The Wooden Palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich

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The royal estate of Kolomenskoye runs all the way along the right-bank of the River Moscow from Kolomenskaya to Kashirskaya metro stations and is one of the most popular sights in Moscow outside of the city center. Historically, the Kolomenskoye Estate was the location of a village founded by refugees from Kolomna fleeing the Mongol-Tatar Invasion. During the reign of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich, Kolomenskoye became a royal residence and an wooden palace was built here in 1660s. It was a grand palace with rich exotic decor that was consistently admired by foreigners who saw it. The Tsar’s contemporaries referred to it as the “Eighth Wonder of the Word”.

Although built only for summer residency, it became a favorite residence for both Tsar Alexis and his successors. The future Empress Elizabeth Petrovna was born in the palace in 1709, and Tsar Peter the Great spent part of his youth here. The palace survived up until the time of Catherine the Great, who had the palace demolished. The wooden palace you see in Kolomenskoye today is a replica built very recently from the original architectural plans.

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During his reign, Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich had all the previous wooden structures in Kolomenskoye demolished and replaced them with a new great wooden palace, famed for its fanciful, fairy-tale roofs. It exemplified the asymmetrical beauty of Russian wooden construction, and it amazed everyone who saw it. The palace contained an intricate combination of some 250 rooms, a maze of corridors and porches decorated with carving and various elements like hipped roofs and other roofs unusual in form, weathercocks, and gilded figures of double-headed eagles.

After the transfer of the capital to St. Petersburg, the palace fell into disrepair, so Catherine the Great refused to make it her Moscow residence. Apparently, Catherine did try to repair the palace and ordered a repair estimate to be made before changing her mind. In 1768, the wooden palace was demolished on her decree and replaced with a much more modest stone-and-brick structure. Catherine’s palace was also demolished in 1872, and only a few gates and outside buildings remain.

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Fortunately, detailed plans of the original wooden palace had survived, based on which the Moscow Government built a full-sized replica in 2010. The rebuilt palace stands approximately 1 kilometer to the south of its original location, near a 16th century stone church known as the White Column, in order to preserve the historic foundations. The new structure, however, isn’t completely of wood — it was built in concrete and then covered with wooden logs.

Aside from Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich’s replica wooden palace, Kolomenskoye also contains many old wooden buildings and various artifacts that were transported to Kolomenskoye from different parts of the USSR for preservation. A similar “preservation by transportation” work was done in the Republic of Karelia, where dozens of historical wooden buildings were moved to an island from various parts of Karelia for preservation purposes during the 1950s.

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An 18th century sketch of the wooden palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Photo credit

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Sources: Wikipedia / Angel Fire / Russian Wikipedia / Rusmania

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