Lyons Hall in the Catherine Palace opens after restoration

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The Lyons Hall as it looked in the 19th century. Artist: Luigi Premazzi. 1878

Restored to its former splendour, the Lyons Hall now fully completes the Catherine Palace’s Suite of State Rooms, a.k.a. the Golden Enfilade whose revival took 74 years after the end of the Great Patriotic War in 1945, and is now finished with the recent restoration of the Palace Chapel on the northern end and the opening of the Lyons Hall on the southern end of the Enfilade.

A breakthrough in the Lyons Hall Reconstruction Project became possible thanks to financial support from Gazprom and the ENGIE Foundation (France). The opening ceremony took place on 5 June 2019 and was led by Olga Golodets, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia; Olga Taratynova, Director of Tsarskoe Selo; Elena Burmistrova, Deputy CEO of Gazprom; Sylvie Bermann, French Ambassador to the Russian Federation; Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, Chairman of ENGIE; and Gérard Mestrallet, Chairman of Honour of ENGIE and former Chairman of the ENGIE Foundation.

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Sample of the silk lining recreated by the Lyons-based Lamy et Giraud weaving factory

The opulent Lyons Hall derived its name from the silk lining by the Lyons-based Lamy et Giraud weaving factory, now the Prelle Manufactory. A combination of golden silk and lapis lazuli in its interior design produced an aura of remarkable sophistication.  The lining underwent numerous changes after the time of Catherine the Great. In the mid-19th century, the Lyons Hall became a gala reception room and the golden fabric was replaced by crimson silk with floral garlands. In 1866, the walls were reclad in yellow silk of a hue called Golden Bud. That version of the interior is immortalized in Luigi Premazzi’s watercolour of 1878 (see photo at top of this page).

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The Lyons Hall after the Great Patriotic War. 1945

The Hall was destroyed during the war but some of its furnishings were saved by evacuation, including twenty five pieces of unique lapis-lazuli furniture and silk samples. Also saved were the palace’s inventory records, archival documents and photographs. The parquet floor was looted but later found in Berlin and returned to Tsarskoe Selo in 1947.

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© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело

The Lyons Hall Reconstruction Project was drawn up in 1983. However, it was not until 2005 that the first step was made by bringing the room back to its original dimensions. Work was carried out on a step-by-step basis because re-creating an entire room is extremely costly and time-consuming. Three lapis lazuli portals framing the Hall’s doorways were restored thanks to the backing of our art patrons, the TransSoyuz Charitable Foundation.

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© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело

A new stage in the project was launched in 2018 when Tsarskoe Selo, Gazprom and the ENGIE Foundation signed Lyons Hall Reconstruction Agreement. With funds from the ENGIE Foundation, 320 metres of the Golden Bud silk (Lampas bouton d’or Louis XVI) for the walls, furniture and curtains were remade at the Prelle Manufactory by French masters, whose predecessors were commissioned by the Russian imperial court in the 1860s. Gazprom financed the recreation of the ornate plafond and lapis lazuli mosaic panels (by the Tsarskoe Selo Amber Workshop), as well as the making of draped curtains and the covering of walls with the French silk (by St Petersburg’s Alpina company).

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© Государственный музей-заповедник Царское Cело

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 7 June 2019

The Grand Dukes of Russia

I am pleased to announce that next year (2020), I will begin publication of The Grand Dukes of Russia. This four-volume set, will be the most ambitious and costly publishing project in the 25 year history of Royal Russia.

Each volume of The Grand Dukes of Russia will explore one of the four main branches of the Russian Imperial Family, named after the sons of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860).

Volume No. 1 – the Alexandrovichi (descendants of Emperor Alexander II), with further subdivisions named the Vladimirovichi and the Pavlovichi 

Volume No. 2 – the Konstantinovichi (descendants of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich)

Volume No. 3 – the Nikolaevichi (descendants of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich)

Volume No. 4 – the Mikhailovichi (descendants of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich)

Each volume will feature biographies of each grand duke, researched solely from Russian archives and other sources, offering new information about. Each volume will be richly illustrated with black and white photographs, and complemented with family trees, details about their residences in Russia, and more.

Research for Volume No. 1 – the Alexandrovichi is already underway, with publication due early next year. Stay tuned for further updates . . . 

