Libmonster ID: RU-17182
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZANOVA

by Olga BAZANOVA, journalist

In 2007, Moscow landscape parks and gardens round the manorial estates of Kolomenskoye, Lyublino and Lefortovo got a welcome addition. This is "Izmailovsky ostrov", or the "Island of Izmailovo", a lovely site of historical monuments of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries on the eastern edge of our capital. This place witnessed landmark events. For one, the Russian Navy was born out there. Ground was broken for landscape architecture and gardening, and many exotic plants were brought in. The erstwhile sylvan wilderness changed beyond recognition. The "ostrov" became a home of this country's first menagerie, the "wolf's den".

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Back in the 16th century Czar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) presented this woodland with its dense oak and birch forests, and the Serebryanka river valley to the younger brother of his wife Anastasia. That was Nikita Zakharyin-Yuriev, a highborn noble (boyar), a voivode (army chief and governor) and diplomat. Registers of the 1570s confirm his ownership of this patrimonial estate. Thereupon it was inherited in succession--first by his son, then grandson and in 1654, by his greatgrandson, the "most pacific" Czar Alexei Mikhailovich, the second monarch of the Romanov dynasty. At first this large patrimony served as a hunting estate with a nursery of its own. But then the czar decided to turn this land into a model experimental "farm". And work began on a truly grand scale. Earthwork was in full swing as of 1663: one built roads, dug out ponds and cut the bed of the Serebryanka in two near the village of Izmailovo. Both parts of the river were spanned by dykes, and thus two ponds, Serebryany and Vinogradny, were formed round a patch of dry land with wooden structures on, a church and H.M. chambers. Two master masons, Dmitry Kostousov and Ivan Kuznechik, were the builders of the waterworks, the last word of hydraulic engineering of the day.

A huge farmstead of the czar grew up round the hand-wrought island, with the best of the skills engaged on it. Some came from afar: "good men apt in flax-growing" were from Pskov; expert poultry farmers, the "breeders of fowls of the air, swans, geese and all that" were mustered from Belgorod. Smolensk sent in millers, carpenters, "fish-catchers", bee-keepers, curriers, tanners and stove-setters. Gardeners trekked from Kiev, Astrakhan, and even from Holland and Germany. The model farm was providing every kind of victuals to the court--cucumbers, herbs and a great variety of vegetables and fruits. Melons and watermelons, grapes and walnuts grown in hothouses were also there. The whole place was fragrant with exotic flowers. The apothecary's garden supplied medicinal plants.

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One tried to acclimate the silkworm, Hungarian pears, almand- and mulberry-trees, and other kinds of exotic flora. In fact, Izmailovo became the birthplace of plant introduction and acclimation in Russia. The gardens offered avenues excellent for pleasure walks. Pavilions and pergolas were put up here and there side by side with fountains. The "Babel Labyrinth" was one of the most spectacular sights, and those who saw it called it a "new Versailles". Thus, Izmailovo became the nursery of Russian landscape gardening and architecture.

All told Izmailovo had 37 water pools and ponds, and as many as thirteen are still there. There were also fish-rearing ponds and beaver dens. Living in the "wolfs den" menagerie were tigers, leopards and even one elephant, not counting in numerous birds. Izmailovo boasted of such industries as hopgrowing, bee-keeping, beer- and mead-brewing and flax-spinning. It had seven mills, a winery as well as flax-manufacturing and glass works. The czar liked to treat foreign guests to feasts laden with choice dainties from his home farm. One overseas ambassador recalled, "It was a delicious and abundant meal, each guest served more than 40 separate dishes full of veal, game, mutton, geese, ducks and other boiled birds. The bread loaves were immense, two men could hardly carry just one loaf."

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One entered Izmailovo ostrov through a bridge built across the Serebryany (Silver) Pond, a unique structure of fourteen arches--106 meters long and over 10 meters wide. (The bridge was taken apart in 1770). It led to a three-level quadrangular tower (Bridge Tower) erected in 1671 to 1679 by Ivan Kuznechik. The first level housed premises for the clergy and sentries, and the second had rooms for bell-ringers and chambers for Boyar Duma sessions; early in the 18th century the Senate met in session there when the czar happened to be around. The third level had a belfry. In its shape the tower resembles some of the Moscow Kremlin towers with two quadrangular tiers topped by an octagonal one with bells and an observatory. A hipped-roof surmount crowned this tower. The windows were adorned with nice lintels, and the facade bore parti-colored tiles depicting images of wonder birds, leaves and flowers.

In 2007 the lower level of the Bridge Tower was turned into exhibition grounds*. It displays specimens of architectural ceramics from its vast collection (beginning with the earliest tiles to those manufactured in our days). These exhibits are part of the stand-

See: O. Bazanova, "Patrimonial Estate of the Czars". Science in Russia, No. 1, 2011; O. Bazanova, "A Paradise", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2011; O. Borisova, "Versailles on the Yauza", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2011--Ed.

