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PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS

Grand Dukes Burial Place

    
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At the end of the 19th century there were 46 graves of Emperors and Grand Dukes in the St. Peter and St. Pauls Cathedral thus leaving virtually no room for new burials. Hence in 1896 the construction of the Grand Dukes Burial Place began to last till 1908 (the architects D.Grimm, A.Tomishko, L.Benois). On November 5, 1908 the newly constructed building of the Grand Dukes Burial Place was consecrated.  First the altar in honor of Saint Alexander Nevsky was consecrated, then the rest of the building. Already on November 8, 1908 the first tomb appeared in the Grand Dukes Burial Place. At the southern part, next to the alter, the Grand Duke Alexei Aleksandrovitch, the son of Alexander II, was buried. The construction of the new building brought no changes to the established burial procedure the ceremony remained the same. The burial service was read at St. Peter and St. Pauls Cathedral, then the coffin with the remains was brought to the Vault, where a brief lithium was delivered upon which the coffin was lowered into the prepared grave.

Unlike the Cathedral, 60 burial vaults were made in the floor of the Vault while it was still being constructed. The graves themselves also differed from those in the Cathedral. They represented two-tier concrete crypts. Each vault was safely sealed with three stone slabs and over the grave on the floor level a white marble slab was put. Written on it with super-imposed letters was title, name, place and date of birth and death, date of burial.

In 1916 there were 13 tombs at the Vault out of which 8 were transferred from the St. Peter and St. Pauls Cathedral between 1909 1912.

After the revolution of 1917 the Vault experienced hard times. In 1926 the building and its interior decoration were considered to have no artistic value. All bronze decorative elements were removed and melted, the tombs were destroyed, the vaults unsealed. Since the 1930s the building was used as a warehouse of the State Central Book Chamber. Between 1952-1954 the Vault had virtually no owner. On August 19, 1954 the building was given to the Leningrad Department of Culture and it was only 10 years later that the restoration works began. By that time all interior decoration was lost: gone was the stained glass panel in the eastern window, the solium, the Holy Doors, the alter pediment. During the restoration of 1964 they were not recreated.

In 1992 the burial tradition in the Vault was resumed. On May 29 the Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovitch, Alexander IIs great grandson, was buried there. Later, in 1995 the ashes of his parents the Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovitch and the Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna were transferred there.

Spurred by the resumed burials the restoration works began in the Vault, during which the northern graves were examined and put in order, the grave slabs located at the southern wall as well as the tomb of the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovitch were restored.

The recreation of the lost tombs as well as the original outlook of the Vault is still under way.

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