Reconstruction of Tsarskoye Selo Monuments Destroyed During WWII will Take 25 years

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Restoring the Golden Gate and fence of the Catherine Palace

The complete restoration of the architectural monuments of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve (GMZ) destroyed during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the main residence of the Russian emperors and empresses near St. Petersburg, will take at least another quarter of a century. This assessment was made last week by Deputy Director for Research and Education Iraida Bott, during a press conference marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Pushkin from Nazi occupation.

“I think that it will take least 25 years,” said Bott, when asked the question of how long it will take to recreate all the monuments of the museum-reserve that were damaged in wartime. Most of them were destroyed in the first year of occupation, which lasted a total of four years.

Recreation of the Catherine Palace

Two-thirds of the main monument of the museum-reserve – the Catherine Palace – have now been restored, its restoration has been going on for more than six decades, since 1957. Among the most significant objects that have been recreated in recent years is the Golden Enfilade. “it will soon be completely restored, and in March of this year we will open the Church of the Resurrection of Christ – the last interior created by the famous architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771). The Imperial Chapel was consecrated on 30th July 1756, and thus the entire Golden Enfilade will be brought back to life,” explained Bott.

One of the greatest achievements during the reconstruction of the monuments lost during the Great Patriotic War is the reconstruction of the Amber Room. The unique interior, presented to Tsar Peter I by the Prussian king Friedrich-Wilhelm I, disappeared without a trace during the war years; its fate remaining a mystery to this day. Work on the recreation of the “eighth wonder of the world” lasted twenty-four years and on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the foundation of St Petersburg the restored legendary Amber Room received its first visitors. 

“The greatest sadness and the greatest hope of my generation is to see the state rooms and private quarters of the Empress Catherine II restored. It is hard to imagine when these rooms will be realized,” said Bott. In the meantime, there are plans to recreate the rooms of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.

Later this year, noted Bott, one of the most grand palace halls of the 18th century – the Lyon Hall will be opened. “This is the ceremonial hall, located next to the Arabesque Hall, which was also created in Catherine’s times, and underwent significant changes in the middle of the 19th century. We will restore it to its pre-war look,” she added.

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The Alexander Palace was closed for restoration in August 2015

Alexander Palace and the lost exhibits

“Besides the Catherine Palace, we still have the Alexander Palace and a large number of pavilions to restore and recreate in the Alexander Park, all of which require a lot of work,” said Bott. In recent years, the Martial Chamber, the Arsenal and Chapelle pavilions were opened to visitors. In 2019, the first eight rooms of the Alexander Palace are scheduled to be opened.

The museum is working hard to return the lost exhibits to the collection.

“Before the war, our entire museum collection was catalogued, so we have the exact numbers — about 110 thousand pieces. Of course, not all of them could be evacuated, only the finest items were evacuated – about 19 thousand items. Today we have in our collection more than 50 thousand items: these include items that we acquired at auctions, and those that we received from donors and sponsors. Descendants of soldiers and civilians who stole items as a souvenir from the palaces during the war years have returned more than a hundred items,” said Bott.

It is interesting to note that when the Alexander Palace was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1951, a total of 5,615 items that were still among the evacuated items in the Central Repository of Museum Stocks from the Suburban Palace-Museums, were transferred to the Pavlovsk Palace State Museum. Of these, nearly 200 pieces were from the Alexander Palace ceremonial halls. These included 39 pieces of porcelain, 41 paintings, 73 decorative bronze pieces, and 28 pieces of furniture. Let us hope that as a gesture of goodwill, that the Pavlovsk Palace-Museum administration will do the right thing, and return all of these items back to the Alexander Palace – PG

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 January 2019

1.2 Billion Rubles Allocated for Restoration of the Alexander Palace

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A recent photo of the facade of the Alexander Palace

On 18th January, an announcement was made that more than 1.2 billion rubles ($18 million USD) will be allocated for the restoration of the Alexander Palace and the Imperial Farm at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve in 2019

The Government of the Russian Federation has finalized a draft decree which will allocate the necessary funding to complete the restoration of the Alexander Palace, ensuring that it will be open to visitors in 2020. In a previous news article, I noted that a partial reopening of the palace would take place in late 2019.

