It’s Official! The Alexander Palace reopens on 14th August

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum have at long last announced that after a large-scale restoration, the personal apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna in the Alexander Palace will open to visitors on Saturday 14th August 2021.

The opening day on 14th (O.S. 1st) August, marks the 104th anniversary since the Imperial Family left the palace for the last time and sent into exile to Tobolsk and later Ekaterinburg.

Restoration work in the Alexander Palace actually began in 2012, however, it was not until August 2015 that it has been closed to visitors, for additional restoration and the reconstruction of the historic interiors of the private apartments of the Imperial Family.

As of 14th August, visitors can see the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, the Valet’s Room, PLUS the Maple Drawing Room, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, the Small and Large Libraries and the Marble/Mountain Hall.

In addition, the State Halls located in the central part of the Alexander Palace will also be available to visit: the Portrait Hall, the Semi-Circular Hall and the Marlbe/Billiard Hall.

The Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024. After the completion of the work, the Alexander Palace will become a multifunctional museum complex, which will include exhibition halls, halls for temporary exhibitions, halls for research work and conferences, as well as a library and a children’s center. The basement floor will house a ticket booth, a museum shop, a café, a cloakroom, a tour desk, as well as technical and ancillary facilities.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 August 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Summer Views of the Alexander Palace and Park

PHOTO: aerial view of the front of the Alexander Palace. The eastern wing (left) contains the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It was here in the Alexander Palace, that Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar was born on 19th (O.S. 6th) May 1868.

The Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo has been closed to visitors since autumn 2015. Since that time, it has been undergoing a much needed restoration, one which will include the historical recreation of the interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the palace.

In recent months, the efforts of designers, craftsmen, artists and other experts have breathed new life into the interiors of Russia’s last Imperial Family. Photographs and media tours have offered us just a peek inside, generating excitement among anxious visitors within Russia and abroad.

Sadly, the highly anticipated reopening has been delayed on numerous occasions over the past year: the palace was due to open on 20th August 2020, it was then postponed until December 2020, then delayed until late May or early June of 2021.

For some reason, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve cannot provide the public with a firm date. They were hopeful that the Alexander Palace would reopen in time for the summer tourist season. The reopening is surrounded in secrecy and rumours. One rumour is that the palace will reopen its doors to visitors on 14th August, the date marking the 104th anniversary when the Imperial Family left the palace for the last time and sent into exile.

Further delays caused by the COVID situation in Russia – which in recent weeks has spiralled out of control – has caused further delays on the restoration of the palace and its reopening. The situation is compounded even further, by the fact that Russia’s borders are closed to most foreigners. There is no indication just when these restrictions will be lifted.

Setting aside any rumours and travel restriction, only time will tell if and when the Alexander Palace will reopen by the end of this summer, or will it be delayed . . . yet again?

In the meantime, I have assembled the following collection of photos of the Alexander Palace and Park, all of which evoke the beauty and tranquillity of this place. After viewing these images, I am sure that you will agree that it is quite understandable why the Imperial Family enjoyed the time they spent here together – PG

PHOTO: aerial view of the rear of the Alexander Palace. Situated facing the Alexander Park are the windows of the Semi-Circular Hall [seen in the photo]. It was through these doors on 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917, that the Imperial Family and their retinue departed the Alexander Palace for the last time.

PHOTO: The main gate leading into the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The gate was installed in 1898, based on the design of the Russian architect (of Italian origin) Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The view from the street has remained virtually unchanged since the early 20th century.

Following Nicholas II’s abdication on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917,”Colonel Romanov” passed through these gates to be reunited with his family. Together, they lived here under house arrest, until their exile to Tobolsk on 14th (O.S. 1st) August of the same year.

PHOTO: view of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the summer of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others. This wing of the palace will become known as the ‘Museum of the Russian Imperial Family’.

