Russian Castle Muromtsevo: An Almost Buried Wonder

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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.

Here you can see three castles, but can you really guess which one is located in Russia?

Castles

This trip was postponed several times during two long years, and who knows, maybe the beautiful mellow autumn gave us a shove to hit the road. Here it is, the château formerly owned by Count Khrapovitsky in the Vladimir region of Russia.

Russian castle by Vladimir Khrapovitsky in the Vladimir region, Russia

Chateau by Vladimir Khrapovitsky in the Vladimir region, Russia

The creation of this masterpiece on the Russian land is unique. These latitudes are known for a completely different architecture, and the appearance of such a castle in Russia is an anomaly. However, it exists, and we decided to find it, explore, and show you.

Russian castle Muromtsevo. Russia.

Castle Muromtsevo in Russia

The French château 220 kilometers from Moscow

Muromtsevo is located 220 kilometers from Moscow, in the Vladimir region. The distance from Moscow is not that far, but also not close enough for a day trip. Unfortunately, everything that you will see on your way would better passed over in a supersonic fighter. There is nothing worth seeing within these two hundred kilometers. Moreover, you will not find the basic civilization facilities here. Well, this is the modern Russian reality: the difference between city and country continues to grow.

By the way, Chateau Vallon de Pierrefonds in France (you can see it on the first photo) was lying in ruins only fifty years ago.

Chateau de Pierrefonds

Chateau de Pierrefonds before the reconstruction, France

Now, though no historical interiors are preserved, it has been restored and continues to exist.

I wish the Muromtsevo castle, unusual for Russia, would also find a generous owner who could return it to its former glory and beauty. Is it an age–130 years? This house could faithfully serve its owners for centuries.

Russian castle Muromtsevo near city of Vladimir

Brilliant gothic stylization in Russian castle Muromtsevo

The castle has a remarkable history. It appeared in the Russian village of Muromtsevo thanks to an ordinary man of great enthusiasm.

Vladimir Khrapovitsky and his castle Muromtsevo. Russia.

Vladimir Khrapovitsky and his Gothic palace near Vladimir, Russia

The Hussar’s Colonel Vladimir Khrapovitsky belonged to a famous noble family. His parents bequeathed him a property with extensive lands near the old Russian city of Vladimir. Count Khrapovitsky turned out to be a good entrepreneur, and his timber factories produced, what were for that time, huge profits.

As the existent legend says, Vladimir Khrapovitsky spent 1880 travelling around France where he admired its medieval castles. The remarks of his French fellows that there were no such things in Russia wounded the Count and had very interesting consequences. Khrapovitsky made a wager that he would build a gothic castle in Russia as beautiful as the famous Loire castles.

Five years passed. He invited his French fellows to his estate to show them the new palace and after all the compliments, he said, “Oh, no, gentlemen! My horses live here. This is my stable yard. The castle is a bit further.”

The discouraged guests were amazed when their carriages brought them to a real French chateau. The owner demonstrated not just a castle but a “Gothic” palace with a park and a cascade of ponds near the main house.

Ruins of the Russian castle Muromtsevo.

The illusory outlines of the desired goal were brought to life by the famous Moscow architect Petr Boytsov, a talented master of the bygone art of building, who preferred to work in the style of the later French Gothic, the Renaissance, and the English Gothic.

Russian castle Muromtsevo near Vladimir. The library.

Russian castle Muromtsevo. The Librarry.

From 1884-1889, in Muromtsevo, Petr Boytsov constructed the main house with a cascade of ponds in front of it, a stable, a lodge, a steward’s house, music and boat pavilions, a wharf at the pond, and a water tower. However, the most unusual thing was the building of a theatre which was a miniature copy of the Maly Theatre in Moscow. Nezhdanova, Sobinov, and Chaliapin were frequent guests there during the classical music evenings.

Initially the main house was a two-storey. The right wing with its high tower was built last. The castle was equipped with all needed facilities: plumbing, drainage, and telephone line! There were only a few noble estates in Moscow with the same conveniences.

