Videos of the Palaces of the Romanov Dynasty

Interiors of the Summer Palace of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich
by Paul Gilbert

The Summer Palace of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich, Kolomenskoye

The 17th century interiors of the Summer Palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich have been recreated at Kolomenskoye, in Moscow.

Historians refer to the palace as “a pinnacle of Russian wooden architecture of the 17th century,” and the “eighth wonder of the world”. It stood for only a century before it was dismantled by order of the Empress Catherine II.

Construction of the current palace began in 2007, its design was based on drawings of the building which survived. Architects and artists, who studied the old drawings, claim that the new wooden palace is recreated with historical accuracy. But records of the interior decoration of the rooms did not survive", said Lyudmila Kolesnikova, the director of the Kolomenskoye Reserve Museum. Preparatory work for the interior design of the palace began more than 15 years ago, at a cost of 700 million rubles.

The interiors of 24 rooms, on the first floor of the palace have been recreated, including the tsar’s bedroom, a steam room, the dining room and the Parish Hall. The dining room, which seated more than forty people, held official receptions and dinners in honor of distinguished guests while Alexis sat on a throne, towering over his guests while they dined. The Parish Hall was where the tsar greeted distinguished foreign ambassadors, arranged diplomatic receptions, and decided matters of state.

Information about the interiors of the palace is based on findings that historians gathered, literally piece by piece from various archives. In particular, employees of "Kolomna" studied the palace interiors based on the memoirs of foreign ambassadors who were guests of Tsar Alexis at his Summer Palace.

Of course, most of the items used to decorate the rooms are reproductions, such as the unique carved doors and stove tiles. But the main task of the restorers was to recreate the atmosphere of the Russian Court in the 17th century.

According to historical sources, the walls of the chambers and ceilings were covered with various murals and frescoes of biblical scenes. These were recreated by a team of twenty-five artists. Kolesnikova was quick to point out that much of the work was done by hand by skilled craftsmen. The Sophia Room has been fully embossed in leather. The Main Chamber of the palace lit by beautifully gilded wooden chandeliers. There are a total of eighteen furnaces (stoves that were used to keep the large, drafty rooms warm from the bitter Russian winter outside) throughout the palace, decorated with ornate glazed tiles. “No two tiles are the same", - assured Kolesnikova.

The thread on the doors is made from tree bark, and then covered with gold leaf. "Again, everything was done manually, and down to the finest details, based on techniques used in the 17th century" - continues the director.

Carpets in the XVII century were a luxury. They were used to lay tables for diplomatic receptions or as floor coverings in the royal chambers. They were originally brought from Persia.

The palace was filled with various wonders. Of particular pride was a pair of lions, one on either side, at the foot of the tsar’s throne. Originally, the lion figures were carved of wood, covered with sheepskin. They included a complex, and cleverly hidden mechanism, unique to the 17th century. When the ambassadors approached, the lion opened his mouth and growled loudly. Today the lions are gilded in gold, and include a more up-to-date electronic mechanism that makes them roar.

It is interesting to note that, as a boy, the future Emperor Peter the Great ran through the halls and rooms of the palace. Here, he studied maps of celestial spheres, and acquainted himself with the basics of astronomy.

Reconstruction of the palace began in 2007. The first visitors were received last year, but the royal chambers were only open to the public for one month. Then the building was closed again in order to complete work on recreating the 17th-century interiors. The palace welcomed the media on February 1st, 2011, but remains closed to the public until a later date. "Hopefully, later this year, builders will hand over the project to the museum-reserve. I believe that in about two months, that the palace will be completed. The museum-reserve will then formally take control of the palace, and open its doors to the public" - added the museum's director. The palace will offer guests tours of the private apartments of Tsar Alexis, as well as various exhibitions throughout the year.

The Summer Palace of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich at Kolomenskoye 'Eighth Wonder of the World'

The Summer Palace of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich at Kolomenskoye Photo Album

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Video tour of the restored 17th century Summer Palace of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich at Kolomenskoye
Language: English
Duration: 9 min 47 sec