PHOTO: it is hard to imagine that during the Nazi occupation of Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo] during the Great Patriotic War [1941-45], that this beautifully landscaped garden in front of the Alexander Palace, was a cemetery for 85 SS officers. The markers were removed after the war, however, it would be many years before the remains were exhumed and sent to Germany for burial.

PHOTO: two rows of Corinthian columns cut across the central colonnade of the Alexander Palace, connecting the eastern and western wings. The columns compliment the Neoclassical edifice. Built between 1792 and 1796 by the famous architect Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), upon completion, it was agreed that the architect had excelled himself in creating a masterpiece.

The Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024. After the completion of the work, the Alexander Palace will become a multifunctional museum complex, which will include exhibition halls, halls for temporary exhibitions, halls for research work and conferences, as well as a library and a children’s center. The basement floor will house a ticket booth, a museum shop, a café, a cloakroom, a tour desk, as well as technical and ancillary facilities.

PHOTO: situated just steps past the western wing of the Alexander Palace is the Children’s Island and House.

The island features a tiny house built for the children of Emperor Nicholas I, and later enjoyed by the children of three successive monarchs: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. To the left of the house is a small cemetery, where the Tsar buried his favourite dogs. The cemetery has survived to this day.

The island was reached by a pull-ferry, whereby sailors would pull ropes sending the ferry over to the island and back from the park’s shore.

According to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, there are plans to eventually restore the Children’s Island and Pavilion, once funding has been secured.

PHOTO: in 2007, this memorial was erected in the park near the palace. The memorial consists of a granite cross and the image of the Imperial Family. The Russian inscription reads Дом царской семьи 1895-1917Home of the Tsar’s family 1895-1917. Sadly, the memorial was removed in May 2010, its whereabouts remains unknown.

PHOTO: also situated in the Alexander Park, is the alleged first grave of Grigorii Rasputin (1869-1916). Every year on the anniversary of his death, Orthodox Christians come here to honour his memory [there is a growing movement to canonize Rasputin]. The grave is repeatedly vandalized.

Rasputin was buried on 2nd January (O.S. 21st December) at a small church that Anna Vyrubova had been building in the Alexander Park. The funeral was attended only by the Imperial Family and a few of their intimates. Shortly after the Tsar abdicated the throne in March 1917, a detachment of soldiers exhumed Rasputin’s corpse and burned by on the night of 11th March in the furnace of a steam boiler at the Polytechnic Institute in Petrograd.

PHOTO: Situated in the garden behind the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral [the household church of Nicholas II and his family] at Tsarskoye Selo, is a bust-monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the work of St. Petersburg sculptor Victor Vladimirovich Zaiko (born 1944).

The monument was consecrated on 17th July 1993, the day marking the 75th anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II. Hundreds of Orthodox Christians and monarchists gathered for the official opening and consecration of the first monument to Emperor Nicholas II to be established in post-Soviet Russia.

The monument stands in front of a small group of oak trees, seen in the background, which were planted by Nicholas II and his family on 4 May (O.S. 21 April) 1913. Of the seven trees planted, only four have survived to the present day.

Click HERE to view Winter Views of the Alexander Palace and Park, published on 1st February 2021

© Paul Gilbert. 29 July 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Recreation of glass items and decorative elements for the interiors of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the fireplace and mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace

Specialists of the Yuzhakova Studio in St. Petersburg have completed complex and painstaking work on the glass lighting fixtures in the various interiors of the Alexander Palace. Among their recreations are the replenishment of the blue overflow on the Moorish plafond in the Tsar’s Bathroom, the restoration of crystal pendants, obelisks and the reconstruction of the lost cobalt balusters on the Catherine chandelier, the restoration of a crack on the 18th century flask of the lantern of the Great Library, as well as the replenishment of the lost yellow beads on the fringe of the chandelier in the Reception Room of Nicholas II.

The interiors of the Alexander Palace were originally decorated with glass products and objects – large mirrors, luxurious chandeliers, girandoli and sconces, as well as vases and glass clock cases. These items were objects of the 18th-19th centuries of complex manufacture, demonstrating the technical achievements of Russian (Nazinskie glass factories, Irbit glass factory) and foreign glass production.

