assassination. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 04 May, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:44 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 4 May 2014 8:04 AM EDT
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Monday, 28 April 2014
A Russian Moment No 35 - Smolny Cathedral, St. Petersburg
Topic: A Russian Moment


The moon rises in the sky above the domes of the Smolny Cathedral in St.Petersburg. One of St. Petersburg landmarks, the Smolny convent's main church was built between 1748 and 1764 by Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Photo © Dmitry Lovetsky

The Smolny Cathedral was originally intended to be the central church of a monastery, built to house the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth, after she was disallowed to take the throne and opted instead to become a nun. However, as soon as her Imperial predecessor was overthrown during a coup, carried out by the royal guards, Elizabeth decided to forget the whole idea of a stern monastic life and happily accepted the offer of the Russian throne.

Though the age in which she lived was rather harsh, Elizabeth (especially in her younger days) was an amazingly joyful woman, who later displayed a passion for entertaining. As Empress she is notorious for never having worn the same ball dress twice, which has left us today with an enormous collection of mid-18th century dresses.

Smolny Cathedral’s stunning blue-and-white building is undoubtedly one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect Rastrelli, who also created the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine (Yekaterininsky) Palace in Pushkin, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks. The cathedral is the centerpiece of the convent, built by Rastrelli between 1748 and 1764. When Elizabeth stepped down from the throne the funding that had supported the constructed of the convent rapidly ran out and Rastrelli was unable to build the huge bell-tower he had planned or finish the interior of the cathedral. The building was only finished 1835 with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit the changed architectural tastes of the day.

In recent years, the Smolny Cathedral has been used primarily as a concert hall and a venue for exhibitions.

On April 7th, 2010, for the first time in 90 years, a divine liturgy was celebrated in the cathedral. In April 2013, the Russian media reported that the Smolny Cathedral would be returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 April, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:32 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 April 2014 8:37 AM EDT
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Monday, 31 March 2014
A Russian Moment No 34 - Peterhof
Topic: A Russian Moment


Aerial view of the palaces and churches of Peterhof. Photo © Amos Chapple
 
This stunning aerial view of Peterhof showcases some of the city’s most beautiful architectural monuments, all set in a beautiful fairytale like winter scene. In the foreground is the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral - a superb example of Russian Revival architecture. Construction of the cathedral began in 1894, a year after the plans were approved by Emperor Alexander III himself. 

In the background is the expansive Grand Palace (upper left) flanked by the Church of Saints Peter and Paul or Grand Palace Church. The single golden dome on the left or Western wing of the palace is known as the Double-Headed Eagle Pavilion. Today, it houses the Special Treasury, a museum of jewels and imperial treasures from Peter the Great to Nicholas II. The Special Treasury contains over 800 priceless objects, including a special section recreating a workshop of the House of Faberge, displaying some of the fabulous creations of this famous jewellery firm.

The long building (upper right) is the Benois Family Museum-House. Built in 1854, the palace is now a museum (opened in 1988) offering a unique exposition which presents the diverse phenomena of Russian and world artistic life of the second half of the 19th - early 20th centuries. It consists of beautiful, sculptural and graphic works, theatrical-decorative art objects, architectural projects, rare photographs and original items belonging to the most famous representatives of several generations of the Benois dynasty. Among those are such names as the talented painter and theatrical designer, creator of works on the history of Russian and world art, Alexander Benois, the watercolor virtuoso Albert Benoit, and the architect Leonti Benois. 

The street that the Benois Family Museum-House is situated leads to the Alexandria Park nearby. The park contains the Gothic Chapel, the Farm Palace, the Alexandria Dacha, and the ruins of the Lower Dacha. Visitors are required to pay admission to the park, as well as the respective museums. 

In the background one can see the Gulf of Finland. During the summer months, one can journey from St. Petersburg to Peterhof by hydrofoil, arriving at the pier which jets out into the water. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 31 March, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:54 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014 11:16 AM EDT
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Friday, 7 March 2014
A Russian Moment No 33 - The Monument to the Millennium of Russia, Novgorod
Topic: A Russian Moment


The Monument to the Millennium of Russia consists of 129 individual figures representing Russian monarchs, clerics, generals, and artists 
 
The Monument to the Millennium of Russia, standing at the centre of Novgorod, was unveiled on September 8, 1862. It was erected to celebrate the millennium of Rurik's arrival to Novgorod, an event traditionally taken as a starting point of Russian history. The bronze monument is the work of Mikhail Mikeshin, an eminent Russian sculptor active in the second half of the 19th century.

