Russia History Romanov Scottish Architects in Imperial Russia

Scottish Architects in Imperial Russia

When Peter the Great ascended the Russian throne in 1682, he decided to move Russian culture away from the old religious values. He built a new capital called St Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland and invited Western architects and engineers to come to Russia to build palaces, mansions and parks. Many of these architects came from Scotland.

Scottish architect Charles Cameron left an indelible trace on the architecture of St Petersburg. From 1779, Cameron worked as the court architect of Catherine the Great. He designed the Grand Palace and numerous park pavilions in Pavlovsk and the famous Cameron Gallery and Agate Rooms at Tsarskoe Selo.

Catherine’s grandsons, Tsar Alexander I and Tsar Nicholas I, appreciated the skills of another Scottish architect, Adam Menelaws, who came to Russia to assist Charles Cameron in 1779. In the 1810s, Menelaws built the Arsenal and the Chapel in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoe Selo. One of his greatest creations was the Egyptian Gates at the entrance to Tsarskoe Selo.

Adam Menelaws is best known for creating the Cottage in the Gothic Revival style between 1826 and 1829. Intended as a place of summer relaxation for the family of Nicholas I, the building stands in Alexandria Park in Peterhof on the Gulf of Finland and was inspired by the suburban villas of wealthy Scots seen by Nicholas on his visit to Edinburgh in 1816.

Adam Menelaws also designed the parquet floors in the Cottage, which was the favourite suburban residence of the last four generations of the Romanov dynasty. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was born there on 1 June 1882 – the first child to be born “in the purple” since the seventeenth century.

Between 1828 and 1831, Adam Menelaws worked on another project for Tsar Nicholas I not far from the Cottage. This was the Farm, which was originally intended for keeping cattle and housing cowherds. The Farm is now the only museum in Russia with surviving interiors dating from the mid-nineteenth century.

As the imperial family grew in size in the 1830s, it was decided to turn the Farm into a residence for the eldest children of Nicholas I. For many years, this building was the summer residence of the future Tsar Alexander II, whose assassination inspired another work by a Scottish architect.

Ironically, the only church to be built in the traditional Russian style in the European city of St Petersburg was designed by a Scotsman. This was the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, which was built in 1907 on the very spot where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881. The Neo-Russian church was built by Alfred Parland under the influence of the Muscovite architecture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

To learn about the presence of Scottish architects in Russia after the revolution, click on the following link to read about Scottish Architects in the Soviet Union.

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