The most romantic pavilion of the Alexander Park, the Chapelle has been revived after restoration and is open for visiting daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
After over 70 years in poor condition, the revival of the Chapelle is Tsarskoe Selo’s main restoration project in this year of the Museum’s centenary celebration.
The Chapelle (French for “chapel”) pavilion was built on the former Menagerie’s territory in 1825–28 to a design by the architect Adam Menelaws, who partly used the walls of a mid-eighteenth century Lusthaus (amusement pavilion). Placed on the edge of the Alexander Park, the Chapelle looks like a small Gothic chapel “dilapidated by time”.
The pavilion consists of two square-based towers connected by a broad arch. One of the towers totally “collapsed”. The other one, with Gothic buttressed corners, is terminating in a tall pyramid roof with a rooster-shaped weather vane. The Gothic spears at the roof’s base are decorated with flower-shaped ornaments called fleurons.
The walls have lancet entrance portals on the lower level and Gothic windows on the upper levels. A narrow stone staircase leads to an open terrace above the archway and into a room or chapel inside the tower.
At the base of the vaults inside the chapel there were the figures of angels by Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky, one of the best Russian sculptors during the first half of the nineteenth century. The white Carrara marble statue of Christ that stood on a red granite pedestal by the south wall (and is now in the collection of the State Hermitage) was commissioned from the German sculptor Johann Heinrich von Dannecker. The room with the statue was decorated by Demuth-Malinovsky and the painter Vasily Dadonov.
Click pictures above and below to enlarge them. Three rows below show Chapelle before (leftmost), during (middle) and after restoration (rightmost):
Opened as a museum after the 1917 revolution, the Chapelle was soon closed for low attendance in the early 1930s and used for residential purposes until WWII. The tower suffered considerable damage in bombardments during the war. The striking clocks, weather vane and coloured glass windows were lost.
After conservation works and a major roof repair in 1950–51 and several unfulfilled renovation projects, the Chapelle remained closed for decades until a thorough inspection was carried out and a restoration design was developed in 2011. Approved by a 2014 historical and cultural expertise, the project received federal financing for high-priority repairs, followed by restoration works performed by the company Lapin Enterprise in 2017-18. The 123 million rouble restoration project was financed from the federal budget and the Museum’s own funds.
The restorers replaced the damaged weathervane and conserved the interior painting. Instead of the statue of Christ, the chapel room now has the statue by Ivan Vitali depicting the youngest daughter of Nicholas I, Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna (or Adini as the family called her) with her child as the Madonna in the clouds who is about “to fly into the sky”. At 19, weakened by acute tuberculosis, Adini and her infant died during premature birth at the Alexander Palace of Tsarskoe Selo in late July of 1844. The sculptor took Adini’s death mask to create the marble statue for the now non-existent Small Chapelle, which was built in 1845 to commemorate one year since Adini’s death. The statue was installed there in 1850 and has been kept in storage by the Museum during the last decades.
Revived together with the Chapelle is the Lilac Alley of the Alexander Park, running nearby from the Krestovy Canal to the Rose Gatehouse. Seventy lilac bushes of historic French varieties planted there, including ‘Madame Lemoine’ and ‘Charles Joly’, should make it one of the park’s most beautiful walking trails.