THE 18™ CENTURY NECROPOLIS AND THE ST. LAZARUS BURIAL VAULT
The Necropolis of the 18th century under the State Museum of Urban Sculpture is regarded as one of the most valuable historical and artistic memorials of St. Petersburg. Its history is closely bound up with the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra of the Holy Trinity, a monastery founded on order of Peter the Great in honor of Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky, holy defender of the Russian land.
The monastery was built at the village of Vikhtula situated at the mouth of the small Chornaya (Black) River (Monastyrka) flowing into the Neva. It is quite possible that the first burials on this territory took place yet before the foundation of St. Petersburg.
In 1713 the first wooden monastery Church of the Annunciation was consecrated. It stood on the left northern bank of the Chornaya River. There were also situated other monastic buildings - monks' cells, prior's chamber, printing-house, seminary, etc. All of them were wooden or clay-walled structures. In the 1760s any need for them dropped off when the monastic community settled in the stone buildings on the right side of the Chornaya River.
In the time of Peter the Great burials in the monastery were limited. They often took place in the presence of the Tsar, in accordance with a special ritual developed by him. As it is inferred from "The Magazine of Peter the Great", the first person to be buried in the monastery in 1714 was Prokofy Ushakov. In 1716 Peter I's sister Princess Natalia Alexeyevna died. To bury her, a small stone "tent" was put up at the altar of the wooden Church of the Annunciation and in 1717 it was consecrated in the name of the righteous Lazarus. In 1718 Peter I's lifeguard physician R.Areskin was buried near the St.Lazarus Church.
In April 1719, on order of the Tsar, the body of B.P. Sheremetev, the first Russian General Field Marshal, hero of the Northern War, was brought from Moscow to St. Petersburg. His tomb was near the porch of the wooden Church of the Annunciation. In the same year Peter's heir, his son Tsarevich Piotr Petrovich, was buried alongside Natalia Alexeyevna. In 1720 Peter I attended the funerals of General A.A. Veide, Prince Y.F. Dologorukov, Colonel A.M.Golovin and priest Bitka. Thus, the monastery cemetery gradually began to acquire its shape. It was named the St.Lazarus (Lazarevskoye) cemetery. In 1780s its grounds were surrounded with a stone wall.
Later the St.Lazarus Church was reconstructed and enlarged. It only got its modern looks in 1835-1836, to the design of the architect L.Y.Tiblen.
In 1835 the original monastery cemetery was joined by another one, the New St.Lazarus (Novo-Lazarevskoye) (in 1870s it was renamed the Tikhvin (Tikhin-skoye) cemetery, and in 1935-37 it was turned to the memorial Necropolis of the Masters of Arts). The third graveyard of the monastery is called the St. Nicholas (Nikolskoye) cemetery extant since 1863. In July 1917 a fourth cemetery appeared in the monastery courtyard. Here were solemnly buried the Cossacks who perished during the suppression of Bolshevik mass demonstrations. In Soviet time Party members, Soviet officials, scientists, innovators, leading workers, etc. were buried in this graveyard too. During the siege of Leningrad of 1941-1944 this cemetery became a resting place for the heroic defenders of the Neva stronghold.
The monastery necropolis system also included burial-vaults. The construction of the monastery on the right bank of the Chornaya River was initiated by the stone St. Alexander Church of the Annunciation (1717-1724, architects D.Trezzini and T.Schwertfeger) under which burial places were prepared. The first person to be buried there in 1723 was Tsarina Praskovia Fedorovna (at the same time the remains of Natalia Alexeyevna and Piotr Petrovich were transferred to the Annunciation burial-vault). With new temples built, burials took place in the Fedor-ovskaya (1745-1770s, architects P.Trezzini and I. Rossi), Dukhovskaya (Holy Spirit) (1820-1821, architect V.P.Petrov) and the Isidorovskaya (1889-1891, architect G.I.Karpov) burial-vaults.