During a press conference held last Friday, Olga Taratynova, Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, noted that several rooms of the Alexander Palace, where Emperor Nicholas II and his family lived, where planned to open in 2018, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the their murders on 17th July 1918. Unfortunately, their goal was not realized due to lack of funding. The initial estimate for the restoration of the historical interiors of the palace was estimated at 2 billion rubles ($30 million USD), but the federal budget only transferred 827 million rubles ($12 million USD), leaving the museum to look independently for the remaining balance. Ticket and excursion sales by the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve raised 279 million rubles ($4.2 million USD). The Russian Government have promised to allocate 1,027,930,000 rubles (15 million USD) in 2019.

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Vintage postcard of the Imperial Farm situated in the Alexander Park, Tsarskoye Selo

The Russian Government have also confirmed that an additional 187 million rubles ($2.8 million USD) have been allocated for the reconstruction of the Imperial Farm in 2019. This cost to complete this project is estimated at 713 million rubles ($10.8 million USD). Over the past few years, the Russian Government have invested 418 million rubles ($6.3 million USD) in the Imperial Farm, while the Central Scientific Research Geological Museum in St. Petersburg, contributed an additional 108 million rubles ($1.6 million USD).

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve also have plans for the reconstruction of the Chinese Theatre and Mount Parnassus, both of which are situated in the Alexander Park.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 January 2019

Conference: ‘Palaces, Mansions & Estates in a Museum Format’

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© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The 24th Tsarskoye Selo Academic Conference themed Palaces, Mansions & Estates in a Museum Format was held at the Catherine Palace during 26-28 November 2018. 

An excellent finale to this year’s Four Museums’ Centenary, the conference included over 60 presentations by independent researchers and scientific employees of Tsarskoye Selo, the State Hermitage Museum, Peterhof, the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg’s State University, State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering and the History Institute of the Russian Academy of Science.  

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© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The presentations reflected the different fates of the monuments, collections and objects nationalized after 1917. The authors touched upon some legal problems risen during the moving of Russian cultural values ​​in the post-revolutionary years, the development of inventory and storage rules under new conditions, the fate of imperial and grand ducal estates and mansions, as well as some issues of protection and use of the monuments today. They also reminded of people who dedicated their lives to the preservation and revival of historic and artistic monuments.

The conference proceedings are available HERE (Russian).

© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 6 December 2018

Tender Issued for Restoration of the Chinese Theatre in Tsarskoye Selo

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The Chinese Theatre is currently in a terrible state of ruin and disrepair

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve have announced a tender for the restoration the Chinese Theater in the Alexander Park. The cost of work is estimated at 4 million rubles. Acceptance of applications will continue until December 12, and on December 17 the results of the tender will be announced.

A tender for the restoration of the theatre was initially announced in March 2014, however, funding for the project was not available at the time.

The restoration of the cultural heritage object will be designed and adapted for modern use. The work in the theater itself will begin, after the area surrounding the building have been cleared of weeds and other plants, which have overgrown and causing damage to the walls of this theatre.

The Chinese Theatre was built in 1778, by the famous architect Antonio Renaldi. Simple white walls were decorated with a luxurious cornice, however, destroyed in the 19th century. The curvature of the roof gave the building an exotic look. Inside, the richly decorated oriental-style interiors were decorated with authentic elements ​​brought from China. 

The building was destroyed by fire during the shelling of 1941, and has yet to be restored.

Click HERE to read my article + photos about the Chinese Theatre, published on 26 March 2014, and now stored in our archives online.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 3 December 2018

Anglo-Russian Hospital: Six Thousand Saved

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PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd. 1915–1918, a joint exhibition by Tsarskoe Selo and the Russian Museum of Military Medicine, is open at the Martial Chamber till 27 January 2019.

The exhibition is based on old photographs, nearly 50 copies of which were donated to Tsarskoe Selo by Dr Pauline Monro MBE MD FRCP, a British neurologist with long-standing connections to the medical community in Russia (see below, middle), and Mr Simon Boyd, the grandson of Lady Sybil Grey (see below, right) who set up and temporarily ran the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd (as St Petersburg was renamed in 1914 to make its name Sankt Peterburg sound less German).

The original photographs were gathered by Dr Monro and Mr Boyd from descendants and relatives of those who worked at the Anglo-Russian Hospital during World War One.

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PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The Russian Museum of Military Medicine lent to the exhibition such artifacts as soldier hospital clothes, Russian and British surgical kits and patient care accessories.

