A tree on the Calvary and Charon with cupids: Unique tombstones to be restored at the Donskoy Monastery’s necropolis

May 22

Several historical tombstones at the graves of Russian nobles, who lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries, will be restored at the Donskoy Monastery’s necropolis.   The reference is to the monuments to the poet Vasily Maykov, brothers Vasily and Pyotr Baskakov of the illustrious Baskakov family, and noblewoman Yelizaveta Baryshnikova. It is planned that the project will be implemented before the end of 2021.


According to Mr Yemelyanov, over the years, cracks and chips have appeared on the tombstones; rain has eroded the pedestals and their foundations. The specialists will clean up all the surfaces, fill the cracks and chips, and restore the lost elements.   The monuments will be treated with antiseptic and waterproof solutions that will protect them.

The first in line to be mended is the cenotaph of Vasily Maykov (1728-1778), a famous Russian poet, fabulist and playwright, who was buried at the Donskoy Monastery, but the exact location of his grave is still unknown.  For this reason, a symbolic monument to him was installed in 1952 on the site of the family burial ground of the Khovanskys. Some tombstones dedicated to members of this princely family survive to this day and can be seen in the vicinity of the cenotaph.  

The gabbro-diabase monument to Maykov is in the form of an altar and consists of a vase-crowned stone pedestal with a high socle and a pediment.    A flower bed made from the same volcanic rock abuts the pedestal. In 2016, the monument was badly damaged by a hurricane. A tree fell on it, separating the flower-bed from the pedestal and smashing the vase. The Maykov memorial is in the centre of the necropolis not far from the Grand Church. The restorers will use archive documents and photographs to carry out the work.

The monument to the Baskakov brothers is in the southern part of the necropolis in the vicinity of the Smaller Church. It was built in the late 18th century in honour of Second Major Vasily Baskakov (1765-1794) and Lieutenant Pyotr Baskakov (1769-1794). The brothers died within four months of each other, the former aged 29 and the latter 25 years.

The base of the monument, which symbolises Mount Calvary, bears an epitaph that reads: “The bodies of the Baskakovs are buried under this stone: A most zealous token of motherly love.” Its centerpiece is a tree with cut-off branches, a very unusual type of monument.   According to specialists, monuments of this kind were installed on the grave of the last male scion of a family, whose death meant the end of the family line. The monument is almost intact and only the inscriptions were damaged.

In the southern part of the necropolis, there is another artistic tombstone that needs to be restored. It was erected on the grave of Yelizaveta Baryshnikova (1772-1806), wife of nobleman Ivan Baryshnikov, a rich landlord and owner of estates in the Smolensk Governorate. The couple had 13 children, six of whom died in infancy. Mrs Baryshnikova died on 27 March 1806 at the age of 34 years, six months after the birth of her 13th child.  

The red quartz-rock monument is in the shape of a Classical stele, with one of its sides decorated with a bronze haut-relief portraying the family bidding farewell to its deceased member. The Old Greek deity Chronos, god of time, is leading the woman into the Kingdom of the Dead. Her weeping children, grieving husband and relatives bid her farewell.  A white-stone slab on the pedestal is inscribed with an epitaph:

“A tender spouse and true friend,

A mother, who dedicated her life to her children,

And who left this world still in the flower of life,

Is mourned by her husband and seven children.”

The monument is crowned with a grey marble group of two putti (cupids) holding a funeral urn.  The monument remains in good condition. The haut-relief has lost one child figure and the marble sculpture has sustained some damage as well.  

In all, it is planned to restore 82 sculptured tombstones before the end of 2021, including monuments to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1829-1875), a military officer and participant in the defence of Sevastopol in 1854-1855, Prince Nikolai Vyazemsky (1814-1881), and other aristocrats, nobles, intellectuals, cultural figures and scientists.

The monuments are mostly in the shape of crosses, columns and sarcophagi of sandstone, white-stone or gabbro-diabase, all of which are identified cultural heritage sites. This means that their original appearance cannot be altered and that restoration work must be based on a plan coordinated with the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.     

Restoring the tombstones at the necropolis of the Donskoy Monastery

The restoration work on the artistic tombstones at the Donskoy Monastery's necropolis has been underway since 2011. In all, 117 monuments have been restored over eight years.

The Donskoy necropolis, the biggest 18th-20th-century memorial cemetery in Moscow, features family sepulchers of the Russian aristocracy, including those of the Rurik dynasty. It is also contains graves of prominent citizens, scientists and artists.    

The Donskoy Monastery was founded in 1593. It is located near the old Kaluga road, southwest of the city centre. It was named after the Icon of Our Lady of the Don.  The icon was carried in a procession in 1591 during a battle with the forces of Crimean Khan Kazy-Girey.

Source: mos.ru

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