From 1895, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna gradually filled their private apartments with objects created by Russian and foreign firms. The highest orders for the interiors of the Alexander Palace were made with the St. Petersburg imperial porcelain and glass factories, the factory of mirrors, and window. The interiors featured vases and other items from glass factories in Silesia, as well as the French glassmakers Emile Galle (Nancy), and the Brothers Dom firm.

During the decoration of the private interiors of the August couple in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, the architect Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) continued the tradition of using the best modern glass products, decorating the transom windows with cathedral glass, for both the Reception Room and Working Study of Nicholas II.

For the lighting fixtures of the Emperor’s New Study, 25 coloured glass shades were used for the design of the Tiffany-style “tulip lanterns”.

According to Meltzer’s plan, the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna were united by a mezzanine. In the Maple Drawing Room, the architect arranged a mezzanine in the design of a balcony, the side rails of which in the upper part were decorated with stylized floral ornament glazing. According to Melzer’s project, the stained-glass frame of the mezzanine fireplace mirror was manufactured and electrified. A high screen, also decorated with stained glass stood near the door of the room. Sadly, these exquisite decorative glass elements of the Maple Drawing Room did not survive.

PHOTO: view of the fireplace mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum decided to recreate them on the basis of design documentation developed by the Studio 44 architectural bureau, prepared from photographs from the early 20th century and 1930s. The reconstruction of the decorative glass with facet and the stained glass frame of the fireplace mirror was carried out in 2020 by the masters of the Yuzhakova Studio. The lack of historical fragments and clear photographs complicated the work: it was necessary to study analogs – coloured glass of the Art Nouveau era. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.

The work on the manufacture of the frame was carried out by the master Valery Matrosov. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.

In the same workshop, mirrors of complex configuration with facet were made for the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as a glass vase of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir chandelier.

The chandelier for twelve candles from the historical collection of the museum was made in 1858 at the factory of the famous St. Petersburg bronzer Felix Chopin and was originally located in the rooms of Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880) in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace. A special decoration of this lighting device was a central vase in the form of a jug made of coloured glass (lost during the war) with a bronze openwork lid (preserved). When recreating the glass part with the shape and size of the vase, there were no difficulties – it was clearly visible on archived black-and-white photographs, and with the colour of the glass, designated as “purple” in the inventories, it was more difficult. During the discussions, a mauve shade was approved, corresponding to the colour of the wall upholstery and furniture set in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir.

In the process of recreating the chandelier vase, experts made several attempts to blow out the glass piece. It was not immediately possible to obtain the desired shade of colour and saturation, since manganese oxide, used as a dye, can change its colour at high temperatures, which, in turn, affects the colour of the finished product. In addition, the base and neck of the vase should fit snugly against the adjacent parts of the chandelier – the lower bronze rosette and the openwork lid, taking into account that the lower part of the vase is held together by six gilded bronze holders in the form of narrow leafy shoots. Therefore, in the manufacture of chandeliers, bronze masters, as a rule, first acquired finished blown glass parts of the required size, shape and colour.

© Paul Gilbert. 15 July 2021

Furniture moved into the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing table in the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition to last week’s post about the recreated chair taking its rightful place in the corner of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room, several additional pieces have since been moved into this iconic interior of the Alexander Palace.

The only original item to have survived from the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir was Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing-table, which originally stood in front of the window at an angle. The table entered the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve in 1999. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the table had not been evacuated.

PHOTO: the restored writing table of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

Following the war, the table was discovered in a deplorable state in the Alexander Park by the former curator of the Alexander Palace, Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993). In 2018, restorers conducted test clearing of the paint layer of the table, determined the initial colour of its finish and, on the basis of this, made a decision on the colour scheme of the panels, built-in furniture and doors of the Mauve Boudoir. In 2020, the masters of the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop restored the table and recreated the lost details, based on photographs and archival descriptions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

PHOTO: early 20th century photo of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna relaxing on her sofa in the Mauve Boudoir. Note the side table piled high with books, letters and other papers, as well as the framed photos of her family on the shelves above.