The first Church of the Annunciation was demolished in 1756-1758, with a new wooden church built there. M.V. Lomonosov was buried against its northern wall in 1765. Some of the burials took place inside the church (Count P.I.Shuvalov, Baron S.G. Stroganov, and others). After it had been taken down, new monuments were set up over the burial places. The second Church of the Annunciation was demolished at one time with the construction of the Church of the Blessed Virgin "The Joy of All Mourners" over the entrance to the monastery (1784-1786, architect I.Y.Starov). The only temple in the cemetery that escaped destruction was the stone St. Lazarus burial-vault. In those years it was enlarged and several tombs that had been near the first Church of the Annunciation appeared to be found inside it (graves of the Shere-metevs, in particular). Burials in the St.Lazarus burial-vault were held until the late 19* century.
Originally, the St.Lazarus cemetery enjoyed a very high social status. In the time of Peter the Great it was due to the fact that burials took place at the Tsar's own will. Later on, a natural limiting factor was an abnormally high price for land. In the 1740s it cost 50 roubles, and inside burial-vaults - 500, which only well-off people could afford (proceeds from sale went to maintain theological educational institutions under the monastery).
In 1859 the Lavra Council noted that the monastery cemetery "is not open for everybody like city cemeteries, but here are buried only few individuals who pursued a high public position and persons of respectable ranks, by approbation of the Lavra's authorities and out of a particular respect". Representatives of the renowned noble families, major landowners, top-ranking state officials, military leaders, admirals, Russian merchant elite, factory owners and industrialists - these are people who were buried in the St.Lazarus cemetery.
Many monuments in this necropolis are of great artistic value. They were ordered from workshops of the most noted masters of the 18th-19th centuries. The tombstones in the St.Lazarus cemetery were created by I.P. Martos, M.I. Kozlovsky, V.I. Demut-Malinovsky, I.P.Prokofiev, A.N. Voronikhin, F.P.Tolstoy, and St. Petersburg "monumental" masters - J.Semmelgak, A.Triscorai, PMaderni, Y.Tropin.
Baron N.N.Wrangel, historian of Russian sculpture, wrote in 1907: "If you know the lives of those who are lying beneath these plates, you are surprised at a strange interlacement of circumstances that join and disjoin people. It looks as if all those people who once made up a close circle of the court society have gathered here, post mortem. A whole epoch, the entire world of obsolete ideas, almost the whole of the court society of Elizabeth, Catherine and Paul are buried on this tiny area of the old St.Lazarus cemetery".
Nevertheless, neither the indisputable historical importance, nor the high artistic level saved the monuments from destruction. Time did not spare magnificent marble sculptures and hid tombstone plates sinking into the earth. Some of the old graves were destroyed by posterior burials, while the damaged plates were used to pave pathways or served as a base for new monuments.
In 1919 the St.Lazarus cemetery closed for burials, and in 1923 the "Old Petersburg" society took it on lease so as to set up a museum reserve. It was the only possibility to save the unique necropolis from inevitable looting during the post-revolution collapse. The society members did systematic examination, fixed the remaining monuments and restored them. The first to be restored was the marble gravestone "Plenira" made for the first wife of G.R.Derzhavin, Ekaterina Yakovlevna, whom he poetized in his verse "The Swallow".
In the late 1920s archeological excavations were carried out at the western wall of the St.Lazarus burial-vault. As a result, the archeologists dug out several dozens of tombstone plates of the first half of the 18th century that were reckoned as lost (those of the Chernyshevs, Melgunovs, Balk-Polevs, and others). Also, they found the earliest graves in St. Petersburg - tombstone plates of the Rzhevskiye, Peter I's contemporaries, dating back to the end of 1710s (now they are on display in the museum).