SIGN UP to receive updates (by e-mail) on this four volume series, as well as other Romanov books and news:

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© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 24 May 2019

The Emperor’s Fishing Lodge at Langinkoski marks 130th anniversary

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View of the Imperial Fishing Lodge, Langinkoski

Emperor Alexander III became infatuated with the place and wanted to have a fishing lodge built at Langinkoski, which the imperial family visited several times. The fishing lodge, which was completed in 1889, is today the only preserved building outside Russia that was owned by the Emperor. In 2019, the Imperial Fishing Lodge marks its 130th anniversary.

The Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich (future Emperor Alexander III) visited Langinkoski for the first time in 1880 with his consort, the Danish Princess Dagmar (future Empress Maria Feodorovna). After ascending to the Russian imperial throne, Alexander III visited Langinkoski again. He was infatuated with the place and expressed a wish that a fishing lodge be built for him at Langinkoski Rapids.

The Emperor’s wish came true. Architect Magnus Schjerfbeck (1860-1933) prepared the drawings of the fishing lodge, and architect Johan Jacob Ahrenberg (1847-1914) was in charge of interior design. Compared to the imperial court, the lodge was simple and intended for summer use only. Langinkoski was the Emperor’s refuge, where he withdrew from the luxury and formalities of the court. The interior and items in the lodge offered Finnish applied arts and industry an opportunity to present their products. The textiles were made by Tampella, the dishes by Arabia, and the glasses were blown at the local Karhula glassworks.

The fishing lodge was inaugurated in a grand ceremony on 15 July 1889. Local residents brought flowers and sang. When the Emperor came onto the veranda, a 30-gun salute was fired. In the evening, a banquet was held on the imperial yacht, during which the Emperor raised his glass to toast Finland. The imperial family enjoyed great popularity in Finland.

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Interior of the Imperial Fishing Lodge

Alexander visited Langinkoski almost annually. He liked to spend time in the countryside. The river bed was equipped with steel nets and bars to prevent salmon released into it from escaping so that the Emperor could catch them. The Empress, who was known as a sweet and gentle person, sometimes wanted to prepare lunch herself. In the evenings, there were meals, bonfires, firework displays, music and salutes, and sometimes trips were made with horses. The Emperor had three professional fishermen. They came to Langinkoski in May every year and returned home to the Tver government after the fishing season.

Alexander and his family visited Langinkoski for the last time on 21 and 22 July 1894. After returning home, the Emperor learnt that he had nephritis. He did not recover from the disease, but died at the end of the same year. A memorial stone was erected at Langinkoski to remember the Emperor.

After Alexander’s death, his son took the throne as Nicholas II. He did not like to spend time at Langinkoski. People at Langinkoski looked forward to a visit by the imperial family, but the last Emperor of Russia stopped by only once, in September 1906. From time to time, the fishing lodge was visited by other members of the imperial family or high officials.

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Orthodox chapel on the grounds of the Imperial Fishing Lodge

During the First World War, the fishing lodge served as a convalescent home for wounded Russian soldiers as the Dowager Empress had suggested. Russians also built a base at Langinkoski, with trenches, firing nests and dugouts. Some trenches are still to be seen, but the other structures have disappeared over the years.

In 1917, the disorder in Russia also affected Langinkoski. The bronze trimmings of the Emperor’s memorial stone were ransacked, and rebellious soldiers vented their anger on the stone. A Russian private perhaps detonated a hand grenade against it. However, the memorial stone may also have been destroyed in later clashes or during the blasting relating to fortification works. The caretaker of the fishing lodge managed to hide most of its contents. During the Finnish Civil War in April 1918, a unit of the Kotka Red Guards settled at Langinkoski. However, they soon fled as the Whites and Germans advanced.

When Finland became independent in 1917, Langinkoski was taken over by the State of Finland. The Imperial Fishing Lodge soon fell into decay, and some people regarded it as a humiliating reminder of the Russian era. The lodge would probably have been destroyed, had it not been for the Kymenlaakso Museum Society (now the Langinkoski Society) who began to restore it. The lodge was opened as a museum to the public in 1933. Many items had been removed from the lodge, but a considerable proportion of them have been traced and returned to the museum.

The Imperial Fishing Lodge is open to the public from 2 May – 31 August.

© Metsähallitus / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 May 2019

Helsinki to Host Anna Vyrubova Exhibit

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On 7th June 2019, an exhibit dedicated to Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova (née Taneyeva) will open at the Russian Center for Science and Culture, in Helsinki, Finland. The exhibit is timed to the 135th anniversary of her birth and the 55th anniversary of her death. 