And just this past week, several other pieces of furniture recreated for this interior were moved into place. The most prominent is the mauve sofa – an exact copy of the original – where the Empress would come to relax, read and write letters. This sofa was her refuge on the days she felt unwell, and often taking her meals during her indispositions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition, we see another arm chair with tassels and foot stool, side tables and book cases. But take note of the finer details of the interior, with its white wood panelling, decorated with framed photos set against the background of the mauve silk wall covering. At long last, the once favourite room of the last Empress of Russia is nearing completion.

For more information on the history and recreation of the Empress’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, please refer to the following articles below:

Recreation of Furniture for the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 9th December 2020

The history and restoration of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 4th November 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 5 July 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Summer of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Iconic chair recreated for Mauve Boudoir in Alexander Palace

PHOTO: copy of recreated chair for the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

Situated in a corner of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of the Alexander Palace, was a large, plush arm-chair with a high backing, and covered with the Moscow-made silk. This corner is among the most photographed spots in the Alexander Palace. There are countless photos of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Emperor Nicholas II and their five children posing in the now iconic arm-chair.

Other family members who have been photographed in this spot include the Empress’s sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna with her husband Grand Duke Alexander “Sandro” Mikhailovich, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich.

PHOTO: Copy of the chair recreated in 2000 for Panfilov’s film

The original chair did not survive, however, a copy of the chair was made in 2000, and used by Russian director Gleb Panfilov to shoot a scene for Романовы. Венценосная семья / The Romanovs: An Imperial Family [click on the link to watch the entire film with English subtitles], a film on the last days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Following the completion of the film, the chair was added to the Memories in the Alexander Palace exhibition, which opened in 1997.

PHOTO: copy of recreated chair for the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

The Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop have now recreated an exact copy of the iconic chair based on the original from vintage photographs. The chair will be moved into the corner of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of the Alexander Palace, and will be on display when the palace reopens this summer.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Summer of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Railway station the Imperial Family went into exile from to be a cultural heritage site

PHOTO: Early 20th century view of the Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin)

A proposal has been made to designate the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) as a cultural heritage site. It was from this station, that the Imperial Family went into exile on 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917.

The idea, however, is already under attack by the Committee for State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments (KGIOP), who refuse to recognize the historic Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) as a cultural heritage site.

Residents of both the village of Aleksandrovskaya and the city of St. Petersburg wasted little time in launching a petition addressed to the Committee chairman Sergei Makarov, as well as the Governor of Saint Petersburg Alexander Beglov, as well as to the local branch of the United Russia Party.

The petition notes that Aleksandrovskaya is located in the Pushkin district of St. Petersburg and has existed since the time of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). The station was built in the 1860s – on the St. Petersburg – Luga line – according to a standard design developed by the architect Pyotr Onufrievich Salmonovich (1833-1898).

The author of the appeal believes that the decision of the KGIOP does not correspond with the interests of the citizens of Alexandrovskaya in preserving the cultural heritage, historical appearance and aesthetics in and around St. Petersburg. The signatories demand to overrule the decision of the KGIOP and include the Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in the list of cultural heritage sites. The petition has already received 26 thousand signatures!

PHOTO: Early 20th century view of memorial chapel to Alexander II,
Demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1949

Local historians recall that in 1867 Emperor Alexander II, was solemnly greeted here, after surviving an assassination attempt in France,. On 25th May 1868, in the presence of the Emperor and members of the Imperial Family, a stone chapel was consecrated “In memory of the miraculous salvation of the life of Emperor Alexander II by the Grace of God. The fanatic A. Berezovsky committed an attempt on his life.” The chapel was based on the design of the architect Alexander Fomich Vidov (1829-1896). In 1923, the chapel was closed, the building was converted into a storage room. On 10th January 1949, the chapel was demolished by the Bolsheviks.

