The summer of the year of 2006 I spent in the town of Pushkin which is located 23 kilometers from St.Petersburg. While working in the open air, I noticed a large building foundation pit, fenced with a high fence and located on the site the central square near Gostiny Dvor. This vast area was limited by the Moskovskaya, Pushkinskaya, Oranzhereinaya and Leontievskaya streets. In the center of this large square, there was the statue of Lenin, next to which, in the 1990s, had been set up the wooden cross with the information plaque. In this plaque, it was written that in this area there was St.Catherine Cathedral the main temple of Tsarskoye Selo, which was designed by Konstantin Andreevich Thon, the distinguished Russian architect.
As I got to know later, the pit I saw in the square, had been dug in connection with the archaeological excavations of the temple’s basement. The excavations were held to solve the problem of the restoration of the cathedral and building it in its initial location as it had been done with the Christ Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.
Konstantin Thon is the architect and the author of the projects of these cathedrals, the expert in architecture whose merit in the field of architecture cannot be overestimated. He left a rich legacy. Today, many of the buildings created on his projects, we can see in the streets of our cities. He built in Moscow, St.Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov, Kazan and Tomsk. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, The Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, the Moscow Railway Terminal in St. Petersburg, the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Peterhof, the St.Vladimir Cathedral in Sevastopol- this is not a complete list of those buildings, which were built by this architect, known nationwide.
He made a significant contribution to the activity of the Russian Academy of Arts, where, he spent most of his life: as a student in the beginning, then as a professor, and for the last 17 years of his career (from 1854 to 1871), as a rector of the architectural department. In addition to teaching and administrative activities, Konstantin Ton was actively involved in the work on the reconstruction of the Academy of Arts building and its environment. Some of the biggest interiors of the Imperial Academy of Arts — the meeting room and library were created on his project (later on, in the mid-60s of the 19th century, these rooms were renovated under the supervision of his pupils). The Home Church of St.Catherine, which was consecrated in 1837, was also designed by him. The landing stage near the Academy of Arts with the original sculptures of Ancient Egyptian Sphinxes brought to St.Petersburg in 1834, is also the creation of this wizard. Since that time, these sculptures have been considered as the symbols of our city and its guards.
Konstantin Thon was a broadly educated person who had considerable expertise in the area of his activity. He was perfectly prepared for his future profession when studying for 12 years in the Academy of Arts; he had there such excellent mentors as Adrian Zakharov, Thomas de Tomon, and Andrei Voronikhin. After graduating from the Academy in 1815, he got the second gold medal for the draft of the Senate giving him the right to the additional in-depth training. However, due to the different circumstances, which were beyond of his control, his trip had been postponed for four years. Only in 1819, he set out his journey to Italy, where he studied the ancient architectural monuments in detail. Apart from Italy, Ton had been living in Paris for a time. When living in this city, he attended the classes at the École Polytechnique, where, at those days engineering disciplines were taught by the best experts in Europe.
This knowledge was very helpful for the young architect when he returned home. A wide variety of information about the architectural monuments of Old Russia he gained during his studies of architecture was also to his advantage. Konstantin Thon is one of the first Russian architects who paid close attention to the comprehensive study of the world’s architectural heritage and its application to the contemporary building practice. His original method deviates from the conventions of the Russian classical architecture in the first third of the 19th century. The innovative approach of Konstantin Thon was based on the concept of the freedom of the logical framework. It wasn’t fettered by the canons of the selection decision.
Konstantin Thon can be considered as the founder of such a style in the Russian architecture as eclecticism, the method of the «smart choice» of various architectural styles. In the opinion of A.P. Brullov, his contemporary and like-minded person, «architecture is, first of all, the art of the space distributing and combining.»The role of the architect, as it was thought, was the role of the leading builder and organizer. Thon firmly believed that the construction of any building is impossible without the engineering-geological research of the area. The search of a constructive solution and precise calculations were considered to be the main stages of the designing process. As a result of such an attitude, Konstantin Thon had always got the efficiency of the building process and the operation of the building, as well as the convenience and benefit of people for whom it was intended. In the opinion of Konstantin Thon, the external appearance of the building «should express its essence.»