In 1931 the People's Commissariat for Education of the RSFSR suggested creating a museum necropolis in Moscow, based on the cemetery of the Donskoy Monastery, and in the Leningrad St.Lazarus cemetery which, in fact, already was a museum in the open air. "Cemetery-museum of monuments" - this is how the St.Lazarus cemetery was named by decision of the Presidium of the Leningrad Soviet of 23 July 1932 - is a unique necropolis in Russia (the Donskoy Monastery lacks the museum status).
In 1939 the Museum of Urban Sculpture was established. Now it is in charge of the Necropolis of the 18th century (a new name of the St.Lazarus century), the Annunciation and St.Lazarus burial-vaults, the Tikhvin cemetery (the Necropolis of the Masters of Arts) and the necropolis "Literary "Mostki" in the Volkovo (Volkovskoye) cemetery.
Unfortunately, in the course of restoration work a certain part of monuments, especially those dating back to the late 19lh-early 20"1 century, was destroyed under the pretext of their minor artistic value (actually, it was done from ideological considerations). In the mid-1930s, according to the inventory of the St.Lazarus cemetery, it numbered 1503 tombstones. Today there are only 1079.
A certain allowance should be made for the fact that for several years after the abolition of the "Old Petersburg" society the cemetery-museum had been under the trust "Funeral Business" which was not interested in preserving cultural values. Nevertheless, neither in St. Petersburg nor elsewhere in Russia you will find another necropolis which has so fully kept its image historically formed by the end of the 20"1 century.
The destiny of other historical cemeteries of Leningrad was tragic. From the early 1930s on, their monuments were being systematically destroyed. The cemetery of the Trinity-Sergiev hermitage, Farforovskoye, Mitrofanievskoye and Vyborg catholic cemeteries vanished completely. Serious damage was done to the Smolenskoye, Volkovskoye, Novodevichie cemeteries as well as the Nikolskoye and Tikhvinskoye at the Lavra. Completely ruined are the Holy Spirit (Dukhovskaya), Fedorovskaya and Isidorovskaya burial-vaults. Under such extreme conditions the only way to keep the historical memory was to transfer valuable artistic tombstones from the ruined cemeteries, with the follow-up reinterment of the outstanding historical figures.
The 18th century Necropolis contains over 40 monuments transferred there between 1931 and 1940. In the post-WW II period such transfers were rather an exception. The remains of L.Euler (1955) and A. Bethencourt (1979) were brought from the Smolenskoye Lutheran cemetery, and J. Quarenghi (1967) - from the Volkovo Lutheran cemetery. Here were also reinterred A.K.Nartov and S.P. Krasheninnikov, whose remains were found in 1950s on the grounds of the cemetery near the Annunciation Church on Vasilievsky Island which was closed as far back as 18th century. The only monument of the post-revolution period is the gravestone of L.V.Blese-Maniser (died in 1924), wife of the remarkable Soviet sculptor M.G. Maniser.
The losses suffered by the St.Lazarus cemetery are far from being referred only to the Soviet period. Tombstones of the foreigners buried here in the time of Peter I - the Scot Areskin, Swede Veide and German Hespen - disappeared yet in the 18th century. Nothing is known about the tombstone of I.P.Yelagin, noted mason under Catherine II, who wished to be buried in the St.Lazarus burial-vault. The monuments to Prince Y.F.Dolgoruky, A.M. Divier, first policemeister of St. Petersburg, and other contemporaries of Peter the Great, Anna Ioannovna and Elizabeth Petrovna were considered as lost yet before the Revolution. Many tombstone plates unknown at the beginning of the 20th century were found during the excavations and have remained on their historic spots. In the post-WW II years archeologists dug out a monument to Nikolenka Volkonsky, the Decembrist's son, with an epitaph by Pushkin; and a marble sarcophagus of Prince A.I.Meschersky, to whose death G.R. Derzhavin wrote an ode. On the eve of the 25011' anniversary of Moscow University was found a tombstone plate made for I.P.Turgenev, one of the directors of this university, who was buried alongside his son Andrei, poet and close friend of V.A.Zhukovsky. In 2005, a jubilee year, a memorial plaque was put on the wall of the necropolis saying that the first rector of Moscow University, A.M.Argamakov, was buried in the St.Lazarus cemetery in 1757.