It was also from this station, that Emperor Nicholas II and his family went into exile in the summer of 1917 – it would be their final rail journey.

PHOTO: In 2011, this cross memorial was installed on the preserved plinth of the demolished stone chapel

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On the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, the former Tsar and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station – the most remote of the three railway stations in Tsarskoye Selo.

Two special trains – which were provided by the leader of the Provisional Government Alexander Kerensky – awaited the Imperial Family and their retinue at the station. The train was a luxurious and comfortable wagons-lits of the International Sleeping Car Company – not the sort of train one would expect to transport “prisoners”.

The train featured a restaurant car stocked with wines from the Imperial cellar, and baggage compartments filled with trunks and suitcases, favourite rugs, pictures and knickknacks collected from the Imperial Family’s private apartments in the Alexander Palace .

In their portable jewel chests, the Empress and her daughters brought personal gems worth at least a million rubles ($500,000 USD).

In addition to the ladies and gentlemen of their suite, the Imperial Family was accompanied by 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.

All were under the watchful eye of Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky (1875-1927) and his guards, who also rode in the same train as the Imperial Family. Most of Kobylinsky’s 330 soldiers and 6 officers followed in a second train.

Source: Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie (1967)

The trains departed the Alexandrovsky Station at 5:50 am, on the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, bound for the town of Tobolsk in Siberia. Less than a year later, Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children would accept their martyrdom in Ekaterinburg.

PHOTO: In 2018, a memorial plaque in memory of the Imperial family’s
departure into exile was unveiled at the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station

The Alexandrovskaya Station has survived to the present day. It is situated 5.7 km from the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin). It offers a couple of sites which will be of interest to any one who shares an interest in the life and reign of Russia’s last tsar and his family.

On 11th August 2011, a memorial in the form of a cross was installed bearing the image of Emperor Nicholas II, on the preserved plinth of the stone chapel which had been dismantled by the Bolsheviks in 1949. The inscription in Russian reads “Emperor Nicholas II. Grateful Russia”. On 14th April 2021, the parish of the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the village of Aleksandrovskaya, made a formal request to the Committee for Property Relations of St. Petersburg, to hand over the foundation of the chapel. The parish has plans to reconstruct the memorial chapel.

On 14th August 2018, a memorial plaque in memory of Emperor Nicholas II and his family was unveiled on the outside wall of railway station building in the village of Alexandrovskaya. The English translation of the plaque reads:

14 August 1917
at 5:50 am
Sovereign Nikolai Alexandrovich
his family, and retinue
were sent into exile by the Provisional Government
From the Alexandrovskaya Station to Tobolsk

The Alexandrovskaya Station can be reached by commuter train from the Baltic Railway Station in St. Petersburg. If you are visiting Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), it can be reached by bus from the main station or by taxi.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 April 2021

Historic chandeliers installed in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Chandelier for the Reception Room of Nicholas II

According to a press release from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, workers have now completed the restoration and recreation of the historic interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace.

Objects for the decoration of the interiors are now being moved into the palace. One of the first items of decoration to take their place are the lighting fixtures. Many of the graceful chandeliers and lanterns created in the St. Petersburg workshops during the 18th to 19th centuries have been preserved in the historical collection of the museum for more than a century.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

Among the lamps characteristic of the era of Catherine II’s reign, one can distinguish chandeliers of the late 18th century by their crystal headgear and coloured glass; their main feature is a multitude of faceted pendants of various shapes, connected in garlands, crystal obelisks and a “fountain” crowning the chandelier, reminiscent of a column of water … Such chandeliers adorn the Empress’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra Feodorovna’s Corner Reception Room and the Large Library.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

