Views of the restored Chapelle Pavilion in the Alexander Park, Tsarskoye Selo
On 15th September, the Chapelle Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo welcomed visitors for the first time in more than 70 years.
Part of the restoration project included the redevelopment of the area surrounding the pavilion, such as the creation of Lilac Alley. Garden artists Ilya Kononov and Fedor Lyamin, planted 70 lilac bushes of historical French varieties along the path.
The Chapelle is considered by many to be the “most romantic pavilion in the Alexander Park”, and the museum staff agree that the restored pavilion combined with Lilac Alley will become one of the most beautiful walking routes in the park.
The pavilion was constructed between 1825 and 1828 on the edge of the Alexander Park in the Landscape Park, and was given the French name chapelle (chapel).
The Scottish-born architect Adam Menelaw’s (1753-1831) design for the Chapelle took the form of a small Gothic church, dilapidated by time. It consisted of two square-based towers, one of which had totally “collapsed”, and a broad arch connecting them. Among the deliberate echoes of the Gothic period was the architect’s installation of coloured glass in the windows of the building. Light penetrating through them gave a spectral shimmer to the interior. The figures of angels at the base of the vaults were, like the sculpture on the White Tower, the work of Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky, while the statue of Christ that stood in the Chapelle (and is now in the collection of the State Hermitage) was commissioned by Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Paul I) from the German sculptor Johann Heinrich von Dannecker (1758-1841).
Chapelle Pavilion. Artist: PF Borel, 1892
After the 1917 Revolution, the Chapelle was opened as a museum, however, it was closed in the early 1930s due to low attendance. By 1933, the pavilion was already in a deplorable state, in which bricks had fallen off the walls, and nearly all the beautiful coloured glass windows knocked out.
At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), anti-aircraft guns were mounted in the clock room, located in the pavilion’s tower. During the Nazi occupation of Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo), the tower was used as an observation post by the enemy. By the end of the war, the interior, the roof of the tower, and the weather vane had all sustained extensive damage.
In the first post-war years, due to the lack of materials, cost of repairs, and the elements, damage to the pavilion only worsened. By the end of the 1940s, archival documents show that, “the bulk of the iron was torn off, the remains of it hung down and continued to be torn by heavy winds. Due to long-term leaks, the rafter system is partially rotten, the brickwork of the ruin and the stone staircase are partially damaged by projectiles. Window and door bindings are completely broken … a sculpture and stucco figures of angels have partial damages.”
Early 19th century drawing of the facade of the Chapelle Pavilion
In the years 1950-1951, conservation work was carried out, including major roof repairs. In 1953, a restoration project was created, but was never implemented due to lack of funding.
In 1963, another decision was adopted on the restoration of the pavilion and conversion to an ice cream parlor. Fortunately, this project was never carried out, however, by 1966, the ground floor was still used for housing.
In 1987, the question was again raised about the restoration and overhaul of the pavilion, but the project was not realized, again, due to lack of funds.
In 2011, a comprehensive survey of the Chapelle was completed and design and estimate documentation for the restoration and adaptation of the pavilion as a museum was developed. In 2014, a historical and cultural examination of the project was carried out.
In 2015-2016, within the framework of the Culture of Russia Federal Target Program (2012-2018), priority repair and restoration works were carried out on the pavilion. In April 2017, a tender was issued for the subsequent restoration of the Chapelle Pavilion, which was awarded to the Lapin Enterprise Company.
Specialists carried out extensive work: repair and strengthening of structural elements of the building; repair and restoration work on the turret of the tower; roof repair; restoration of carpentry fillings; equipping the building with engineering support systems; restoration of the interior. Work on the interior included the restoration of the stucco gothic vault, and the preservation of the original scenic decorations.
Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve Director Olga V. Taratynova places a time capsule inside the weather vane
The roof of the pavilion was originally adorned with a rooster in the form of a cockerel, made of copper, a symbol of the abdication of the apostle Peter. On the weather vane there were traces of bullets from the Great Patriotic War, and the tail was completely lost. A copy of the cockerel has now been installed, in the base of which, before the installation on the roof, in July 2018 the museum staff placed a time capsule with a message to future generations.
The interior of the chapel is decorated with paintings, imitating Gothic windows and wall coverings with a light blue border. Restorers have preserved the surviving fragments of painting.
The ceiling of the main room of the chapel has a fan-shaped arch, typical of late English Gothic buildings. During it’s restoration, specialists discovered the historical color scheme.
Specialists work on the restoration of the fan-shaped arch ceiling of the Chapelle
In exchange for the statue of the Savior, now in the Hermitage collection, a sculpture of Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna (Adini), the daughter of Emperor Nicholas I, the work of Ivan Vitali, was installed in it’s place.
The total cost of the restoration of the Chapelle Pavilion is 132 million rubles ($2 million USD). The project was financed by the Culture of Russia Federal Target Program (2012-2018) and extra-budgetary funds of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve.
The opening of the Chapelle Pavilion is the main restoration project of the year – one which marks the 100th anniversary of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve. Admission to the pavilion is free, and open to visitors daily from 9 am to 7 pm.
Click HERE to read an article announcing the restoration of the Chapelle Pavilion, published on 26th September 2015.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 September 2018