The monument consists of a grandiose, 15.7-metre-high bell crowned by a cross symbolizing the tsar's power. The bell is encircled with several tiers of sculptures, 129 individual figures representing Russian monarchs, clerics, generals, and artists active during various periods of Russian history.

The kneeling figure in the upper tier of the monument personifies Russia. Below, around the sphere, there are six groups symbolizing different periods of Russian history up to the first quarter of the 18th century. Represented, among others, are Prince Rurik who, according to legend, was invited in 862 to rule Novgorodian lands; Princes Vladimir, Dmitry Donskoi, Tsars Ivan III, Mikhail I and Peter I. 

The high-relief frieze in the lower tier of the memorial depicts military heroes, statesmen, educators, poets, writers and artists - 109 figures altogether. Here one can see the chronicler Nestor, Princes Yaroslav the Wise and Alexander the Nevsky, the Ukrainian hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky, the founder of the Russian theatre Volkov, the satirical writer Fonvizin, the composer Glinka, the poets Derzhavin, Zhukovsky, Pushkin, Lermontov, the historian Karamzin, and the artist Karl Briullov. 

The most expensive Russian monument up to that time, it was erected at a cost of 400,000 roubles, mostly raised by public subscription. In order to provide an appropriate pedestal for the huge sculpture, sixteen blocks of Sortavala granite were brought to Novgorod, each weighing in excess of 35 tons. The bronze monument itself weighs 100 tons.

During the World War II , the Nazis dismantled the monument and prepared it for transportation to Germany. Luckily, they never succeeded to accomplish this plan. After Novgorod's liberation, the monument was restored and in November 1944 once again unveiled to the public. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 07 March, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:36 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 7 March 2014 6:51 AM EST
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Saturday, 1 March 2014
A Russian Moment No 32 - Jordan Staircase, Winter Palace
Topic: A Russian Moment

 
A stunning view of the Jordan Staircase in the Winter Palace
 
In the 18th century the main staircase in the Winter Palace was known as the Ambassadorial Staircase because the envoys of foreign countries ascended it when going to the palace for official receptions.

Later the staircase received the name of the Jordan Staircase. It was on the Feast of the Epiphany that the Tsar descended this imperial staircase for the ceremony of the "Blessing of the Waters" of the Neva River, a celebration of Christ's baptism in the Jordan River. The staircase is one the few parts of the palace retaining the original 18th-century style. The massive grey granite columns, however, were added in the mid 19th century.

The staircase was badly damaged by a fire that swept the palace in 1837, but Emperor Nicholas I ordered the architect in charge of reconstruction, Vasily Stasov, to restore the staircase using Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli's original plans. Stasov made two small changes: he replaced the original gilt bronze handrails with white marble and the original pink columns with gray granite.

Starting from the Main Gallery, the white marble staircase divides into two flights meeting again on the level of the first floor. The ten solid columns of Serdobolye granite support the vaults of the staircase. Full of light and gleaming with gilding and mirrors, the staircase extends for the whole height of the Winter Palace. 

The stair hall, which has an 18th-century ceiling depicting the Gods at Olympus, is decorated with alabaster statues of Wisdom and Justice by Terebenev; Grandeur and Opulence by Ustinov; Fidelity and Equity by Leppe; and Mercury and Mars by Manuylov. At the centre of the first landing is an anonymous 18th-century marble sculpture, Allegory of the State.

During state receptions and functions the Jordan Staircase was a focal point for arriving guests. After entering the palace through the Ambassadors' entrance, in the central courtyard, they would pass through the colonnaded Jordan Hall, located on the ground floor before mounting the gilded Imperial staircase to the state apartments. Following a ball at the Winter Palace in 1902, The Duchess of Sutherland wrote: "The stairs of the palace were guarded by cossacks, with hundreds of footmen in scarlet liveries, I have never in my life seen so brilliant a sight—the light, the uniforms, the enormous rooms, the crowd, the music, making a spectacle that was almost Barbaric."

Today, as part of the State Hermitage Museum, this room retains its original decoration. In 2011, the Jordan received a much needed facelift. Specialists renewed marble decorations and sculptures, managing to preserve the old gilding of decorative components. The lighting of the staircase proved to be one of the most challenging tasks for architects. The entrance to the building appearance now resembles the architectural concept dating back to its 1830s original. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 March. 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:46 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2014 12:02 PM EST
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