Russian Fairy Tale Wooden Palace: Restored!

Link - article by Avi Abrams

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

(image credit: Alexander Aksenov)

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!

(image via)

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.

(images credit: Jon Ayres)

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).

(top drawing by Giacomo Quarenghi, via)

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.

(see more photos here)

The only thing left behind was the wooden model... a very intricate and detailed model, mind you, which ultimately enabled modern Russian architects to recreate the palace:

(images via)

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.

And this is how it looks now:

(images via 1, Gennady Klimov, Irina Marennikova, Alexey Grachev)

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:

(image credit: Roman Shmaiko)

It looks interesting and engaging from about every angle:

(image credit: Marina Zaroutski)

(images credit: Alexander, Jon Ayres)

Entering the palace, you are greeted by the lion and the unicorn:

(image credit: Elena)

Opening the door to the Throne Room, you can see the surprisingly simple scarlet throne chair of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich:

(images via)

Fantastic ornamented Russian-style stoves are installed in many rooms (I wonder how practical these are, beyond their obviously decorative purpose):

(images via)

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):

(images via)

Royal furniture, ceiling, tapestry and stove ornamentation are top-notch recreations:

(images credit: Jon Ayres)

There is also a winter sled on display, an interesting vehicle in its own right:

(image credit: Waltr)

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:

(image credit: Sergey)

Other churches in variety of styles - from wooden monastery towers to unique stone spires peak out above the forest:

(image credit: Katya, Mars Laurus, Andrey, 1, 2)

This is the Church of (the Beheading of) St. John the Baptist, which was built back in 1547:

(image credit: Alexey Ovsyannikov)

Kolomenskoye is beautiful in every season: in spring, there are blooming cherry trees (almost a piece of sakura-obsessed Japan)

(image credit: Dale Layfield, 2)

In winter there is serenity and great silence brooding over the landscape:

(image credit: Sergey Yeliseev)

That's the same view as when Ivan the Terrible observed his troops passing on the pains below (disregard the squarish apartment buildings in the distance):

(images credit: Dmitry Morozov)

Autumn reflections are quite sublime:

(image credit: Janna Pham)

On the right is the ancient Golosov ravine, containing stones from the old sanctuary which were supposedly there since prehistoric times:

(image credit: Yoogol, Frogfut)

Church of Our Lady of Kazan (also built in 1660s) looks especially pretty with azure domes and golden accents against the blue sky:

(image credit: Max)

Church of the Ascension has a totally unique shape for its time; and also sports beautiful golden "ikonostas", an ornate wall of icons:

(image credit: Konstantin Evchenko)

Other ancient wooden churches were relocated here from the White Sea area: they look mysterious and somewhat concealed by the mists of time -

(images credit: Anastasia X, Max, Kat)

Here is the Mokhovaya Bashnya of the Sumskii Ostrog (Monastery):

(images credit: Kat)

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:

(image credit: M, DutchSimba)

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.




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Anonymous Slow Joe Crow said...

Those Russian tiled stoves actually work very well. The large mass absorbs and retains heat so once up to operating temperature they can maintain heat with less fuel. In peasant households it was common practice to sleep on the stove, which would be built wider and flatter for the purpose.

Anonymous Jim-Bob said...

Yup, those stoves are among the most efficient means of heating ever devised. They heat differently than one might expect though as they give off infra-red heat. There is actually a movement to bring them back as heating with wood is more green than heating with oil, gas or electricity. This is because decomposing wood in fire releases the same amount of CO2 that decomposing wood rotting in the forest does and wood is a renewable resource. There was a good article on them a while back on the "Low Tech Magazine" website, if memory serves.

Anonymous Marko said...

I disagree with Jim-Bob. In my area heating with wood is big issue due to energy costs rising. According to two chimney sweepers I talked to (they are pretty qualified technicians over here) old stoves are NOT as efficicent as new designs. In general a wood stove is only as efficient as the amount of heat the exhaust gas routing can absorb AND give away to the room instead to the outside.
Talking about "greener" and putting the possible CO2 saving a side. Wood heating causes a huge amount of respirable dust. There's no way, these old stoves would keep under the new "green" local respirable-dust-limits here.
Let's be honest here: wood heating is about mainly one thing: it's a lot cheaper.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Sweden and the Nordic countries the old tiled stoves are lovingly preserved and restored. Fully functioning replicas and also modern versions are a part of every day life. They can be seen in rural huts aswell as in fancy city apartments.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's right! Just do a pic-search for KAKELUGN and you can see these Scandinavian stoves. 'Kakel' is Swedish for tiles and 'ugn' actually means oven.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unlike modern "starvation" stoves, where the oxygen is regulated to slow burning,the Russian stove in peasant application, was a small firebox, a maze-like slab of masonary through which the gasses were channeled to heat the brick, and a chimney, often with a small "booster" firebox to help with airflow.

The maze-like structure, frequently the height of a dinner table, ran the length of the house and was slept on in winter.

Holes over the main firebox were used for cooking (much like the American iron cookstove), and the small, chimney mounted firebox used for warming and light as well as keeping the exhaust gases moving.

The fuel was burnt at a very rapid rate, with a clean and complete combustion (generally during cooking) and the 'waste' heat was stored in the massive brick, releasing all night long for warmth.


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