The establishment of the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd began from a special committee created in London in August 1915 under the patronage of HM Queen Alexandra. Lady Muriel Paget, a British philanthropist and humanitarian relief worker was appointed Honorary Organizing Secretary. According to the committee’s estimate, an equipped and staffed hospital with 200 beds would require 30,000 pounds sterling a year.  Proposed by the British Foreign Office, the hospital was funded by public subscription and supported by donations from King George V and Mary of Teck, the British Red Cross Society, the Canadian government, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem and other organizations. The British government provided transportation.

An advance party left for Petrograd in October 1915. It was was led by Lady Muriel Paget and her colleague Lady Sybil Grey, the second daughter of Albert Grey, 4th Earl Gray and Governor General of Canada. The two women were the key figures involved in organizing and running the hospital. 

 

The Dmitri Palace, now known as the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, was formally offered as the ‘base’ hospital in Petrograd. A huge, Neo-Baroque building by the Fontanka River with a distinctive orange facade and opulent interiors lit by brilliant chandeliers, the Palace had hosted lavish parties for Russian high society in the 19th century, and had been home to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich before he was killed by a terrorist bomb. It was the property of Emperor Nicholas II’s cousin Dmitri Pavlovich, one of the few Romanovs to later escape execution after the revolution.

The Palace was then converted into a hospital during November and December 1915. The official opening of the hospital took place on 1 February 1916. The opening ceremony was attended by Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna, Tsarina Alexandra with her elder daughters Tatiana and Olga, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna and the British ambassador to Russia George Buchanan.

The staff was volunteer and included several prominent London surgeons. Two large wards were arranged in the Music Room and two adjacent sitting rooms. Those were adjoined by the patients’ dining room, bathrooms, toilets and a large wound dressing room. The operating, narcosis and sterilization rooms, an X-ray room and a bacteriological laboratory were located on the same floor. There was also a staff room with two surgeons and two orderlies on duty, a dental office, a kitchen, a laundry room and a carpentry workshop.

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PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The hospital’s official blazon consisted of a British imperial lion and a Russian imperial double-headed eagle holding a red cross (see upper left in picture above).

During the 11 months between November 1915 and October 1916 more than six thousand patients received treatment in the Anglo-Russian hospitals (and field camps) in Russia, including at the base hospital in St Petersburg.  It closed in January 1918 as conditions became too difficult following the revolution.

A memorial plaque was hung in the entrance hall of the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace in 1996.

© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 23 November 2018

Restoring the Golden Gate of the Catherine Palace

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After almost 58 years, the famous Golden Gate, located opposite the central entrance to the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, is currently undergoing a much needed restoration.

Originally designed and assembled in the 18th century by the architect Francesco Rastrelli, the gate has not been restored since the 1960s. In the decades since, the condition of the gate itself has deteriorated badly, losing its original black colour, the gilding on the plant ornaments and copper petals, as well as the double-headed eagles, have all been affected by harsh weather conditions.

In late August, experts began to dismantle the figured details. Most of them have already been restored: the ornaments are laid out in the workshop of the contractor “Slavic Project” in Tsarskoye Selo. In total, experts will repair about 3,500 thousand ornaments and the gate itself. 

“First of all, we clean the ornaments, removing the dirt, grease, dust and other substances that have accumulated on them,” said Rozalia Shaihova, deputy head of the restoration department of the Directorate for Construction, Reconstruction and Restoration of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation (KGIOP).  “We grind some elements, align them where necessary, and restore any lost pieces of  the ornaments. Then we prepare a special substrate for the coating, and finally gilt gold leaf”, she added.

The task of the restorers is not easy. On the one hand, you need to preserve the original historical appearance of the ornament, that is, you simply cannot clean the coating, restore the lost pieces and re-cover all this with gilding. On the other hand, among the ornaments there are many details which require the special attention of specialists. Therefore, all work is done under the strict guidance of KGIOP. 

It should be noted that there are also ornaments in the lattice of the gate, which cannot be dismantled. They will have to be restored together with the gate. “The gate and ornaments with which we are working now, in fact, were created in the 1960s. The gate was restored by specialists according to Rastrelli’s sketches, and other historical documents” – said Rozalia Shaihova. – “Among these elements, it can be said for sure that the double-headed eagle (see photo below) on the top of the gate is the original. Whether there are any genuine ornaments made by Rastrelli among the ornaments will become clear after the restorers have examined them more closely.” 

