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by Viktor KORENZWIT, leading archeologist, Committee for State Control over the Use and Custody of Historic and Cultural Monuments, St. Petersburg Administration

We have marked the birth bicentennial of Andrei Stackenschneider, a great architect who has built magnificent palaces and chapels in St. Petersburg and in its suburban estates. These gems of architecture are attracting crowds of tourists from this country and abroad. Yet up until recently we could not even tell where this man was laid to rest. How his grave has been located will be the subject of the present article.

There is a special line of archeology concerned with the search and study of the burial sites of historic personalities. This is how the remains of Grand Princes Yaroslav the Wise and Andrei Bogolyubsky, of the first Russian czar Ivan the Terrible and of the great warlord Tamerlane were investigated in this country. In the West, those were the remains of Raphael, Oliver Cromwell, Goethe, Schiller, Kant and many others. It came to sensational events too - like the opening of the burial vault of King Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great; or, quite recently, the reinterment of the recovered remains of the last Russian emperor, Nikolai (Nicholas) II, and of his family in St. Petersburg's Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul.

St. Petersburg, the city on the Neva, has many legends to it. And that despite its rather young age, three hundred years. Otherwise known as Palmyra of the North, it enjoys the fame of a mystic town. Indeed, the great architects who lent a hand in building it up, have disappeared without a trace. Their graves, that is. Historians think that such great names as Andreas Schluter, Jean-Batiste Leblon, Domenico Trezzini, Johann Mattamovi, Carlo Rastrelli, Bartolomeo Rastrelli and many other masters from alien parts have found their rest in a cemetery next to the Church of St. Sampsonios, Hospitable to Strangers - the cemetery that is long gone, and its site built up.

St. Petersburg architects are all set to find the last abodes of the town's master builders. Back in 1968, on the occasion of the 150th death anniversary of the great architect Giacomo Quarenghi, the Soviet government charged a team of archeologists under A. Kirpichnikov to find his grave. And they did find that grave in the Roman Catholic section of the \folkovo cemetery The grave of yet another master builder, Andrei Stackenschneider, was located too. This architect was much in favor with Emperor Nicholas (Nikolai) I, who ruled in 1825-1855.

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Andrei Ivanovich Stackenschneider, who was of German parentage, was born at Ivanovka near St. Petersburg on February 22, 1802. His parents were among those Germans who had settled down in Russia for good. His father, the owner of a small water mill, was not well-off; all the same, he saw to it that Andrei got a proper education. Upon his graduation from the Art Academy, the young man learned the ropes of his profession in the workshop of Auguste Monferran, an illustrious architect. He put the budding talent on the project of the day, the St. Isaac Cathedral under construction in the northern Russian capital. Czar Nikolai showed interest in Andrei's architectural plans and appointed him Architect of H.M. Court. Working for His Majesty, Stackenschneider put up many magnificent palaces and edifices. For one, the Mariinsky Palace on St. Isaac Square, opposite the cathedral of the same name (today the seat of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly); the Nikolayevsky Palace which, in the Soviet years, was turned over to the trade unions; the palace of the Beloselsky-Belozersky Princes, one of the best in the ensemble of the city's main avenue, Nevsky Prospekt; also, the Novo- Mikhailovsky Palace on one of the Neva's embankments, among many other gems of architecture.

Andrei Stackenschneider showed great talents in landscape architecture as well. He designed something like forty wondrous palaces, pavilions and temples at Peterhofand in its environs sought of St. Petersburg, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. W; should name such masterpieces of palace and landscape architecture as Znamenka, Sergiyevka, the Belveder Palace; the park pavilions: Tsaritsyn, Olgin, the Pink Pavilion; then the Lion's Cascade in the Lower Garden. And a good many other wonders.

He who has ever been to the Smaller Hermitage will never forget its Pavilion Hall, an exquisite fantasy in marble on the architectural motifs of Hellas and the Italian Renaissance.