Anna is best known as a Russian lady-in-waiting, the best friend and confidante of the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna (1872-1918). Her memoirs Memories of the Russian Court (1923), provide details about her life at Court, and rare descriptions of the private home life of the Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

The small exhibit will feature twelve exhibition stands, based on archival documents, which tell the story about her parents, relatives, the Russian and Finnish periods of her life, as well as her relations with the Tsar, Tsarina, Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Queen of Sweden Louise, and Matilda Wrede. The opening of the exhibition will be attended by people who knew Anna personally, as well as writers, researchers, and archivists from Finland and Russia. 

The exhibit will feature archival documents and photographs, personal belongings of Vyrubova (Taneyeva), courtesy of Lyudmila Huhtiniemi, the Chairman of the Society for the Memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Anna Taneyeva in Finland.

Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova (1884-1964), was born in Oranienbaum as the daughter of Aleksandr Taneyev (1850-1918), Chief Steward to His Majesty’s Chancellery and a noted composer, and Countess Nadezhda Tolstoy (1860-1937). In 1907, Anna married Alexander Vasilievich Vyrubov, an officer appointed in the Imperial chancellery, however, the couple divorced within a year and a half.

Vyrubova became one of Rasputin’s adherents, and for a long time she served as a go-between for the Empress and the strannik. During World War I she trained as a Red Cross nurse and nursed injured soldiers along with the Empress and the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana.

On 21 March 1917, Anna was arrested and underwent five months of prison in the Peter and Paul Fortress. Through the help of several friends of her father, she managed to escape Petrograd. She endured much hardship avoiding the Bolsheviks, but was able to escape to Finland only in December 1920.

Vyrubova spent the rest of her life first in Viipuri and later in Helsinki. She took vows as a Russian Orthodox nun but was permitted to live in a private home because of her physical disabilities. She died at 80, in Helsinki, where her grave is located in the Orthodox section of Hietaniemi cemetery.

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In exile, Anna looks through an album of photos (see below), reflecting on happier days in Russia

The six Romanov Family Albums held at the Beinecke Library (Yale University) represent a unique survival from the final years of Nicholas II and his family. Taken between 1907 and 1915, the hundreds of photographs contained in these albums date from the first flowering of popular photography, when new breakthroughs in technology put cameras into the hands of amateurs – including the Emperor, his wife, and their five children – who were able to capture impromptu moments of everyday life on a massive scale. The “snapshots” in the Romanov albums record such moments in the private life not just of any family, but of one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious ruling houses. Rescued by the Tsarina’s friend and intimate confidante, Anna Vyrubova, the albums are indeed a truly remarkable survival. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 May 2019

Monument to Alexander III to be established in Gatchina

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Sculpture of Alexander III by Vladimir Brodarsky 

The Russian Historical Society (RIO) has announced the results of a competition to establish a monument to Emperor Alexander III, to be installed in the courtyard of Gatchina Palace, situated about 48 km south of St. Petersburg.

The winner of the competition is the Russian sculptor Vladimir Brodarsky, a graduate of the St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after I. Ye. Repin. One of the works of the young artist was recently presented at the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art – he embodied Rembrandt’s The Prodigal Son in sculpture for installation in the Russian pavilion.

Project competition

RIO Chairman Sergei Naryshkin, noted that it was the Gatchina Museum-Reserve who initiated the idea to install a monument to Alexander III in the courtyard of the restored Arsenal Square. The Russian Historical Society and the Russian Military Historical Society announced a competition in May of last year. Call for applications was opened on 1st June 2018, in which four applications were submitted to the competition.

According to the rules of the competition, entries were required to create a monument based on the surviving first sketches of the monument to Emperor Alexander III by sculptor Paolo Trubetskoy (1866-1938), depicting the monarch sitting in a chair. Trubetskoy is well known for his equestrian statue of the emperor, which is now located in the main courtyard of the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg.

Georgy Vilinbakhov, Deputy Director General of the State Hermitage Museum for Scientific Work, noted that the Brodarsky project is closer to Trubetskoy’s plan compared to other projects participating in the competition.

Alexander III in Gatchina 

“Alexander III spent a significant part of his life here, within the walls of Gatchina Palace: here he was engaged in public affairs, spent time with his family and was involved in the activities of the Russian Historical Society, of which he was honorary chairman”, said Naryshkin.

Vasily Pankratov, director of the Gatchina State Museum-Reserve, expressed the hope that the monument’s installation will be implemented by March 2020, when the 175th anniversary of the birth of Alexander III will be celebrated.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 15 May 2019

Faberge VISA Cards

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Lilies of the Valley Egg (1898)

In 2015, the Russian METKOMBANK PJSC and the Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg, launched a unique co-branding project, offering clients with a Visa credit card, bearing one of five Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs.