The castle had about 80 rooms. Many of them were made in a particular way. For example, the famous mirror room with walls lined only with mirrors, or the Countess’s bedroom with the aquarium under the glass floor. Khrapovitsky ordered the furniture from Schmidt–a fabricator for the Imperial family. The house was decorated with Bott’s sculptures, collections of pictures and arms, porcelain, mirrors, bronze from Ebert – the Tzar’s manufacturer – and silver cutlery by Fabergé.

Guests were entertained with boating, balls, and fireworks. The visitors glanced with admiration at the miniature copy of Versailles: ponds, fountains, gardens–and all this 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 (school of art). Both schools provided free education. Near the main house, the Count also built the Church of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra for all villagers. The church was a gift to the Russian Royal House because it was dedicated to Alexandra Fedorovna, the wife of Emperor Nikolai II.

Russian Orthodox church in Muromtsevo

The Church of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra in Muromtsevo. Russia

But the true passions of Vladimir Khrapovitsky were the park, the gardens, and the greenhouses. They became the base of the whole architectural composition. Khrapovitsky approached the park development in all seriousness. Regel, Kufelt, and Enke were considered to be the best park constructors back then, so they were invited.

Look at several monochrome photos preserved from the beginning of the last century. They depict the Russian castle in Muromtsevo.

Russian castle Muromtsevo with the park.

The old photo of Russian castle by Vladimir Khrapovitsky in Muromtsevo, Russia

The old photo of water cascades of the castle Muromtsevo, Russia.

The old photo of water cascades of Muromtsevo, Russia

1884 can be considered as the year of the gardens’ foundation, when the “French garden” in the form of an eight-pointed star surrounded by paths was plotted near the main house of the castle.

The park consisted of the three parts:
– the Italian, contained water cascades on the terraces and water level spaces,
– the French, with fountains, greenhouses, and playgrounds,
– the English, with paths, meadows, and ponds.

Look at these old walls and this park. It’s so hard to believe that one hundred years ago the pathways in the park around the castle were already lit up with electricity and decorated with sculptures from the Bott Brothers Saloon and Viennese furniture by Thonet. The fountains had sculptures by A.S. Kozlov. In summer, they were surrounded by palms, yuccas, boxwoods, and other heat-loving plants from the greenhouses.

Muromtsevo

Eventually, the garden and park became some kind of collection. Peaches, French plums, and other exotic fruits from the Khrapovitsky’s greenhouses were sent to St. Petersburg and Moscow.

The main house was the final accord in the symphony of the interchanging views. The guests were usually led up to the house from the corner, and it appeared very dynamically with the sharp spires of its Gothic towers like a powerful, yet elegant fortress. After that, the glance of the visitors swept through the mirror-like surface of the water cascades and stopped at the hardly seen Gothic ruin over the big lake. There are no analogies to the scale of the Muromtsevo castle’s planning pattern in the whole Russian history!

Ruins of the Muromtsevo castle, Russia

Ruins of the Muromtsevo castle

Then came 1917. The Revolution. Vladimir Khrapovitsky and his wife were forced to emigrate to France delivering his castle into the possession of the new authorities. The country that inspired the couple to create their estate in Muromtsevo became their last home.

After emigrating to France, Khrapovitsky and his wife finished their life’s journey in a nursing home in a quiet town called Manton. They died in poverty. History preserved the letter written by Elizaveta Ivanovna, Khrapovitsky’s wife, in 1928 to her former villagers.

”My dear peasants,” the letter says, “I am writing to ask you for help: please, collect some money, as much as you can, and send it to me. You took possession of the land of my husband Vladimir Khrapovitsky, who died in poverty, and now I am left alone and without means for 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.
God keep you all!
Elizaveta Ivanovna Khrapovitskaya».

The letter had the return address.

The reply was:

«…Your request for help seemed rather strange to us. The question is: why? We had you on our backs all these years while you were living in idleness, travelling abroad, throwing away handfuls of money earned by sweat of our brow. We obtained this land by ourselves without your bequest. Do not bother us anymore. May 26, 1928.»