The St. Trinity-Sergius pustyn* at Strelnya 20 km south of St. Petersburg has a church which Andrei Stackenschneider built-the Church of St. Gregory of Nazianus (Gregory the Theologian); he chose this site for his last rest.


Pustyn - verbally, desert. It denotes a secluded monastery or skete in remote, desolate parts.- Ed.

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The St. Trinity-Sergius Monastery was founded in 1734 by Archimandrite Varlaam of Vysotsk on a site 139x 143 meters large. Awoodenwall with watch-towers in the comers was built around it. The wooden Church of the Dormition was put up in the center; it was flanked by cells for monks and a stone house for the prior. In 1756 ground was broken for a big stone church, the St. Trinity Cathedral (architect Pietro Trezzini). Stone structures replaced the old wooden walls and towers.

During the Russian "glorious revolution" (a palace coup of 1762 when Emperor Peter III was toppled) the monastery became assembly grounds for regiments of the Guards that supported Empress Catherine II. It was there, in the chambers of the prior, that Catherine II awaited a reply to her ultimatum for the ruling emperor to resign.* Once in receipt of it, she had a moleben - prayer service of thanks-givining celebrated on the occasion of her ascension to the Russian throne.

Her Majesty visited the monastery every now and then. And she never came empty-handed either. During one of her visits she let fall: "Should I die in Peterhof, bury me in the St. Sergius Monastery; if I die in Tsarskoye Selo, in the Kazan cemetery; if it is in St. Petersburg, then in the Alexander-of-the Neva cemetery." The empress was laid to rest in the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the last abode of the Russian czars after Peter the Great. But her words were remembered: the St. Sergius cemetery, where only monks had been buried before, became a coveted burial ground for the high-bom laity.

Soon after, the cemetery expanded - so much so that Hegumen Ignatiy Bryanchaninov, a well-known Orthodox preacher, asked Czar Nikolai for permission to pull down the eastern wall of the monastery together with two comer towers so as to enlarge the burial grounds as far as the pond. The monastery was closed down after the Bolshevist Revolution of October 1917; and in 1930 the cemetery was laid to waste. Only a few tombstones of excellent artwork could be salvaged - they were handed over to the Leningrad Museum of Urban Sculpture. Left intact on the former cemetery's grounds were only the family vault of the Chicherins and the marble cross above the grave of A. Gomostayev, the builder of the monastery.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, Strelna and its architectural ensemble were overrun by German troops. The Nazis chose the monastery as their headquarters from where the shellings of the inner Leningrad were directed. With war's end the former pustynbecame a corrective labor colony for juvenile delinquents and, later, in the early 1960s, a police school


See: O. Ivanov, "Emperor Peter Ill's Death: Whodunit?", Science in Russia, No. 5,2001 . -Ed.

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moved in. The local police chiefs saw to it that the St. Trinity Church, attributed to architect Francesco Rastrelli, was off the list of architectural monuments under state protection. The sacred structures were blown up to make room for a drill square.

In 2001 the monastery grounds were returned at long last to the St. Petersburg diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, even though this issue had first been raised in 1993. The clergy and the laity got down to work. At the initiative of Father Nikolai (Paramonov), the prior, and Tatyana Prokhorova, the district architect, the Committee for State Control over the Use and Custody of Historic and Cultural Monuments (under the jurisdiction of the St. Petersburg Administration) began archeological studies to find what remained of the former houses of worship and locate the graves of high priests and historic personalities from the laity. Yours truly supervised this work, carried out by novices.

In fact, excavations were begun as early as 1996 in search of the relics of the Chapel of the Tikhvin Mother of God (razed under Soviet rule), of the graves of Archimandrite Varlaam, the monastery's founder, of Hegumens Chikhachev and Makarov We tried to retrieve the relics of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ (architect A. Parland) and sacristy. In the end we managed to locate a number of significant graves: of Prince P. Oldenburgsky; of Prince Alexander Gorchakov (1798-1883), Chancellor of the Russian Empire, and a friend of Alexander Pushkin's; of poet Ivan Myatlev (1796-1844); and of Archimandrite Ignaty Malyshev (1811-1897), the prior. The very first grave to be found was that of Alexander Stackenschneider.