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Imperial Coronation Egg (1897)

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Renaissance Egg detail (1894)

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Renaissance Egg (1894)

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Kelch Chanticleer Egg (1904)

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 13 May 2019

VIDEO: Alexander III Monument in Livadia

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of monuments to Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894), who ruled Russia for little more than 13 years, have been established across Russia.

The most impressive monument to the “Tsar Peacemaker” has to be the gargantuan monument established on the grounds of Livadia Palace in Crimea in November 2017.

The four-meter-high bronze monument by Russian sculptor Andrey Kovalchuk, depicts Alexander III sitting on a stump, his stretched arms resting on a sabre. An inscription repeats his famous words: “У России только два союзника — ее армия и флот” (“Russia has only two allies: the Army and the Navy”).

The monument to the emperor was installed on the site where the Maly (Small) Livadia Palace was built in the 19th century. The palace was a summer retreat for Alexander III and his family, and it was here that he died at the age of 49. During World War II the palace was destroyed by Nazi invaders.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the gala unveiling ceremony on 18th November 2017 (see above photo), who referred to Alexander III as “an outstanding statesman, a man of strong character, courage and inflexible will.”

Putin added that while Alexander III was often called the “peacemaker” because he waged no large-scale wars while leading the empire from 1881-1894, he “gave Russia 13 years of peace not by yielding but by a fair and unwavering firmness”.

He added that the emperor had modernized the military and begun construction of the Trans-Siberian railway.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 9 May 2019

Portrait of Alexander II’s daughter donated to Peterhof

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PHOTO © Государственный музей-заповедник Петергоф

On 23rd April, the Farm Palace (situated in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof) hosted a ceremonial transfer of a portrait of Countess Olga Alexandrovna von Merenberg, born Yuryevskaya (1873-1925). The portrait was presented to the collection of the Peterhof State Museum by the Countess’s granddaughter, Baroness Clotilde von Rintelen. This is the third gift that the great-granddaughter of Emperor Alexander II (1818-1891) and his morganatic wife Princess Ekaterina Dolgorukova (1847-1922) have presented to the palace-museum.

Nine years ago,  60 rose bushes of old varieties, were donated by the Baroness, to decorate the flower gardens of the Farm Palace and Tsaritsyn Island in Peterhof. Last year, Clotilde von Rintelen donated to the museum a unique album “Chassesdanslaforêt de Białowieźa” (Hunting in Belovezhskaya Pushcha), marking the Imperial hunt in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in October 1860.

This year, the Baroness, arrived in St. Petersburg as part of a delegation of the press club of the German city of Wiesbaden, where she presented the palace-museum with the portrait of Olga Alexandrovna, the daughter of Emperor Alexander II and Princess Ekaterina Dolgorukova, which had been kept in her family.

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PHOTO © Государственный музей-заповедник Петергоф

The oval-shaped portrait is painted in gouache and signed by the artist: “Countess Olga Hasselman Kurt, 1917. Wiesbaden”. The portrait was always kept in the family of her heirs. According to the Baroness, this family heirloom survived numerous family relocations, fires, and even a bomb that hit her grandfather’s house during the Second World War. “Now the portrait has returned home,” said Clotilde von Rintelen.

After the ceremonial transfer, the portrait of Olga Alexandrovna, accompanied by the museum staff and the donor, went to the St. Petersburg “House of Journalists”, where it  was presented to the media.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 8 May 2019

NICHOLAS II. EMPEROR. TSAR. SAINT

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Back in January 2019, I launched a new web site, NICHOLAS II. EMPEROR. TSAR. SAINT. This site features first English translations of news from Russian media sources. 

If you have an interest in the life and reign of Nicholas II, you can sign up for FREE updates of new articles posted on this new site. 

These include full-length articles, news stories translated into English from Russian media sources, videos, photos, new books and more!

You will receive a professional looking email each time a new post is published.

How do you sign up? It’s simple!

– Click on the LINK located at the BOTTOM of this post, which will redirect you to my web site

– Click on the FOLLOW button, located In the lower right-hand corner of the page

– Enter your e-mail address

– Click the SIGN ME UP button and you’re all set!

Click HERE to review my new web site, NICHOLAS II. EMPEROR. TSAR. SAINT. 