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It is interesting to note, before the beginning of the first restoration in the 1960s, the gate was partially hidden from prying eyes. Experts attribute this to the beginning of the Second World War, because at that time many monuments and objects of cultural heritage were either buried or hidden, some even covered with wooden boxes. Now, of course, the gates are not hidden, so they often become “victims” of vandals. And this is another reason why the gates and ornaments need urgent restoration. Once the restoration has been completed, experts will reassemble the gate, thanks to a special cartogram, which depicts the entire artistic composition with numbers that are attached to each individual ornament. 

Restoration work is scheduled for completion by the end of the year, and is expected to be on display in December. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 2 October 2018

Four Museums Centenary Project Opens in St. Petersburg

As Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof, Pavlovsk and Gatchina celebrate their 100th anniversary as museums in 2018, their Four Museums’ Centenary Project culminates in their joint exhibition running at St Petersburg’s Manege Central Exhibition Hall from 19th September to 8th October 2018.

A museum and theatre project titled To Keep Forever, is conceptually curated by stage director Anderey Moguchy and essentially recites the biographies of the four former imperial residences by the language of modern theatre.

The display starts in a “theatre hall” with a huge golden traveler curtain which does not move but lets the viewer into a “labyrinth of time”. The exhibition’s narrative is based on a diary of a fictional character named “Olga” (voiced by the Russian movie and theatre star Alice Freindlich). Her voice on the audio guide set accompanies the visitor through the whole “travel in time”. Born in Tsarskoye Selo, Olga worked as a guide at Peterhof, then as a curator she evacuated art objects from the Pavlovsk Palace and later restored the Gatchina Palace. Her “diary” is full of real people, such as museum employees and other witnesses of historical events.

Following the narration, the exhibition space is divided into several areas representing different time periods. From the former royal residences the viewer proceeds to a Soviet park of culture and recreation and then, as the war begins, takes part in a large-scale evacuation of the museum collections and follows them along to the victory. The culmination is the palaces’ triumphal revival from the ashes and further paths into the present.

The most important part of the display consists of over 200 artefacts and archival photographs from the four museums’ collections, including 37 art objects, 12 surviving sculpture and décor fragments and photographic materials from Tsarskoye Selo. 

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve. 26 September 2018

Restoration of the Chapelle Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo Completed

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Views of the restored Chapelle Pavilion in the Alexander Park, Tsarskoye Selo

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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).

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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.” 

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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.

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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. 

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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

Third lazurite portal to be installed in the Lyons Hall of the Catherine Palace

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Boris Iğdalov, Head of the Lyons Hall restoration project

The reconstruction of the third lazurite portal has been completed, and will soon be installed in the Lyons Hall of the Catherine Palace. For its construction, it took more than 200 kilograms of lapis lazuli, and dozens of people, eight months to complete. The portal was made in the famous Amber Workshop at Tsarskoye Selo, where the Amber and Agate rooms were recreated by a team of experts and artists.

The Lyons Hall was created by the architect Charles Cameron in 1781 – 1783 and was named after the elegant walls, which were made with silk, manufactured in Lyon, France. The room was one of the private apartments of the Empress Catherine II, along with the Arabesque and Chinese halls, the Silver and the Blue rooms.

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The reconstruction of the third lazurite portal is presented at a press conference 

The Lyons Hall featured bright Lyon gold silk, and rich blue lapis lazuli – creating a combination of luxury and impeccable taste. The blue lapis lazuli is mined in the Baikal region of Siberia, as well as from the north-east provinces of Afghanistan.

The Lyons Hall was lost during the Second World War. The legendary art historian Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993) was here on April 27, 1944. He wandered among the ruins of the Catherine Palace and found pieces of charred lapis lazuli on the floor of the former Lyons Hall. He recovered 25 pieces of lapis lazuli and a chandelier. Three gilded bronze and lapis lazuli portals, as well as the Lyons silk, perished in the shelling and subsequent fire.

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The Lyons Hall as it looked at the end of the Great Patriotic War

The Nazis had stolen the parquet floor of the Lyons Hall “made from twelve varieties of rare woods”, inlaid with mother of pearl. It was discovered in 1947 in Berlin and returned to Tsarskoye Selo. The original parquet floors are currently being restored, and once completed, will be reinstalled in the hall. 