In order to preserve unique samples of memorial sculpture, sculptural fragments of the tombs of E.S.Kurakina, E.I.Gagarina, A.F.Turchaninov, M.S.Tairova, A.S.Popov, etc. were transferred from the necropolis to the Museum's exposition in the Annunciation burial-vault. Many elements of the monuments being restored have been replaced with copies made of marble or artificial stone.
The 18th century Necropolis covers an area of 0.7 hectare. The main path, Peter (Petrovskaya) Lane, starts at the entrance, between the two cemeteries, and leads to the St.Lazarus burial-vault. At the beginning of the path stands a monument in the form of a granite altar with cast-iron elements symbolizing Life and Death (a winged sand-glass with a scythe), Eternity (a circle in the form of a snake), Wisdom (an owl), Immortality of the Soul (butterflies over two skulls). This family headstone of the Pukolovs is engraved with a poetical epitaph which may serve as a certain introduction to a leisurely tour of "the city of the dead".
Passer-by! You're walking but you'll lie like me. Sit down on my stone to rest in peace. A blade of grass reminds of one's fate. I am at home, you're my guest. Think of yourself. On the left side of Peter Lane, against the western wall of the necropolis, are situated family burial grounds of the richest factory owners and tax-farmers of the 18th-early 19th century - the Kusovs, Yakovlevs, Shemiakins. The tombstone of doctor A.Magir with a statue of the late leaning on the stone and reflecting on his fate, is near the monument to the renowned statesman and financier Count C.Y.Vitte. Next to it a six-meter column rises marking the grave of A. Bethencourt, engineer and mechanic, designed by the architect A.Montferrand. The central part of the necropolis includes tombs of great St. Petersburg architects - J. Quarenghi, I.Y.Starov, A.N.Voronikhin, J.Thomas de Thomon, A.D.Zakharov. Here are also buried sculptors M.I.Kozlovsky, F.F.Schedrin, F.I.Shubin, I.PMartos. The monument to K.I.Rossi is against the northern wall. Next to its granite stele one can see a modest sarcophagus with a cross - the grave of A.S. Pushkin'widow Natalia Nikolayevna Lanskaya (by her second husband).
In the north-west corner of the necropolis stands a massive chapel with a mosaic cupola signaling the family ground of the Rat'kovs-Rozhnovs, St. Petersburg wealthy householders. Near it is a granite stele with an epitaph written in Chinese hieroglyphs. This is the tomb of Father Ioakinf (Bichurin), founder of Russian sinology, monk of the St Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Near the monument to N.N. Lanskaya a chapel in the Russian style marks the family ground of Counts Muravievs. A spacious area in the north-east corner of the necropolis is taken by monuments to Counts Mordvinovs who were related to the Stolypins, relatives of M.YLermontov. From here Stolypin Lane leads to the St.Lazarus burial-vault. Remarkable scientists and writers of the 18th century are buried nearby: L.Euler, D.I.Fonvizin, M.N.Muraviev, YB.Kniazhnin, S.PKrasheninnikov, A.K.Nartov, V.YAdodurov.
A white marble headstone of M.V. Lomonosov with a gilded epitaph written in Russian and Latin and allegorical reliefs, is situated not far from the entrance to the burial-vault. Inside it you can see not only the monuments belonging to the Sheremetevs family. Here are buried: F.P. Uvarov, hero of the Patriotic War of 1812; chancellor V.P Kochubei; I.A. Hannibal, grand-uncle of A.S. Pushkin; musician M.YVielgorsky, and others. Altogether, there are over 80 monuments located here.
When visiting the museum-necropolis, you will experience an acute feeling of belonging to the 300-year history of the city on the Neva, to the glorious past of Russia.
Situation of the St.Lazarus cemetery (modern map and map of the end of XIX-XX).