As it was considered in those days, all architectural styles that could be created had already existed or created. The emergence of these styles and trends was attributed to many factors such as history, geography, climate, etc. Architects had to take into account the experience in construction that people gained for years.The classical style in architecture was considered by designers, not as the only architectural style, suitable for buildings for various purposes. So, for example, the home of a shoemaker look like an antique house with a peristyle. Similarly, in the expert’s opinion, a laundry shed shouldn’t imitate the classical buildings with porticos such as the Ancient Greek or Roman temples. Accordingly, the appearance of the Russian Orthodox Temple should resemble the old Russian temples of our ancestors. The studies of the architectural monuments of the Old Russia had been initiated at that time. On the initiative of A.N.Olenin, brothers Efimov were being carried out measurements of the Ancient Russian architectural monuments in Moscow, Kiev, and Vladimir. Another initiative of A.N.Olenin was to organize the expedition, led by K.M. Borozdin, with the same purpose. Very often artists and architects were inspired by the images of ancient monuments in the landscapes of such Russian artists as F.A.Alexeev, M.N.Vorobiov, A.E.Martynov as well as the sketches of Giacomo Quarenghi. The great enthusiasm that played an important part in the victory over Napoleon in the Patriotic War of the year 1812 led to the great interest in the history of Ancient Russia. The image of the ideal temple, which would resemble with an Ancient Russian church, was needed to express the idea of patriotism. For this purpose, in the year of 1835, Konstantin Thon met with S.D.Nechaev, who was the attorney-general the Synod at that time. Following the recommendation of A.N.Olenin, S.D.Nechaev suggested the architect collect the images of the examples of the churches for the atlas to be published in the future.
The first issue of this atlas included the designs of the churches created by Konstantin Ton between the years of 1830-1834. The second issue of this atlas was published in 1844. This issue was the extended edition of the first album: the examples of some pillar-free temples were added to the designs of the churches mentioned above. Nevertheless, the emerging Russian architectural science was guided by the concept of borrowing, according to which, the Russian architecture, was considered as a conglomeration drawn from other architectural techniques and forms. For example, the style of ancient Russian monuments, as though, was divided into several styles. Besides the Russian style, other styles, which were in the architecture those days, were also existed.
To solve problems emerging in the process of designing buildings and churches, Konstantin Thon, elaborated his creative approach. Even though he had the extensive knowledge of ancient Russian monuments, he did not copy them blindly. The temples created by Konstantin Thon can be reduced to several types such as a cross-domed Greek temple, pillar-free temple, and the church combines with the narthex and belfry. At the same time, Ton makes his start from «not a particular image and form of a temple, but from its type, which was created by ancient masters. He changes the ratio of his layouts for churches.» Contrary to the ancient temples, which layouts were usually extended to the East-West direction, his newest temples had the form of a square.
Using all his knowledge and practical experience as an architect and design engineer, he carried out the constructive tasks when building temples in his way, creating the comfortable environment for people attending church services and saving some necessary construction materials. Looking for the ways of expanding the internal space of the temple, Konstantin Thon found the solution to this problem. He achieved this goal at the cost of walls and pylons, which thickness was reduced and, therefore, extra space was found. Inside of his churches, Konstantin Ton set up the air-heating system, creating thus an additional comfort for the parishioners.
As for the decoration of facades, the architect created many details, drawing his inspiration from the old Russian architectural monuments. Such elements of the Ancient Russian architecture as small and corbel arches (also known as kokoshniks), stone-belts and blades, were borrowed from the old churches of Russia. However, centric layouts, the large divisions of facades, the contrasts of great volumes — all this shows the significant influence of classicism in Russian architecture in those days.
«Russian style, — writes I.Sviazev, the colleague of Konstantin Thone and the person who shared Ton’s opinions of architecture, — is capable of its further improvement and development. Like the style in literature, it has the same relations to the old art, like the poem about Prince Igor, which was also written by Pushkin in Russian, but in which manner?»
In such a Russian style was built the St.Catherine Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo. Its project was created in 1831. The church was consecrated in the year of 1840. Before the construction of this temple, the main temple in Tsarskoye Selo was a small Znamenskaya Church, which was built in the 1740s, situated next to the Catherine Palace and the Imperial Lyceum.The shopping and business center of Tsarskoye Selo was formed Just near this church. The significance of the town of Tsarskoye Selo as the imperial residence had increased over the years. The city had been expanding, and Its population had been growing. As far back as at the beginning of the 19th century, the defensive ramparts, which had been built at the margins of the town, were removed and replaced by Moscow Street.
The little church in honor of Our Lady (Znamenskaya) was too small to meet the needs of the town’s residents. Therefore, Emperor Nicolas, I made the paramount decision to build a larger Cathedral whose capacity would be 2000 people, the construction of which was financed from the Tzar’s treasury.
The main feature of Konstantin Thon’s churches, which should be singled out, was that the architect could perfectly fit his temples into the surrounding landscape and urban environment. The place for St. Catherine Cathedral was chosen on a hill in the town center. Importantly, the height of the church allowed to perceive it not only from a close distance. The St.Catherine Cathedral was perfectly visible from every corner of the town, and from the local railway station. It was important because this station was located on the first Russian railroad, which also was built on Konstantin Thon’s design.
