Shakhovskaya House: From mansion of Princess to hospital

September 20

A document for protecting the Shakhovskaya Mansion on Gospitalnaya Square has been approved and lists the main features requiring to be looked after. Surveyors have described all the important architectural highlights and decor of the historical building’s image and its interior. The mansion has the status of a cultural heritage landmark and hence is protected by the state. Almost its entire history is linked with charitable deeds and medicine. The building now houses a medical institution.

The mansion was built in 1824 and designed by architect Joseph Bove. It was commissioned by the merchant A. N. Matveyev. Decorators started painting the building in 1826 and completed the job after the 1834 fire. A large parterre was immediately constructed in front of the mansion, and a large garden planted out at the back of the place. The two-story mansion is located well inside the square, and it also has a basement and a mezzanine. It embodies a mature Empire architectural style. The pompous south façade mostly features an Ionic pilaster portico with complex arched windows. Triple windows with semi-circular tops are located on the second floor to the left and to the right of the portico. The façade is adorned with a plasterwork cornice that has a sculptured frieze and a gently sloping attic. In 1905, a cast-iron balcony with bracket columns was added to the structure. The building’s surviving main hall has a plafond with pictures of ancient myths, as well as columns and plasterwork cornices. The columns, pilasters and window/door jambs are finished with artificial marble veneer. The hall with arched windows leads onto the main staircase.

“Surveyors have made a list of all the valuable architectural features highlighting the historical image of the Shakhovskaya Mansion on Gospitalnaya Square. The landmark’s façades embody a mature Empire style. A sleek Ionic pilaster portico with complex arched windows rivets the eye. The interior has plasterwork décor and is covered with artificial marble veneer. From now on, all the restoration work will be conducted with due consideration for the landmark’s protected distinguishing features,” Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, noted.

It is necessary to protect the building’s architectural layout, roof, the composition and architectural-artistic decor of the 19th century façades, the location, form, size and appearance of window and door openings, including thermal and three-section Italian windows along the buildings’ sidewise axis. The eight-pilaster Ionic portico, the fan-shaped rustic stone above the window, the plasterwork plant decor and frieze, the gable roof’s portico, a soffitto cornice whose lower section is covered with timber cast-iron brackets and sleek balcony railings will now all be protected. It is also necessary to preserve the metal visors above the entrances, load-bearing walls, supports, pylons, partitions, 19th century walls and ceilings, arches, 19th century staircases, the location, structure, building materials and décor.

The list includes the main staircase  and cast-iron banisters, custom-shaped wooden handrails, as well as 19th century interior décors, including artificial marble columns, four-edged poles, semi-columns and pilasters. The building’s plasterwork décor, including cornices, caissons, friezes, plasterwork capitals, wall-and-plafond paintings, such as grisaille masterpieces, those on plasterwork and canvas pictures, their location and decorative feature will all be protected.  

Princess Natalia Shakhovskaya (1825-1906) bought the mansion in 1872 and following the demise of her husband decided to focus on charity work. She helped Fyodor Gaaz, known as the Holy Doctor, who treated the poor free of charge and tended to destitute patients. Princess Shakhovskaya also established a community of medical nurses called Assuage My Sorrows. After purchasing an appropriate plot of land near the Lefortovo Military Hospital, now the Burdenko Main Military Hospital, Shakhovskaya relocated her community there. The community’s strict rules conformed to convent regulations, rather than those of secular institutions. Day after day, the nurses cared for wounded and seriously ill patients and devoted most of their spare time to prayers and church services.

From 1875, Natalia Shakhovskaya had several hospital buildings completed on a nearby plot of land, a former garden. A local parish church, consecrated in October 1903, became the final part of the hospital complex. Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, and the Assuage My Sorrows community was named after him. Natalia Shakhovskaya passed away in 1906, and the community was renamed in her honour. Apart from treating patients in Moscow, the nurses often worked on the frontlines. For example, they tended to wounded soldiers during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. City Hospital No. 29 was established on community grounds after the October 1917 Revolution.

The Department of Cultural Heritage prioritises the preservation and restoration of Moscow’s architectural landmarks. Many of them receive a new lease of life and are adapted to modern usage, while retaining the capital’s historical image. Since 2011, the city has restored over 1,400 cultural landmarks, including 203 in 2019.


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