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ing exhibition of Moscow tiles. In the 14th and 15th centuries stone and brick building gained ground in Russia, and the facades of new houses came to be decorated with stamped coating clay tiles similar to the ornament of white-stone carving. Those were "red" (terra cotta) tiles. These were made by the "packing" method--a solution of clay was poured into wooden patterns. The earliest instance of such tile facing is seen in the Holy Spirit Church of the St. Trinity and Sergius Lavra (1476, Sergiev Posad)* followed by Princely Chambers at Uglich**, and churches of the Kirill-Belozersky and Therapon Monasteries.***

Multicolored architectural ceramics made its way as of the mid-16th century, first on the facade of the St. Trinity Church at Nikitinki in Moscow (1634-1635). Soon after, other churches of Moscow, Staritsa and Dmitrov**** donned the attire of white clay tiles of exquisite beauty and form. And yet, according to Yuri Melentyev, an eminent Russian culturologist, the stone wonder flower of the Cathedral of the Protecting

Veil on the Moat, best known as St. Basil's Church, is beyond compare.* "No matter where you look at it from, your eye shall rest on its onion-shaped domes clustering about the central faceted head. The central hipped-roof cap is adorned with multifaceted "stars", and quadrangular and diamond-shaped tiles covered with glassy semitransparent glaze of green, brown, yellow and orange" (Not Beyond the Three Seas, Moscow, 1979).

The golden age of facing tiles came by the mid-17th century, largely thanks to Ignat Maximov and Stepan Ivanov, two master builders from Byelorussia. Stepan Ivanov, by the way, had a pretty curious nickname hung on him, "Demon". Indeed, a demon for work, he wrought devilishly wonderful masterpieces. Suffice if we name the Churches of Gregory of Neo-Caesarea in Polyanka, a street in Moscow, of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin at Gonchary (1654), and the Krutitsky Chambers (1693-1694, now affiliated with the State Historical Museum in Moscow**). This demon builder also had a hand in erecting the Dormition church of the Dormition Monastery at Volokolamsk (1688-1696) near Moscow; this monastery was consecrated to St. Iosif of Volokolamsk. Now and then potters did not ask remuneration for their work in churches and monasteries (ceramic dishes were listed as precious items in the court coffers).

Making a tour of the Low Countries in 1697 and 1698, the young Czar Peter I admired white glazed Dutch tiles, and ordered them to be used in Russia, too. Such decor was adopted accordingly. Masters of the village of Gzhel at Ramenskoye near Moscow perfected the tile-making craft, all the more so as the locality was rich in white clays. Gzhel was famous for its porcelain and glazed earthenware. Up until the 1820s its potters had been making parti-colored tiles adorned with images of flowers, nosegays and birds; thereupon they opted for blue glaze only. These tiles and facets were used primarily in decorating stoves, the pride and beauty of any Russian home.

Toward the end of the nineteen-hundreds our artists and architects turned to the Neo-Russian style*** based on models of oldtime painting, architecture and decorative arts. The most striking creation of that time was wrought by Mikhail Vrubel on the facade of the Metropol Hotel in Moscow (1901-1905)--a mon-

See: V. Darkevich, "The Monastery of St. Sergiy", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2000.--Ed.

** See: O. Bazanova, "Tsarevich Dmitry's Town". Science in Russia, No. 4, 2008.--Ed.

*** See: O. Viktorova, "Old Russian Holies", Science in Russia, No. 2. 2009.--Ed.

**** See: O. Bazanova, "Dream Town", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2009.--Ed.

See: K. Averyanov, "The Main Moscow Cathedral", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2011.--Ed.

** See: V. Yegorov, "Treasure-House of Russian History", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2004.--Ed.

*** See: T. Geidor, "Russian Architecture of the Silver Age", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009.--Ed.

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umental panel "Princess Fancy"* of glazed parti-colored ceramics. He also created sculptures, and a fireplace composition portraying the epic heroes Mikula Selyanovich and Volga (1898-1899), among other masterpieces.

The technology of ceramic tile manufacturing has not changed any for centuries. The standing exhibition of tiles features the oldest "red" tiles and the multicolored ones of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries alongside the handiwork of students of the Stroganov Art Academy of Moscow. Some of their items imitate old models, while others are their true copies. Guests can watch the tile-making technology from start to finish--from raw clay and its firing to finished products.

Apart from the Bridge Tower, Izmailovo ostrov has other structures dating from the 17th century: two identical white stone gates of three spans with sentry posts and towers (1679-1682), architect Terentiy Makarov. Both led into the royal yard: one was the front (eastern), and the other, the back (western) gate. The grand Church of the Protecting Veil (1671, architect Ivan Kuznechik) of four columns and five domes is one of the eye-catchers. It was put up by a gang of stone masons from Kostroma and Yaroslavl under Grigory and Feodor Medvedevs. Its windows are decorated with carved semicolumns of white stone contrasting with the red brick of the walls; the drums of the domes are framed below by kokoshniks, embossed designs in the shape of headdresses worn by Russian women. The domes are faced "in scales"-rows of copper plates fixed in overlap (like shares of wooden church cupolas).