Among the unique lighting fixtures s is a chandelier from the Reception Room of Nicholas II. This interior was designed by the architect Roman Melzer in 1895-1896: walls and ceiling are finished with oak panels and furniture ordered from the F. Melzer & Co. factory. An electric chandelier was installed, with twelve bulbs in the form of a hanging openwork rim on six chains with hemispherical shades decorated with a fringe of yellow beads. The chandelier was not evacuated during the war years and remained in its place for almost a hundred years: it was removed in 1997. In 2015, specialists of the Yuzhakova Studio workshop in St. Petersburg carried out a restoration of the chandelier, which involved cleaning the metal surface, replaced the lost beads and installed new electrical wiring.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

The pride of the collection are three chandeliers for a hundred candles each – from the State Halls of the Alexander Palace, which have been preserved in the museum’s funds. In 1796, an order for the production of eight identical chandeliers according to the design of the architect Giacomo Quarenghi was received by the St. Petersburg bronze-maker Johann Zech. They were intended for the St. George Hall of the Winter Palace. The master managed to make only three chandeliers, which adorned one of the halls of the Mikhailovsky Castle; subsequently they were transferred to the Alexander Palace. An interesting fact is that the “Karengiev” chandeliers were made for 50 candles each, but in 1829 the number of horns was increased to one hundred for better lighting of the halls. These large two-tiered chandeliers with ruby ​​glass balusters will take their historical place after the completion of the restoration of the central building of the palace.

Click HERE to read my article Restoration of Lighting Fixtures for the Alexander Palace, published on 16th December 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Spring of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The fate of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Hospital cave church

PHOTO: The cave church at the Palace Hospital, Tsarskoye Selo

In March 1915, the churches at the Palace Hospital at Tsarskoye Selo: the upper one – the Church of Sorrow (in the name of the icon of the Mother of God) and the lower one – Church of Tsar Constantine and Helena – were transferred from the diocesan department to the Court, in which they remained a part of until 1917.

Work on the construction of the unique lower church at the Palace Hospital began in the summer of 1913. Its creation was made possible thanks to a donation of 10,000 rubles by the St. Petersburg Orthodox merchant of French origin Jacob Rode.

According to the decision of the Construction Committee, the church was planned in the style of the ancient “cave” churches of the 5th-6th centuries. The Russian Court architect Silvio Danini (1867-1942) and Sergei Nikolayevich Vilchkovsky (1871-1934) received permission from the director of the Imperial Hermitage, Count Dmitry Ivanovich Tolstoy (1860-1941), to familiarize themselves with the literature, photographs and art samples of early Christian buildings in the imperial library to carry out their work.

The main feature of the cave church was the unusual altar barrier, which replaced the iconostasis. Two marble pillars, which displayed the icons of the Saviour and the Mother of God, had low latticed doors. Behind them, across the entire width of the vault, was a purple curtain with embroidered ornaments of yellow silk in two tones. The sketches of the utensils were ordered from Sergei Vashkov, the icons from Nikolai Emelyanov, both in Moscow.

PHOTO: Architect’s drawing of the Altar barrier (above); and
cross section of the cave church (below). 1913

An altar cross made of gilded metal with multi-coloured stones was inserted into the wall, and the head of Christ was depicted above it. From the northern part of the barrier in front of the apse there was an altar, from the southern – a paralytic (teaching chapel), in which the Byzantine queens listened to the liturgy in ancient times. In the paralytic there was an armchair for the empress; near the apse arch were armchairs for the emperor and the patriarch.

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna wrote on 21st October 1914 to Nicholas II: “We went to inspect the small cave church located under the old palace hospital, there was a church there in the time of Catherine II. It was arranged to commemorate the 300th anniversary [of the Romanov dynasty]. The church is absolutely charming. Everything in it was selected by Vilchkovsky in the purest and most ancient Byzantine style, perfectly sustained. You must see it. The consecration will take place on Sunday at 10 o’clock, and we will take there those of our officers and soldiers who can already move independently. There are tables with the designation of the names of the wounded, who died in all our Tsarskoye Selo hospitals, as well as the officers who received the St. George’s Crosses or the Golden Weapon for Bravery.”

The consecration of the church, however, did not take place until 26th October 1914.

