The "Eighth Wonder of the World": built without using saws, nails, or hooks!
The Royal Residence of Tsar Alexis I in Kolomenskoye, Moscow: Designed and built by two Russian self-taught carpenters back in 1667;
Demolished by Catherine the Great in 1767 (to make space for a much inferior palace);
Completely rebuilt and restored to its former glory in 2010
This is truly a marvelous thing to behold: a joyous celebration of fairy tale "teremok" Russian-style shapes appearing as a mirage over gently rolling countryside.
Tzar Alexey Mikhailovich ordered his royal estate (formally called the "Summer Palace") to be built in 1667, high over the banks of Moscow river in Kolomenskoye - and it was designed and built by two genius carpenters Senka Petrov and Ivashka Mikhailov: self-taught, without a single saw, or a nail!
This fantastic ménage of fairy-tale shapes, inspiring textures and architectural influences spanning the West, the East and the Phantasmagorical, was rightly called "The Eighth Wonder of the World" after its completion - and sure enough, it stood on almost equal terms with European palatial and garden masterpieces of the time... all the while managing to look and feel completely different, completely Russian and completely amazing.
W. Bruce Lincoln in his wonderful book "Between Heaven and Hell: the Story of a 1000 years of Artistic Life in Russia" called it "A gigantic dictionary of all the architectural terms invented by Russian carpenters". The palace appeared as an intricate golden dream, complete with mechanical lions which roared to life, thanks to a hidden mechanism!
This is how it looked before: golden mirage over the river
Look at this spellbinding panorama of Kolomenskoye royal estates and church buildings, drawn by the master architect from Italy Giacomo Quarenghi (himself responsible for many fanciful architectural wonders during the reign of Catherine the Great).
You can feel that the master was impressed... and also you can feel somewhat saddened by the fact that the glory days of Russian baroque were short and soon replaced by the strict Neo-Classical manner. Sure enough, the old Russian romantic fairy tale style was replaced by significantly more subdued (and should we say "boring") palace... and the wooden wonder residence was demolished to clear space for it.
As a testament to new-found Russian pride in their past and imperial culture, and obviously thanks to the more affluent coffers of the Moscow government, a good thing took place in 2009... an unexpectedly good thing: the palace was to be restored, in full detail, to former royal glory of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich' times.
Built on a spot slightly away from the original place on the banks of the river - to preserve the grove of ancient trees that still grows there - this wonderful complex is fully illuminated at night, literally exploding with golden light:
The palace is full of light streaming through a multitude of wide windows (which was a sort of a novelty back in 1667, compared with narrow, fortress-like windows of most Russian royal residences of the time). On the right you see an imperial lioness (but no mechanical roaring lions, alas):
Other Churches and "Ancient Places" in Kolomenskoye Add to the Atmosphere
Kolomenskoye royal residence grounds in Moscow hold quite a few other surprises - architecturally and historically-wise. This is a beautifully laid out park full of mature trees and rolling meadows, as can be seen in this aerial shot:
This is only the first part of our series "Architectural Gems of Old Russia"; we will follow up shortly with the next part, and to give you a sneak preview of wonders contained wherein, here is a stupendous interior of the Cathedral of Christ Saviour (left image) and the most epic fresco of the End of the World found inside the Tsaritsyno estate:
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