But the main decor of the church--the parti-colored glazed tiles with a stamped ornament ("peacock orb")--will hardly keep anyone cool. The maker of this wonderwork was Stepan the Demon and his gang. He was the author of the ornament-the yellow or orange core in the shape of a water drop or orb against a backdrop of dark blue in the frame of green leaves. He used this artifice time and again in his creations.

The massive five-tier iconostasis, one of Russia's largest (as high as 18 meters, and 325 meters square) measured up to the grandeur of the church. It was wrought by Klim Mikhailov and his mates, master carpenters and wood carvers, from the Armory Chamber. This iconostasis was remarkable for the absence of fretwork and gilding on horizontal bars and columns; coated with silver, they were adorned with picturesque ornaments of grapes and pears, an allegory of "trees of Paradise". Around a hundred best icon-painters of Moscow, Kostroma and Yaroslavl worked on these oversize icons, some of them five meters tall.

Only several of the icons and decor of the church of the Protecting Veil have survived to this day (now in the collection of the Andrei Rublev Museum of Old Russian Painting in Moscow). In 2001 a team of artists of Moscow and Palekh restored the body of this grandiose wonder. It took them another 5 years to paint the 109 images of the icons after the model of altar icons of the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin*, and those of the Smolensk Church of the Novodevichy Convent**. Work is in progress to restore the original countenance of the other elements of the interiors.

The French captured Izmailovo during the Patriotic War of 1812. They sacked and ravaged the church, and set it on fire. The vault and the main dome were badly damaged. By 1826 the church building fell into decay, and divine services had to be stopped.

Restoration works were started 11 years later under the supervision of architect Constantine Ton, the

See: O. Protopopova, "Russian Style in the Osterman House", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2011.--Ed.

See: A. Nikolayeva, "Moscow Kremlin Museums", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2006.--Ed.

** See: O. Borisova, "Abode Most Radiant and Wonderfully Adorned". Science in Russia, No. 1, 2005.--Ed.

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mastermind of building works on Izmailovo ostrov. For one, he built a military hospital and an almshouse for men and officers injured in battles against Napoleonic France (like les Invalides* de Paris). The new hospice was built next to the church on three sides, with two sides flush against the church to enable cot cases to hear the services.

Peter I was born at Izmailovo on May 30, 1672. In 1685-1694 Izmailovo and its groves were the ground of war exercises of his poteshny ("toy") regiments of boy-soldiers, later the elite Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky Regiments. Quite nearby are the Strokino fortifications, and earth embankment in the form of a circumference with ramparts radiating from it and a pond in the middle. The young czar went in for his war pursuits over there.

Walking about the Flax Yard, Peter I hit upon an old English jolly boat (built around the 1640s) in a barn. As historian Feodosy Veselago sees it, this event impelled the young czar to establish a Russian navy. Years later, in 1720, Peter recalled this happening in a preface to the Marine Regulations. He said he came upon a foreign vessel in one of the barns. "I asked Franz Timmermann, the first comer, what kind of a boat that was. He said, an English boat. I asked, where she was used. He said, at ships for boating. I inquired what advantage she had over our boats. He told me she could sail both before and against the wind. These words astonished me greatly. Thereupon I asked, if there were any who could mend her and show how she sails... And Franz brought Dutchman Karlsten Brant along, who still under my father was enlisted for making marine ships in the Caspian Sea. So he mended that boat, fixed the mast-and-sails, and she sailed up and down the Yauza, making me gape in wonder and joy..."

* Les Invalides--an asylum for war invalids and veterans built in 1671-1677, one of Europe's first institutions of this kind. It still hosts war invalids. A cemetery adjoins this compound and its church in which Napoleon's remains were laid to rest.

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Thus, lzmailovo became the cradle of the Russian Navy. "Marine vessels shall be!" Meeting within the Bridge Tower, the Boyar Duma made this historic decision (1696). The St. Nicholas Boat, the grandfather of the Russian Navy, as Peter I called it, has survived to this day, and is kept in the Central Museum of the Navy in St. Petersburg. A Peter monument was unveiled on lzmailovo ostrov in 1996 (sculptor, Lev Kerbel).

But lzmailovo came to be neglected with the transfer of the Russian capital to St. Petersburg.* Little by little the lzmailovo estate fell into decay. Only in the 1840s work began to set things right. New buildings were put up. An Officers' House was built on the site of the czar's palace, and a family hostel for veteran army officers and lower ranks, their wives and children, was set up on the foundations of H.M. yard.

There was also an asylum for servicemen's widows, along with a school for servants' children, public baths, a washhouse, an icehouse, stables, and the like (architects, Constantine Ton and Mikhail Bykovsky). In 1859 the estate grounds got a wonderful fountain with a castiron column and a grand gate made of cast iron, too. That was an Arch of Triumph raised in honor of war veterans. The lzmailovo groves were turned over to the local forestry for care. The foresters cut avenues, built irrigation ditches and planted young trees. They laid a groundwork for the present type of sylviculture.

See: Zh. Alferov, E. Tropp, "St. Petersburg--Russia's Window on Science". Science in Russia, No. 3. 2003.--Ed.


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