On the eve of this event, before the all-night vigil, Vilchkovsky presented the empress with a report describing the cave church. At the same time, Alexandra Feodorovna “… ordered to turn the lower church into a monument to the heroic deeds of mercy, treatment and charity of those soldiers wounded during the war and to record on the walls with the inscribed names of all the soldiers who passed through the hospitals of the Tsarskoye Selo region and were awarded for military distinctions as well as the wounds of the deceased.”

During the First World War, a pavilion was built in the garden of the hospital according to Danini’s project, for 30 wounded officers of Her Majesty’s Own Infirmary No. 3, paid out of the empress’s personal funds. Until her arrest in February 1917, the empress worked as an operating nurse in the infirmary, assisting the surgeon Vera Giedroyc, with the assistance of her two eldest daughters Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna.

PHOTO: A plaque dedicated to Empress Alexandra and her daughters, Grand
Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna for their contribution from 1914-1917

The church was closed in 1933. Today, practically nothing remains of it, most of its of the interior decoration and contents, have been lost. Only individual elements have survived, in particular, a lamp, an icon lamp and candlesticks, which are today in the collection of the Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg.

During Soviet times, the hospital was renamed the city hospital No. 38 named after N. A. Semashko. In recent years, a plaque honouring Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna was erected on the grounds of the hospital. Sadly, the church has not been restored.

© Paul Gilbert. 3 April 2021

Roman Melzer: architect and designer of the Alexander Palace interiors

PHOTO: Roman Fedorovich (Robert Friedrich) Melzer (1860-1943)

Roman Fedorovich (Robert Friedrich) Melzer was born in St. Petersburg, on 1st April (O.S. 30th March) 1860. He was the eldest son of the coachman Johann Friedrich Meltzer (1831-1923), who later became the owner of his own furniture factory, and Sophie Christine Meltzer – nee Tatzky (1837-1915).

At the age of thirteen, Roman Meltser entered the St. Petersburg Commercial School, after graduation he continued his studies at the Academy of Arts. In 1888 he received the title of class artist of the first degree in architecture. One of his early projects was the front gate and ramp fences of the Winter Palace, created in collaboration with Nikolai Alexandrovich Gornostaev. In the late 1890s – early 1900s, Melzer worked on the construction of the Emmanuel Nobel (1801-1872) mansion in St. Petersburg.

In 1900 he was appointed chief architect of the Russian exhibition pavilions at the World Exhibition in Paris. The main building, the Pavillon des Confins Russes, looked like an old Russian town, complete with a bell tower. The architecture resonated with the images of the Moscow Kremlin. This ensemble, unusual for a European capital, was located just fifty meters from the Trocadero Palace.

Roman Melzer took part in the decoration of the interiors of numerous imperial palaces: the Winter Palace and Anitchkov Palace in St. Petersburg; Livadia Palace in Crimea; and the Cottage Palace in Peterhof. Among the buildings created according to his designs, included his own dacha on Kamenny Island (1901-1904), the building of the Orthopedic Institute (1902-1906), the palace of the Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1910-1913), the complex of buildings of the Psychoneurological Institute (1910-1913), among many others.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Emperor’s Reception Room taken in 1917

At the end of 1894-1895, the renovation of the interiors of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo began. Roman Melzer was invited to prepare the personal apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the eastern wing of the building. The work took place in several stages. The first interiors created were: the Dining Room (later known as the Reception Room) and the Working Study on the Emperor’s half of the wing, as well as the Imperial Bedchamber, the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room on the Empress’s half.

In the Emperor’s Reception Room, the walls were decorated with oak panels, and above they were covered with printed fabric. The interior decoration included a corner fireplace made of oak, trimmed with dark green marble. In the upper part of the windows, the architect used stained glass. The F. Meltzer & Co. in St. Petersburg, which was co-owned by Roman Melzer, produced a set of furniture for the room, which included a sofa with two folding tables, a round table for tea, a dining table consisting of a table and twenty-four chairs, a serving table, and a snack table.

