The Palace Chapel (Church of the Resurrection)
The Church of the Resurrection in the Great Palace of Tsarskoye Selo (the Catherine Palace) was consecrated on 30 July 1756 in the presence of Empress Elizabeth. This event was recorded on a brass plaque that was found in the sanctuary when the interior of the church was being restored after the fire of 1820 by Stasov.
The church was constructed between 1745 and 1748 under the direction of Rastrelli with the aid of fellow architects Andrei Kvasov and Savva Chevakinsky. Despite suffering two fires, in 1820 and 1863, up until the Second World War its spacious interior with two tiers of windows and a choir gallery retained its original appearance almost unaltered. Like the state rooms of the palace, the church amazed those who saw it with the magnificence of its décor: walls painted in a Prussian blue set off glistening gilded Corinthian columns entwined with openwork carved garlands, the figures of angels and ornamental details. The church was adorned by 114 icons in carved and gilded frames and attractive ceiling paintings. The first six icons for the Palace Chapel were painted by Georg Grooth, the rest by a number of different artists. The ceiling painting of the Resurrection was produced from a sketch by the well-known Italian artist Giuseppe Valeriani.
On 1 November 1768 a service of thanksgiving was held here for the recovery of Catherine II from the indisposition brought on by vaccination against smallpox. In the last years of her life Catherine listened to the liturgy from the choir gallery, while the rest of the imperial family and the retinue of courtiers were below, in the body of the church. On 6 July 1796 Grand Duke Nicholas, the future Nicholas I, was baptised in the church. On 11 and 12 March 1826 the coffin of Alexander I, brought from Taganrog in the south where he died, lay in state here.
The church was badly affected by the 1820 fire: the ceiling painting was lost and some of the woodcarving burnt; only the icons could be saved. During the restoration supervised by Stasov the lost elements of woodcarving were replaced by gilded papier-mâché, while the artist Vasily Shebuyev (1777–1855) recreated the Resurrection ceiling painting from written descriptions and the recollections of those who had known it.
Today the Palace Chapel, looted (of the 97 extant icons only three that were evacuated survived) and partially destroyed during the war, is being prepared for restoration.
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