The letter was composed by the communist commissary, and the peasants signed it with “X”s instead of signatures.

They simply forgot about the 42 kilometers of railways paved by the Count from the city to their distant villages, two free-of-charge schools built for their children, the hospital in Tyurmerovka village, or the hospital in Muromtsevo.

It was a terrible time when people and buildings had no mercy. Even the church in honor of Alexandra was cruelly destroyed–the belfry was blown up, and the church was turned into a storage place for combustive-lubricating materials.

During the next 56 years this unhappy Russian castle was owned by the forestry technical school. The estate has been plundered and rebuilt in such a way that the former masters would hardly recognize it.

Inside of the Russian castle Muromtsevo. The former ball room.

Inside of the Russian castle Muromtsevo.

The huge ballroom was turned into a gym with basketball backboards. The parquet floor, the gorgeous furniture, the sculptures, the vases, and the other decorations were simply stolen.

The tower for the library with rare books. Muromtsevo castle in Russia.

The tower was built for the library with rare books

The priceless library of rare books, for which the main tower was built, disappeared to an undisclosed location. The cascades and the ponds dried up. No one cherished the trees, the park was neglected, and the Count’s land was divided into one-hundred-square-meters parcels and grabbed by former vassals.

Now, their curved fences, surrounding lonely pitiful huts, approach almost up to the castle. Only 200-300 meters of the abandoned park-arboretum is preserved.

The village of Muromtsevo. Russia.

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. During the next 20 years, anyone could enter it and take whatever he or she wanted. When a house is empty it breaks apart even faster.

Nothing is left there nowadays except chisel traces. Every single fresco was beaten off.

Inside of the Russian castle Muromtsevo near Vladimir.

Every single fresco was beaten off

Inside of the Russian castle Muromtsevo near Vladimir.

The golden mosaic perished. The main house had a living room with the floors covered with a golden German mosaic; on sunny days its golden patches of light sparkled on the walls reflecting in the Bohemian mirrors. Look at what is left…

Ruins of the Russian castle Muromtsevo. Interior.

The former golden mosaic in the Russian castle Muromtsevo near Vladimir.

The golden mosaic perished

The multi-span staircase, leading almost to the very top of the castle is well preserved. You can clearly see the former inner rooms of the house.

Russian castle Muromtsevo. Staircase.

The wooden floors tumbled down a long time ago, the rest of the inner planning is well preserved. We managed to count at least three fireplaces that we were able to get to.

Ruins of the Russian castle Muromtsevo.

Ruins of the Russian castle Muromtsevo.

Somewhere you may notice the elements of the wall finishings 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 how beautiful it was.

Russian castle Muromtsevo near Vladimir.

The windows overlook the neglected park, famous for its former beauty.

Inside of the Russian castle Muromtsevo.

Back in time there was the Italian garden in front of the main house with a complicated water cascade on the terraces and a view of 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 become 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 of the initial forty. If nothing changes, someday the walls will crash down, burying all the remnants of the “royal backyard” so-called by the contemporaries.

Ruins of the Russian castle Muromtsevo.

The tower of library of Russian castle Muromtsevo.

The tower of the library

The trouble is that it’s not somebody’s memorial backyard. The two hundred kilometers from Moscow was a great distance at any time, and neither Pushkin, nor Dostoevsky, nor Tolstoy strutted along the paths of the castle grounds. However, are the big names of the owners the only real value of any house? This Russian castle was created by dozens of talented and energetic people.

Russian castle Muromtsevo.

Russian castle Muromtsevo near Vladimir.

Russian castle Muromtsevo.

Yes, nowadays the castle in Muromtsevo causes sad feelings. It is a disgrace for Russia. It is not only the castle. It is the common attitude–the whole country is in ruins.

Still, the Muromtsevo castle little by little is acquiring its fame and becoming even a kind of worship place. The Internet is replete with articles about the castle. We visited it on weekdays and were not alone; the castle was explored by a group of teenagers along with us.