We had to do a good deal of preliminary research in the archives. Thank God, a major part of the personal archives of P. Yakovlev, who was in charge of the cloister chancellery (and the author of the notes on the history of the pustyn ), has survived. He kept a record of burials and worked on a plan of the structures and graves within the monastery. Unfortunately only a few sketchy drawings are available today One represents a few nameless graves next to the Church of St. Gregory the Theologian. Looking through Yakovlev's papers, N. Paravyan of our team discovered a plan of some of the graves, with Stackenschneider's marks by pencil. The famous architect was buried next to the church he had built.

We learned also this: in 1856 Zinaida, a three-year-old daughter of our architect, passed away to be consigned to the earth near the St. Gregory Church, as testified by the burial certificate.

Two years after this sad event, on March 23, 1858, her father donated a thousand rubles in silver coins to the monastery, a princely sum in those

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days. We read this in a receipt which also said that the fraternity assigned a lot to Stackenschneider and his family, just by the graves of his two daughters, the "infant Zinaida" one of them.

As we learned from the archives, the Stackenschneider family lot, about 7.8х5 meters large, was indeed just near the St. Gregory Church. A fire engine depot was built quite near in the 1950s, for which purpose the family vaults of the Counts Panins, the Princes Gagarins and other dignitaries were demolished. The Oldenburgsky vault survived by sheer miracle. A memorial plaque was put on his tomb in 1997.

The Stackenschneider lot has two old trees on it-a wonderful oak with a perfectly straight trunk, and a maple. Both are believed to be planted in 1865, the year when Stackenschneider died.

Committed to the earth on the same lot are the architect's wife, father-in-law and three children: the infant Zinaida, the older daughter Yelena (the author of well-known diaries) and the son Alexander, a drama actor ofH.M. theaters. These data were published in P. Saitov's reference book (1913), St. Petersburg's Necropolis (it also indicated the dates of their birth and death). Iconographic documents were of much help for the anthropological examination of the remains.

Displayed in the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg are: A. Stackenschneider's portrait (by I. Koch) donated by the architect's daughter Natalia; and a bas-relief in marble (M. Schredle, 1852) showing the profile of Maria Fyodorovna, the architect's wife. Yet another bas-relief of the same sculptor, M. Schredle, depicts her with six children. In the Russian Museum of St. Petersburg we can see a plaster-cast bust of our architect; and we know of photographs of Ms daughter Yelena in the 1870s and a group photo of all Ms sons in the 1890s.

Archeologists have opened all the graves of the family lot. They found four vaults of brick placed close to each other. Taking part in examination were topmost experts in forensic medicine - Dr. V.P. Petrov and his son, W. Petrov. Their verdict: the remains belonged to A. Stackenschneider, his wife and daughter Yelena (afflicted with the curvature of the spine and lameness).

Two monuments had surmounted the tombs - one above the master's grave (only its foundation has remained) and the other, above the graves of his wife and daughter. The foundation must have been in the form of a cross-a silver-plated crucifix was recovered underneath. Unfortunately only its upper part is preserved. There were also porcelain rose buds of fine workmanship, probably part of funeral wreaths (now in the custody of the Museum of History of St. Petersburg).

On August 8, 1996 (A. Stackenschneider's death date) the exhumed remains were reinterred in a solemn ceremony in the presence of Protestant and Russian Orthodox priests. Afterwards a black gabbro plaque was erected over the architect's tomb.


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V. Korenzwit, H. M. Master Builder // London: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 10.09.2018. URL: https://libmonster.com/m/articles/view/H-M-Master-Builder (date of access: 23.04.2021).

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