Styled in Petrine Baroque: the uniqueness of Menshikov Tower

August 27

The Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage approved the subject of protection of the Church of Archangel Gabriel at Chistye Prudy. This 18th century church is located at: 15a Arkhangelsky Lane, building 9.

The church belongs to a rare type of under the bell temples that are also called “those under bells” or “under ringing”. Their distinctive feature is that the belfry is built exactly above the main church and under its single dome, but is not adjacent to the building.

The church was built in 1707 by order of Prince Alexander Menshikov, an associate and favorite of Peter I. It was a family chapel in the prince's domain.

Ivan Zarudny, an outstanding architect of that time, designed the project. Italian masters were also involved in the work. The church was built in the style of Petrine Baroque. Its strictness and symmetry differ it from the classic Italian Baroque with ornate decorations and an abundance of details. It also has elements borrowed from German, Swedish and Dutch urban architecture.

The Menshikov Tower is one of the landmarks in the vicinity of Chistye Prudy. The building avoided the fire of 1812, and many historical details in its decoration survived to this day. The tower is a cultural heritage site of federal significance. Experts studied this monument and described all its valuable elements. Their data became the basis for the approved subject of protection,” commented Alexey Yemelyanov, head of the Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage.

A subject of protection is a document that lists all the characteristics of the building’s historical appearance, elements of architectural and cultural value. They are to be preserved. Any restorations can only be carried out taking into account the confirmed subject of protection according to the project agreed by Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage and under supervision of the Department specialists.

The layout of Menshikov Tower, its design, roof, dome, window and door openings are recognized as particularly valuable, as well as the appearance of facades and interior decoration and elements of architectural decor.

For example, experts paid special attention to stucco decorations (plafonds, high reliefs), metal wrought-iron fences, a multi-tiered iconostasis and a white stone floor.

The subject of protection includes white stone architraves with dripstones (small cornices) on the church windows, cartouches (decorative details in the form of a scroll), columns, pilasters (flat columns), garlands, a white base, as well as vases on pedestals.

The church had a different appearance after its construction. For example, the belfry tower was made of wood. It was crowned by a 30-meter spire with a gilded figure of soaring angel. An English chiming clock was installed on the tower and 50 bells were hung in 1708. The church became the highest building in Moscow. Its height with the spire was 81 meters.

In 1710, the church funding stopped after Alexander Menshikov departed to St. Petersburg. The temple began to deteriorate rapidly. A fire of 1723 completely destroyed the upper wooden part of the church. The bells collapsed and significantly damaged the building vaults and its interior decoration. The church stayed semi-destroyed until 1773.

It was then that mason Gabriel Izmailov took up its restoration. The upper tier of the belfry tower was made of brick, and then its openings were closed. The spire and the angel sculpture were never restored. The exterior and interior walls of the temple were decorated with Masonic symbols and inscriptions in Latin. They were destroyed in the mid-19th century by order of Metropolitan Filaret of Moscow.

In 1792, a post office occupied the building of the former Alexander Menshikov’s manor house, and Menshikov Tower also belonged to the post office. Until late 19th century, the church was considered departmental property and was called the Church of Archangel Gabriel at the Post Office. It became a parish only because the post office was short of funds for maintaining it.

In the 30s of the 20th century the church was closed. In 1947, it became part of the Patriarchate of Antioch’s courtyard, and services were resumed there.



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