I hope the best time for such a beauty will come again. It is really amazing, this French chateau in the very heart of Russia!

Ruins of the Russian castle Muromtsevo.

Ruins of the Russian castle Muromtsevo

Russian castle by Vladimir Khrapivotsky. Muromtsevo.

More about Russia:
Russian Castles: Viborg
Kizhi: The Church Built Without a Single Nail 300 Years Ago!
Peter I and His Baroque Church, Only One in Russia

Posted in Russia. Tags: . 37 Comments »

37 Responses to “Russian Castle Muromtsevo: An Almost Buried Wonder”

  1. thetalkinghangover Says:

    cool pics. wish i could go there.

  2. Ken Judd Says:

    Reblogged this on Bear Tales and commented:
    Great post a must view.

  3. simonnurse Says:

    Great post Victor. Some of my favourite themes here; Urban exploration, history and photography. In Wales (where I hail from) we have lots and lots of castles, most are medieval ruins and protected, but not all (there is a 400 manor house close to me currently under threat from developers). There is something both fascinating and sad, about an old building returning to nature.

  4. Our Adventure in Croatia Says:

    gosh, what a great storytelling. Pity the castle looks decrepit now. You need some British TV people to start a renovation programme :) (or some Russian billionaire, maybe Abramovich will sell Chelsea FC one day and can invest his money in this castle) ;)

  5. Garden Walk Garden Talk Says:

    Victor, what a superb look at Russian history, architecture, and even community. The letter written by Elizaveta Ivanovna was such a surprise, but the reply even more so. The Church of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra is a gorgeous structure. What a shame the castle ended up in disrepair. What and end to such a glorious structure, yet it was wonderful you got to explore. I also included your blog in a list on my post on GWGT. I hope many get to see your fine photography and read the interesting accounting of your travels.

  6. Andrew Petcher Says:

    Great pictures as usual Victor!

  7. Gracie Says:

    These are amazing architectures. I wish to one day see the place, it looks like a really interesting place to visit.

  8. missmadaboutravel Says:

    Cool pics and such a sad story… It’s a shame that such a beautiful building is in ruins and falling into decay. I hope someone who loves history and architecture buys it soon and restores it to his former glory.
    ;)

  9. brianswatercolours Says:

    very interesting blog
    many thanks for sharing the story

  10. traveller858 Says:

    This is just one GREAT blog. Pictures, story, history it has it all. Loved it.

  11. wordsfromanneli Says:

    What a shame to see these unique structures going to ruin. Good thing you’ve captured them with your camera anyway.

  12. traveller858 Says:

    Hi! I hope this is a pleasant surprise. I have nominated you to the Reader Appreciation Award!

  13. Giovannoni Claudine Says:

    What a pity! Thank you so much for this unique reportage… I was amazed to see and read about this russian castle! I wonder if the count didn’t have to flee away, maybe things would have been different….
    have a nice evening :-)claudine

  14. Jemma@ Philippine Travel Says:

    That is really beautiful. A great place for travelers to visit. I hope they could also fix the interior of the castle someday.

  15. nurulthecook Says:

    Amazing architecture and such beautiful pics!! Thank you for dropping by my blog! Russia is somewhere on my list to visit someday! :-) The world is huge and I am young-hahaha!!

  16. RDoug Says:

    Fall foliage and fallen castles. What a brilliant combination.

    Well done photography as always, Victor. You’ve quite a talent.

  17. wordsfromanneli Says:

    This is an amazing, in-depth account of an unusual and unique structure. You’ve enriched the story with facts about the builders and the family and shared their good fortune and their misfortunes with us in a captivating way. I find this glimpse into history very sad, not only for the losses the family suffered, but what the Russian people have lost in their misguided quest to take from the rich and tear down the establishment. As you’ve shown, the poor have not really gained anything by taking this castle and the grounds away from its owners. Now they have an ugly, uncared for piece of property to look at. Such a waste.

  18. Jdomb's Travels (@jdomb) Says:

    Russia has some truly unique and beautiful architecture.


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