Castles are quite a rare architectural feature for Russia. There are plenty of churches, fortified hermitages, well-preserved military fortresses and ancient manors of the nobility, but the castles are the great wonder (really yet to seek).
Here you can see three castles, but can you really guess which one is located in Russia?
The trip was postponed several times during the two long years, and who knows, maybe the arrived mellow autumn gave us a shove to go finally. Here it is – the château in the Vladimir region, formerly owned by Count Khrapovitsky.
The creation of this masterpiece on the Russian land is in all conscience unique, this latitude is known by the completely different architecture and the appearance of such a castle in Russia is nonsense. However, it exists and we decided to find it, to see and to show it to you.
It is 220 kilometers from Moscow, the Vladimir region, the way is not that long, but also not that close for one day. Unfortunately everything that you see on your way would better be overcame on a supersonic fighter. There is no worthy sightseeing within these two hundred kilometers, besides you are lacking of the basic civilization facilities. Alas, but this is the modern Russian reality: the difference between the province and big cities continues to grow.
By the way, Chateau Vallon de Pierrefonds in France as well rested in ruins only fifty years ago.
And now, though there are no historical interiors preserved, it is restored and continues to exist. I wish unusual for Russia castle Muromtsevo also found a generous owner who could return its former glory and beauty. Is it an age – 130 years? This house may serve faithfully to its owners for centuries.
The castle has an outstanding history. It appeared in village Muromtsevo thanks to an ordinary man of a great enthusiasm.
The Hussars Colonel Vladimir Khrapovitsky belonged to the famous noble family. His parent bequeathed him with an extensive landed property near the old Russian city Vladimir. He retired, got married. Count Khrapovitsky turned to be a good entrepreneur, and his timber factories produced huge profits for that time.
As the existent legend says Vladimir Khrapovitsky spent 1880th travelling around France, where he got filled with admiration for its medieval castles. And the notices of his French fellows that there were no such things in Russia wounded the Count and bumped on original comeback. Khrapovitsky made a wager that he would build as good gothic castle in Russia as the famous Loire castles.
Five years passed away. He invited his French fellows to his estate to show that beautiful palace, and after he was overwhelmed with the compliments, he fenced: «Oh, no, gentlemen! My horses live here – this is my stable yard, and the castle is a bit further».
The discouraged guests was run into a deep amazement, when their carriages brought them to a real French chateau. The master demonstrated not just a castle, but the “gothic” palace with a park and ponds cascade near the main house.
The illusory outlines of the desired were brought into live by the famous Moscow architect Petr Boytsov – a talented stylizer of the bygone arts of building, who notably preferred working in the style of the later French gothic, renaissance and the English gothic.
Brilliant gothic stylization of the architect are really close to the dawning during those times modern, although formally they remain within the eclectic style.
In 1884-1889 Petr Boytsov constructed in Muromtsevo the main house with a cascade of ponds in front of it, a stable yard, a lodge, a steward house, music and boat pavilions, a wharf at the pond and a water tower. And the most unusual thing was building of a theatre, which was a miniature copy of the Maliy Theatre in Moscow. Nezhdanova, Sobinov and Chaliapin were frequent there during the classic music evenings.
Initially the main house was a two-story. The right wing with its high tower was built the last. The gothic theme of the main house extended to the addition. The castle was equipped with all needed facilities: the plumbing, the drainage, the telephone line! There were only a few noble estates in Moscow with the same conveniences.
There were around 80 rooms in the castle, many of them were finished in a particular way, for example the famous mirror room with its walls lined with the mirrors only, or the Countess’s bedroom with the aquarium under the glassy floor. Khrapovitsky order the furniture by Schmidt – a fabricant of the Imperial family. The house was decorated with the Bott’s sculptures, collections of pictures and arms, porcelain, mirrors, bronze – from Ebert, the Tzar’s manufacturer, and the silver cutlery from Faberge.
The guests were entertained with the boating, balls, fireworks and illuminations. The visitants glanced with admiration at the miniature copy of Versailles: ponds, fountains, gardens – and all that in the deep forests of Russia outside Vladimir.
Khrapovitsky built two schools for the education of the peasant children: the elementary (four-years) and the music (the school of art). Both schools provided free education. The Count also built the Church of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra for all villagers near the main house. The Church was also a gift to the Russian Royal House, because it was dedicated to Alexandra Fedorovna, the wife of Nikolai II.
But the truly passion of Vladimir Khrapovitsky was the park, the gardens and the greenhouses. They became the cohesive background of the whole architectural composition. Khrapovitsky came down to the park laying in all seriousness. Regel, Kufelt and Enke were considered to be the best park constructors back then. So, they were invited.
There are several monochrome photos preserved from the beginning of the last century, demonstrating the Russian castle in Muromtsevo.
1884 can be considered as the year of the gardens series foundation, when the regular “French garden” in the form of eight-pointed star, captured in the square of alleys, was plotted at the rise near the castle both with the laying of the main house.
The park consisted of three parts:
– the Italian – involved water cascades on the terraces and water level spaces,
– the French – involved fountains, greenhouses and playgrounds, and
– the English – involved the alleys, meadows and ponds.
Look at these time-worn walls, at this park. It’s so hard to believe today, that one hundred years ago the pathways in the park around the castle were already lit up with electricity! From both sides they were arranged with the sculptures from the Bott brothers saloon and the Vienna furniture Thonet. The fountains were decorated with the sculptures of A.S. Kozlov. And in summer they planted out palms, yuccas, boxwoods and the other heat-loving plants from the greenhouses.
