Restoration of the Interiors of the
Grand-Ducal Mausoleum, St. Petersburg

Source: Телеканал Культура. Language: Russian. Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

The interior of the Grand Ducal Mausoleum as it looked in 1911

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The Grand Ducal Mausoleum is situated next to the Peter and Paul Cathedral, in St. Petersburg. It was intended for the burial of the uncrowned members of the Imperial Russian Imperial House. Since the early 1990's, the mausoleum has been undergoing extensive restorations. First, the facades and roofs, including the installaton of a new cross in April, 2010. Now, the restoration of the interiors is underway. However, experts are having great difficulties in reversing the consequences of Soviet intervention in this unique architectural monument.

They believe that the mausoleum suffered during the post-revolutionary period of the city's history. The Soviets made some horrific changes to the mausoleum interiors, including closing up the stucco gilded windows of the dome ceiling, installing a reinforced concrete floor over the tombs, completely destroying the sanctuary, utensils, and tombstones of the members of the Russian Imperial family buried there.

The building was originally designed by the architect David Grimm in 1896. Other architects involved in the construction of the interiors included Anton Tomishko, Alexander Pomerantsev, but the leading role in the construction of the building belongs to that of Leonti Benoit. The architect managed to maintain a balance with that of the more dominating Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. In 1906, the interiors were decorated with a magnificent and striking stained glass of Christ's Resurrection, made by H. Cusick in Germany, and based on the sketch by Nicolas Bruni. The original was lost during the war. The recreation of the stained glass was carried out thanks to state-of-the-art technology which recreated a beautiful replica based on an historical sketch more than a century old.

The magnificent stained glass was restored five years ago but only recently, after removing trees that had surrounded the mausoleum since the Soviet days, were the artisans able to return it to its historical place. The next phase of restoration will be the restoration of the altar and the tombs to their pre-revolutionary original.

The stained glass of Christ's Resurrection

Svetlana Nalivkina, chief architect of the restoration project said, "About three-quarters of the boards covering the tombs have survived. We are very lucky, that is, that when they were destroyed, they were not removed entirely, but only fragments were omitted from the upper chambers of the tombs."

The tomb of the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich

According to the original plans made in the early 20th century, the mausoleum was designed for 300 tombs, then the number was dropped significantly to sixty. As a result, there were only thirteen funerals and reburials up until 1917. Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia was the first to be interred in the mausoleum in 1908. The last funeral that took place before the Russian Revolution was that of the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich. No further burials took place until 1992, when the remains of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich were brought to St. Petersburg and buried in the Grand Ducal Mausoleum. The remains of his parents, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna, were transferred from Schloss Rosenau three years later. The latest burial was that of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, mother of the current Head of the Russian Imperial House, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna.

The question of when the restoration of the mausoleum will be completed is uncertain. The first draft of rebuilding the tombstones was ready for the early 1990s, but this has still yet to be realized.

NOTE: One historian told me many years ago, that she found documents in the Russian archives that noted the destruction and desecration of the tombs in the mausoleum after the Revolution. She claims that Bolshevik soldiers not only opened many of the tombs, but stripped the remains of any valuables, before desecrating the graves themselves. This, she later explained to me was one of the main reasons why historians and restorers are having such a difficult time in restoring many of the tombs today. - - Paul Gilbert

Sources: Телеканал Культура
30 March, 2011