Looking very similarly to other churches designed by Ton such as the Church of St.Catherine on the Kalinkin Bridge in St.Petersburg, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Peterhof, this temple didn’t seem to be enormous and massive. Five-domed temple with the centric layout, about which we can judge only from photographs, drawings, the memories of contemporaries, looked very easy and elegantly. The composition of its facades was not overloaded with the decor. The smooth surface of its walls looked like it was cut with the high narrow windows whose round edges repeated the silhouettes of its arched gables. The large arched decor accentuated the surfaces of the cupolas’ tholobates making it look much easier and expressive. The entrances to the temple were marked by the deep perspective portals with the semicircular edges. Besides the main altar, there were the two side chapels inside the church, which appeared in 1852: the Chapel of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky on the right side of the temple and the Chapel of Constantine and Elena, the Saints Equal to Apostles. The linear drawing of the iconostasis created by Konstantin Thon has survived to the present day. It was about 2.13 meters in height. Symmetry, lightness, harmony of proportions, elegant lines — all this makes it very close to the best traditions of classical art.
At that time, the multi-level iconostasis of St.Catherine Cathedral was guilded. The icons located on the first level were covered with the gilded rizas, which were made of the money raised from people’s donations.
In the sacristy of the Cathedral were stored the cross with the relics St.Feodor Tiron and Barbara Great Martyr. Many other precious, sacred things such as the icon with a particle of the relics of Abraham, the Arch with a particle of the relics of St.George, the Great Marty and the robe of Virgin, silver chalice with the paten, the cross, and the Gospel were also stored in the Cathedral. All these artifacts were the gifts from Empress Catherine II to the St.Sophia Cathedral, given in the year of 1783. In addition to these sacred things, the «Crucifixion» painted by A.Van Dyck and «The Glory of Mother of God,» created by Paolo Veronese, draw attention to themselves.
Originally, the Cathedral was painted inside in bright colors. However, during the restoration process, carried out by the architect S.A.Danini, when the gliding of domes, which had been severely suffered during the fire of the old wooden Gostiny Dvor, had been resumed, the Cathedral had been repainted in dark colors.
In the town of Tsarskoye Selo, where the features of the lifestyle of a peaceful country town and the lifestyle of the brilliant capital city were blended, the St.Cateherine’s Cathedral held a special place among the churches belonging to the Palace and Military Departments that had been prevailing by the time of its construction. It is known that Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev, was baptized in this cathedral in 1912. Another well-known person, Yakov Vasilievich Zakharzhevsky, who was the General Manager of the town of Tsarskoye Selo, was buried here.
After the year of 1917, the history of the Cathedral turned into drama and logically was going to its tragic end. This chapter in the Cathedral history had started with the death of the first new martyr and Petrograd Eparchy Archpriest Ioann Kochurov, who devoted his life to pastoral and missionary activity. He was loved and respected by his flock and highly appreciated by Tikhon, the prelate of the church and the first Patriarch of all Russia after the restoration of the Patriarchate in 1917.
A few days after the October Revolution, on October 13, 1917, the detachments of armed Red Guards, sailors and soldiers moved to Tsarskoye Selo. The residents of the town were in a panic. Many people flocked to the Orthodox churches, to find some solace. The St.Catherine Cathedral was overcrowded. After a special prayer on the cessation of the intestine warfare, Archpriest N.I.Smirnov, together with the other priests of the Cathedral, Father Ioann Kochurov and father Stephen Fokko performed the procession around the temple.
Encountering no resistance, the Bolsheviks entered Tsarskoye Selo on October, 31, in the morning. The round of the apartments and following arrests of the officers had started. Priest Ioann Kochurov was arrested, taken to the outskirts of the town to the Feodorovsky Cathedral, and there he was shot dead, allegedly, because he prayed for the victory of Cossacks.
Subsequently, Father Ioann was buried in the Catherine Cathedral, and his death caused the claim of the St.Petersburg’s Diocesan Council to the Parish Councils of the St.Petersburg Eparchy about financial assistance to the family of Father Ioann Kochurov and other families of those killed for the faith. In the year 1994, Father Ioann Kochurov was officially recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a newcomer martyr.
And then the fate of the St.Catherine Cathedral, as the fate of many temples in the Soviet period of rebellion against God, was sealed. On June 1, 1938, the Pushkin District Council sent the petition to the Leningrad city council for closure and demolition of the Cathedral, substantiating their decision by the opinion that the Cathedral as a building «doesn’t constitute cultural value.» The petition had been approved. Due to the Decree of the Leningrad Oblast General Executive Committee 1938, July, 1 St.Catherine Cathedral was closed, and then it was blown up in June 1939.