Eventually the garden and the park became some kind of the collections. Peaches, French plums and other exotic fruits were purveyed to St. Petersburg and Moscow from the Khrapovitsky’s greenhouse.
And the main house was the final accord in the symphony of the interchanging views. The guests were usually brought to the house from the corner and it appeared from the very dynamic turn, extending its sharp spires of the gothic tops, drawing near with the severe, but the elegant simplicity of the powerful donjon. And after that the glance swept through the mirror-like surface of the cascades and stopped at the hardly seen gothic ruin over the big lake. There are no analogues to the scale of the Muromtsevo castle’s planning pattern in the whole Russian culture!
But then 1917 came. Vladimir Khrapovitsky and his wife had to immigrate to France, delivering his castle into the possession of the new authorities of his own will. The country that inspired the couple for creating their estate in Muromtsevo became their terminal home.
After immigrating to France, Khrapovitsky and his wife finished their life journey at the geriatric home in a quite town called Manton. They died in poverty.
There is a preserved letter written by Elizaveta Ivanovna, Khrapovitsky’s wife, in 1928 to her former village.
«My dear peasants, – the letter says, – I am writing to ask you for help: please take up some money, as much as you can, and send them to me. You possess the land of my husband Vladimir Khrapovitsky, who died in poverty, and now I am left all alone without means of the poorest existence. I am an old and sick woman of 68. I am happy that you own the land now, we did not have children and my husband wished to bequeath the land to you. I appeal to your kind hearts, asking for help. Please, let me know what happened to our castle in Muromtsevo. Good keep you all! Elizaveta Ivanovna Khrapovitskaya».
The letter was attached with the return address.
«…Your plea seemed rather strange to us. The question is what for? We had you on our back for all these years, and you were living in idleness, travelling abroad, throwing away handfuls of money, earned by sweat of our brow. You name it. And we obtained this land by ourselves without your bequest. Do not bother us anymore. May 26, 1928».
The letter was composed by the communistic commissary, and the peasants signed it with “X”.
They simply forgot about the 42 kilometer of railways paved from the city to their distant villages by the Count, two free of charge schools built for their children, the hospital in Tyurmerovka or the ambulance in Muromtsevo.
It was a terrible time when people and buildings were never taken mercy on. And even the Church in honor of Alexandra was cruelly destroyed – the bell-tower was blown up, and the church was turned into the combustive-lubricating materials storage.
During the next 56 years this unhappy Russian castle admitted the forestry technical school. The estate has been plundered and rebuilt the way that the former masters would hardly ever recognize it.
The huge ball room was turned into the gym with basketball backboards. The parquet floor, the gorgeous furniture, the sculptures, the vases and the other decorations were simply stolen.
The priceless library of rare books, for which the main tower was built, disappeared to an undisclosed location. The cascades and the ponds run dry. No one cherished the trees, the park got neglected, and the Count’s land was divided into one hundred square meters lots and grabbed by the former vassals.
Now their curved fences, keeping back the lonely wretched building, come almost up to the castle, devastated by them. They are separated only by the 200-300 meters of the shagged park-arboretum.
Only in 1968 the Muromtsevo castle became an architectural monument. But nothing changed. In 1977 the technical school moved to a new building and the castle was left for final devastation. Anyone could enter it and take whatever he or she wanted during the next 20 years. When it’s empty, it is going to ruins even faster.
There is nothing left there nowadays, no chisel’s prints – every single fresco was beaten off.
The golden mosaic perished. There was a living room in the house with the floors, covered with the golden German mosaic; on sunny days its golden patches of light sparkled on the walls, reflecting in the Bohemian mirrors. This is all what is left.
The multispan staircase, leading almost to the very top of the castle, preserved well. You can clearly see the former inner rooms of the house from it.
The wooden floors tumbled down long time ago, as for the rest the inner planning preserved well; we managed to count at least three fireplaces where we were able to get to.
Somewhere you may notice the elements of the walls finishing. But there are no parquet floors, no decorative paintings of the artist August Tomashka, no pictures and no mirror room. Everything stayed in the past, and you can only imagine all that beauty.
The windows overlook the neglected park, famous for its beauty someday.
Back in times there was the Italian garden in front of the main house with a complicated water cascade on the terraces and the view to the French garden fountains. The remnants of this water system can be found today, but they are barely distinguishable and the camera will hardly show them.
The water cascades have long ago overgrown with herbs and bushes, and the locals have contributed their own corrections to the park structure, dividing it into their garden lots. Only eight hectares were left from the initial forty. If nothing changes, someday all the walls would crash down, burying all the remnants of the “royal backyard” so-called by the contemporaries.
The trouble is that it’s not somebody’s memorial backyard. 200 kilometers from Moscow were a far distance at all times! And neither Pushkin, nor Dostoevsky, nor Tolstoy strutted about its alleys. But are the big names of the owners are the only real value of any house? This Russian castle was created by the dozens of talented and energetic people.
Yes, nowadays the castle in Muromtsevo causes sad feelings. It is a shame for Russia. It is not only the castle. It is the common attitude – the whole country runs into ruins. But still the Muromtsevo castle is little by little acquiring its fame and becoming even a kind of worship place. Internet is getting replenished with the articles about the castle.
We visited it on weekdays and were not alone; the castle has been explored by a group of teenagers along with us. I hope the best time for such a beauty would come again. It is really amazing, this French chateau in the very heart of Russia!