PHOTO: the Working Study of Nicholas II

At the same time, the Working Study of Nicholas II was in progress. The interior was designed in the English style, with walls painted in dark red at the top and walnut panels on the bottom. The room featured a large ottoman, in imitation of the cabinet of Alexander III, as well as an L-shaped writing table.

The Imperial Bedchamber was also renovated according to the architect’s project. The furniture, which was preserved from the previous decoration (a bedroom prepared in 1874 for the marriage of Alexander II’s daughter Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna to the Duke of Edinburgh), was repainted in white and draped with English chintz, and a pattern of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons. The same fabric was also used to make the curtains and alcove curtains for the room.

Roman Melzer also created the interior for the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room, which was to become one of the Empress’s favorite interiors. Here the walls were upholstered in mauve silk and crowned with a frieze bearing an iris flower pattern, furniture and a piano painted with ivory enamel paint. Some of the pieces of furniture were built-in, connected to the panels, forming comfortable corners.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room taken in 1917

Melzer was engaged in the creation of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, which was located next to the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room. Rosewood was chosen for decorating the wall panels and fireplace. The upper part of the walls was covered with a simple yet elegant yellowish silk fabric.

During this period, the children’s half on the second floor began to take shape, as the emperor’s family gradually grew and the “august children” needed their own bedrooms and classrooms.

Between 1898–1902, there were no major changes to the interiors of the Alexander Palace. In 1902, however, the decision was made to demolish the double-height Concert Hall and create in its place the Emperor’s New Study and the Empress’s Maple Drawing Room. Roman Melzer’s firm carried out not only the construction, but also the finishing and furnishing of these interiors. A mezzanine was also added, which connected the New Study with the Maple Drawing Room.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Maple Drawing Room taken in 1917

Thanks to Melzer, the interiors of the Alexander Palace underwent a stunning transformation, one which provided a cozy residence for the Emperor and his family. A far cry from the luxurious and ostentatious interiors of the nearby Catherine Palace, the redesigned interiors of the Alexander Palace reflected the simple tastes of Nicholas and Alexandra.

After the 1917 Revolution, Roman Melzer left Russia, and lived for several years in Germany, from there in 1921 he moved to the United States, where he died in 1943.

In 2020, the square at the corner of Bolshoy Sampsonievsky Prospekt and Nobelsky Lane began in St. Petersburg, was renamed Meltserovsky Ploschad – in memory of the court architect. His work reflected the new trends of the turn of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the emergence of the Art Nouveau style, which was becoming fashionable at the time.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 April 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Spring of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

UPDATE on the reopening of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Olga Taratynova

According to the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Olga Taratynova, the Alexander Palace will receive its first visitors in late May – early June 2021.

“The first stage, which includes 15 interiors of the private rooms of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna is nearing completion, and I hope that within the coming weeks, we will be able to confirm the opening date. Once open to visitors again, we will organize tours for small groups, since the interiors themselves are small. The private life of Nicholas II and his family will be shown from a completely different perspective,” noted Taratynova.

More than 2 billion rubles ($26 million USD) were allocated for the first stage of the restoration of the Alexander Palace, which include the fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace. The recreated interiors include the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

Taratynova noted, that the second phase of the restoration of the palace will take about three more years. “We assume that the second stage will be approximately 2.5-3 years. Work on the second stage is already underway”.

The restoration of the Alexander Palace began in 2010, in which three State Halls were opened to visitors  marking the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo. In August 2015, the palace was closed for a comprehensive restoration and reconstruction project.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – showcasing the private, domestic life of Nicholas II and his family, who used the palace as an official residence from 1905. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family.

The restoration of the Alexander Palace, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024. After the completion of the work, the Alexander Palace will become a multifunctional museum complex, which will include exhibition halls, halls for temporary exhibitions, halls for research work and conferences, as well as a library and a children’s center. The basement floor will house a ticket booth, a museum shop, a café, a cloakroom, a tour desk, as well as technical and ancillary facilities.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG