Mettlach tiles and antique ruins: how is the restoration of the Knoop family crypt going?

October 9
Construction and renovation

The historic white and blue Mettlach tiles were discovered by specialists during the restoration of the Knoop family crypt. Tiles were found inside the crypt. They date back to the 1910s — it was then that the memorial complex was built at the Vvedenskoye cemetery.

Such tiles were considered very valuable: they were made from porcelain paste of diverse colors. They were named after the German commune Mettlach, where they were first manufactured in the 19th century.

The memorial complex represents a crypt fenced all around the terrace. The family crypt is located on site No. 4 (303), it is made in the neoclassical style. This architectural trend was popular in the last third of the 19th- early 20th century. Historically it goes back to ancient art, the art of the Renaissance and to classicism, which prevailed earlier, in the 18th-19th centuries. The crypt main feature is its unusual facade resembling ancient ruins.

The main facade appearance survived to our days and the shape of the structure did not change. The terrace also survived surrounded by a concrete fence. Fence posts are decorated with sculptural elements — burial urns with a veil and wreaths.

Initially, a bronze statue of Christ was placed on the stylobate (stepped foundation). It was executed in Florence by the then famous Italian sculptor Rafaello Romanelli. The statue survived to this day. In the 1940s, it was moved to the Cathedral of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God of the Novodevichy Convent, and in the 1980s — to the archaeological office of the Moscow Theological Academy in Sergiev Posad, where it remains today.

The restoration of the unusual memorial complex began this year. It is the first restoration throughout its history. By the start of the work, the crypt was in disrepair. The original roof and stylobate were lost, the outer and inner walls, as well as the concrete fence were cracked and chipped, and covered with moss and mold. The skylight, like the doorway, was closed with metal sheets, and there was a lot of construction and household waste inside the crypt.

“The large-scale restoration of the Knoop family crypt is underway. Experts strengthened the foundations, cleaned the facade surface from dust and dirt, removed the plaster layer from damaged sections of the walls, and restored the brickwork of the building. In addition to the historical Mettlach tiles inside the crypt, they discovered small sections of the path that led to the sculpture of Christ, on the terrace under a layer of earth. The walkway was paved with terra cotta ceramic tiles. The tiles will be preserved,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.

Exact copy of the original bronze Christ sculpture is now made in the workshop. Specialists use casts of the original and archival photographs. Besides, the restorers have photographs of Romanelli’s plaster cast of the sculpture that is stored in Florence. Once the copy is ready, it will be installed on the crypt’s stylobate.

In the course of the research work prior to the restoration, a column was found inside the crypt, which originally lay next to it. Now it is under restoration. Thereafter, the column will be returned to its historical place.

Specialists will additionally restore the crypt entrance door, as well as the Falconnier blown glass bricks. They will fill the skylight opening. The skylight missing elements are manufactured in the workshops now, according to survived original samples.

The fence surface will also be cleaned of dirt, cracks will be filled and chips restored. The survived urns decorating the fence will be restored, and the lost ones — reconstructed.

It is planned to complete the main stage of the crypt restoration by the end of this year.

The Knoop family crypt is a cultural heritage site of regional significance. All work will be supervised by Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.

Representatives of the Knoop family were among the largest entrepreneurs of the late 19th-early 20th centuries. By 1917, most of them emigrated from Russia. The dynasty founder, Johann Ludwig, his wife and their children died abroad.

Since the middle of last century, new burials started to appear on the crypt site. Some of them belong to Soviet scientists and artists.

Vvedenskoe cemetery was founded by order of Catherine II in 1772, until 1917 only Catholics and Lutherans were buried there. Among them are the creator of the famous salad, chef Lucien Olivier and German doctor Fyodor Gaaz. Besides, gravestones of the Normandie-Niemen regiment pilots can be found in the cemetery.


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