The Lyons Hall was recreated when the Catherine Palace was rebuilt after the Great Patriotic War. The interior restoration project of the Lyon Hall was prepared in 1983 under the guidance of the unique architect-restorer, the chief architect of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Alexander Kedrinsky, who also initiated the project for the reconstruction of the Amber Room. Sadly, however, the restoration of the Lyons Hall sat idle for many years. The museum required three and a half tons of lapis lazuli, and genuine Lyon silk – made be the same manufacturer, using the same technology, in order to recreate the golden shining, weaving garlands and branches, pheasants, peacocks and swans. In 2013, the Trans-soyuz Charitable Foundation provided the museum with the necessary funding. 

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A gilded element of the lazurite portal

The walls of the hall will once again be decorated with Lyons silk. “It is made for us as a gift in Lyon. According to the texture and color, the material fully corresponds to the historical one. We still have fragments of the original. Now we are waiting for delivery, then we will start cutting and sewing,” said artist and restorer Alexander Soloviev.

In the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop panels and elements of the portal are spread on a large table. Boris Iğdalov, the head of the restoration workshop, says that the reconstruction of the portals: “Is complicated, each element went through a long process of creation and coordinating.” First you need to draw, then sculpt, then create a cast, then consult with the museum experts advice, and finally, we can create the finished element from metal and then gild. When asked about the complexities and peculiarities of the work, Igdalov notes that the most difficult is keeping the workshop together. The average age of restorers – who became famous throughout the world, for the recreation of the Amber Room – are now approaching their sixties.

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Panels and elements of the lazurite portal are spread on a large table in the Amber Worshop

“Lapis lazuli is a complex material with many inclusions. You need to first select the raw materials, and then also cut it correctly to reveal the most beautiful areas. All work is done manually, using only a small mechanization. Architects, art historians, metalworkers, jewelers, stone cutters work on the portals – our teamwork, “said Igdalov.

The Lyons Hall is scheduled to open to visitors in June 2019.

Click HERE (includes VIDEO) to read more about the restoration of the Lyons Hall, and HERE to read about the installation of another lazurite portal in the in the Lyons Hall in March 2017.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 31 August 2018

Memorial plaque established at the station where Nicholas II and his family went into exile in 1917

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On 14th August,  a memorial plaque in memory of Emperor Nicholas II and his family was unveiled in the railway station of the village of Alexandrovskaya. It was exactly 101 years ago, on 14th August 1917, that Russia’s last imperial family were sent into exile to Tobolsk from the Aleksandrovskaya Station near Tsarskoye Selo.

Nicholas II and his family were sent into exile to Tobolsk in Siberia, by the decision of the Provisional Government, which feared for their lives. On 14 August 1917, early in the morning, the imperial family and their enormous retinue under the sign “Japanese Red Cross Mission” departed from Tsarskoye Selo.

It took two trains to accommodate the travelers, their baggage, government representatives, the jailers and soldiers. Forty-six court attendants voluntarily accompanied the family into exile, making, in all, a party of fifty-three persons, which according to Robert K. Massie included “ladies and gentlemen of Nicholas and Alexandra’s suite, two valets, six chambermaids, ten footmen, three cooks, four assistant cooks, a butler, a wine steward, a nurse, a clerk, a barber, and two pet spaniels.”

Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky (1875-1927) rode in the Tsar’s train, while most of his 330 soldiers followed on the second train. On 14 March [O.S. 1 March], Kobylinsky had been appointed commandant of the Alexander Palace. He served as the commander of the special detachment at Tsarskoye Selo and later in Tobolsk in 1917-18, where he oversaw the imprisonment of Emperor Nicholas II. 

The unveiling of the memorial plaque included a liturgy, performed by Archpriest Boris Leonidovich Kupriyanov, from the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, on the former site of the Chapel of the Ascension, in the village of Alexandrovsky. The attendees laid flowers at the place where the chapel once stood. The chapel was demolished by the Soviet in 1949, however, a memorial to Nicholas II and his family was erected on the site in 2011.

The memorial plaque is the result of joint efforts of the members of the Public Council of Alexandrovskaya and the administration of the Pushkin Oblast of St. Petersburg. 

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© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 August 2018