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you for your support of this important historic project

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 April 2019

World Monument Fund Reports on the Alexander Palace

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The Alexander Palace

Designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi and completed in 1796, Alexander Palace housed three generations of Russian monarchs before it was abandoned by the Imperial family in the months preceding the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Built on the order of Catherine the Great as a gift to her grandson Alexander I, the palace is in Tsarskoye Selo, a 1,500-acre imperial estate near St. Petersburg. The building was later used as a summer residence by Alexander’s brother, Nicolas I, and then by his nephew, Tsar Nicolas II. In 1917, the Imperial family was expelled from the palace by order of Alexander Kerensky, head of the provisional government. Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolshevik regime one year later. From then until World War II the palace remained uninhabited; it functioned as a museum until occupying German forces converted the building into their military headquarters. Alexander Palace later served as a naval command base and research station, until the mid-1990s when we assisted with efforts to convert the palace into a museum.

Parts of Alexander Palace had fallen into serious disrepair by 1994 when it garnered local interest as a potential museum. We provided funds toward assessments and planning for public access to a suite of rooms to be used as museum space. Shortly after its inclusion on the 1996 World Monuments Watch, the palace was added to the list of institutions operated by the Museum-Preserve of Tsarskoe Selo, which agreed to manage the upkeep of the property and its tourist facilities. In September 1996, we helped with emergency renovations to the roof over the Nicholas II wing of the palace, comprising approximately one-third of the building’s total roof structure. Alexander Palace is now an exhibition space dedicated to the final years of Tsarist Russia, and houses a collection of Nicholas II’s personal effects and historical documents.

An important national heritage site (1995)

One of the few Tsarist residences left relatively intact following World War II, Alexander Palace provides a window into Imperial life during pre-communist Russia. For its historical value as the setting of Nicholas II’s final years, and for its artistic merits as a much-celebrated work of sumptuously decorated neoclassical architecture, the palace is an important national heritage site.

NOTE: the following three reports, published in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively, although now dated, still provide readers with some interesting facts on the history of the Alexander Palace, and the challenges presented with it’s restoration – PG

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD REPORT

Alexander Palace: Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use as a Museum (1995 – 112 pages)

Describes an investigation into the prospect of adapting the 18th century Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg for use as a house museum interpreting the history and life of the last Romanovs, the last imperial dynasty to rule over Russia. The neoclassical palace was designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he acceded to the throne. Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II and his family the palace was used as a museum, until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. In 1995-1996, World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace. The first mission, described in this report, had an exploratory and fact-finding character and took place over five days in February 1995. During this mission the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning to it original furnishings from the collections of Russian museums was studied. Two subsequent missions are described in separate reports.

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD REPORT

Alexander Palace: Groundwork for Restoration and Museum Adaptation (1996 – 47 pages)

This report provides a bilingual summary of the research later compiled into the report entitled “The Alexander Palace: Preliminary Assessment Report for Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use,” published by World Monuments Fund in 1997.Designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, this neoclassical palace near St. Petersburg was a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he ascended to the throne. Alexander I, Nicholas I and Nicholas II all spent their summers living in the palace.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II along with his family, the palace was converted into a museum, which it remained until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. From the end of the war until 1995, the building served as administrative offices for the Russian Navy. Over the first half of 1995, a team from the World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace, evaluating the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning its original furnishings then in the collections of three different Russian museums. During the course of these missions, the World Monuments Fund established the scope of work necessary to convert the palace into a historic house museum focused on the life of Nicholas II and his family and secured funding for the site through American Express as part of the inaugural World Monuments Fund Watch List. This grant provided for emergency repairs to the roof over the southeast wing of the palace.

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD REPORT

Alexander Palace: Preliminary Assessment Report for Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use (1997 – 85 pages) 

Designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, this neoclassical palace near St. Petersburg was a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he ascended to the throne. Alexander I, Nicholas I and Nicholas II all spent their summers living in the palace. Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II along with his family, the palace was converted into a museum, which it remained until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. From the end of the war until 1995, the building served as administrative offices for the Russian Navy. Over the first half of 1995, a team from the World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace, evaluating the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning its original furnishings then in the collections of three different Russian museums. During the course of these missions, World Monuments Fund established the scope of work necessary to convert the palace into a historic house museum focused on the life of Nicholas II and his family and secured funding for the site through American Express as part of the inaugural World Monuments Fund Watch List. This grant provided for emergency repairs to the roof over the southeast wing of the palace.

Click HERE for more current and up-to-date reports on the restoration of the Alexander Palace

© World Monuments Fund / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 April 2019