In the evidence of an eyewitness, on June 5, 1939, at the White night: «Suddenly a deafening explosion resounded. The Cathedral flew up, raised itself above the ground like an epical hero, rose from his place, carrying along the cloud of dust, and suddenly fell flat, as moved down to earth.» It was the second temple created by Konstantin Ton, the temple which was subject to the cruel act of vandalism. As a result of an inherently evil political action. In this case, it is interesting to note the fact that art critics and experts were trying to corroborate this cruel act of vandalism by giving their expert opinions of the necessity of these actions. The easiest way to explain this need was to state the opinion that the buildings designed by Thon do not belong to the masterpieces of Russian architecture, but only embody the idea of loyalty to autocracy.These concepts supported the idea of the famous triad of the time, namely «autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationality» — the principles to which was stuck the Russian czar, Nicolas II. Even the attitude of the Ton’s contemporaries to his creativity was ambiguous, even unfair. V.V.Stasov called Constantin Ton «a rough and uneducated bricklayer,» and A.I. Hertzen characterized the Byzantine style of Ton as «wild.» At the same time, Ton was highly appreciated by his colleagues at the Academy of Arts for his exceptional professionalism. It is precisely this fact that when being as a Rector of the architectural department, Konstantin Ton paid particular attention to the teaching of engineering subjects. He believed that the architectural design should not be confined only to the painting of the facades. The students of the Academy of Art, who were prepared for the career in architecture had practical training experience at the construction area of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The merits of the architect were highly valued by his colleagues from abroad. He was a member and a corresponding member of some Italian academies, as well as an honorary member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. However, the first point of view on the Ton’s creativity was determinative in the period of 1830-1860s. Only since the 1980s, the creative works of Ton and this time in the history of Russian architecture were objectively assessed. In the evidence of an eyewitness, on June 5, 1939, at the White night: «Suddenly a deafening explosion resounded. The Cathedral flew up, raised itself above the ground like an epical hero, rose from his place, carrying along the cloud of dust, and suddenly fell flat, as moved down to earth.» It was the second temple created by Konstantin Ton, the temple which was subject to the cruel act of vandalism. As a result of an inherently evil political action. In this case, it is interesting to note the fact that art critics and experts were trying to corroborate this cruel act of vandalism by giving their expert opinions of the necessity of these actions. The easiest way to explain this need was to state the opinion that the buildings designed by Thon do not belong to the masterpieces of Russian architecture, but only embody the idea of loyalty to autocracy.These concepts supported the idea of the famous triad of the time, namely «autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationality» — the principles to which was stuck the Russian czar, Nicolas II. Even the attitude of the Ton’s contemporaries to his creativity was ambiguous, even unfair. V.V.Stasov called Constantin Ton «a rough and uneducated bricklayer,» and A.I. Hertzen characterized the Byzantine style of Ton as «wild.» At the same time, Ton was highly appreciated by his colleagues at the Academy of Arts for his exceptional professionalism. It is precisely this fact that when being as a Rector of the architectural department, Konstantin Ton paid particular attention to the teaching of engineering subjects. He believed that the architectural design should not be confined only to the painting of the facades. The students of the Academy of Art, who were prepared for the career in architecture had practical training experience at the construction area of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The merits of the architect were highly valued by his colleagues from abroad. He was a member and a corresponding member of some Italian academies, as well as an honorary member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. However, the first point of view on the Ton’s creativity was determinative in the period of 1830-1860s. Only since the 1980s, the creative works of Ton and this time in the history of Russian architecture were objectively assessed.
And nowadays, about the archaeological excavations of the Temple of St.Catherine, we have to encounter the problems of real justice. It is the matter of justice to this creative work of the architect, disrespect to people, who did their utmost for the prosperity of their country and were buried in this temple, and, finally to many residents of the town of Tsarskoye Selo going to the Cathedral where they happy or when surviving their sorrows. It was decided by the Managing Committee of City’s Property, the Society for the Protection of Monuments to restore the Temple by the year 2010, the 300-anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo. The money for this project was supposed to raise by involving sponsors. On the excavated foundations, perfectly preserved since the construction of the Temple, it is planned to restore St.Catherine Cathedral by using the archival drawings, which were found in the Moscow archives to build a replica of the Ton’s church. Despite the fact that it will be a newly constructed building, possibly the temple and the area around it, will be the symbol of reviving human conscience, renewed faith, and national unity.
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The materials from the Internet:
15.http://www.pushkin-town.net/.pushkin/rus/nowhram.htm (последний вход -07.05.2010)
(the last log in 07.07.2010)
- http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Екатерининский_собор_(Пушкин) (the last login —