Vorontsov Palace (Alupka)
The Vorontsov Palace (Ukrainian: Воронцовський палац; Russian: Воронцовский дворец) or the Alupka Palace[nb 1] is an historic palace situated at the foot of the Crimean Mountains near the town of Alupka in Crimea, southern Ukraine. The Vorontsov Palace is one of the oldest and largest residential palaces in all of Crimea, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Crimea's southern coast.
The palace was built from 1828 through 1848 for Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov for use as his personal summer residence at a cost of 9,000,000 silver rubles It was designed in a loose interpretation of the English Renaissance revival style by English architect Edward Blore and his assistant William Hunt. The building incorporates elements of Scottish Baronial, Moorish Revival, and Gothic Revival architecture. Blore had designed many buildings in the United Kingdom, and was later particularly well known there for completing the design of the Buckingham Palace in London.
An important feature of the Vorontsov Palace is the adjoining park ensemble, which features 40 hectares (99 acres) of greenery and forestry arranged by German landscape gardener Carolus Keebach. Today, the Vorontsov Palace is a part of the "Alupka Palace-Park Complex," a national historical preserve including the Massandra Palace in neighbouring Massandra.
The Vorontsov Palace was commissioned as a summer residence for the Governor-General of Novorossiya, Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov (born 1782 – died 1856). Originally, the prince wanted a strictly Classical design, and plans for such a design were executed by the Odessa architect Francesco Boffo and an English architect, Thomas Harrison. Construction began in 1828, however, it was suspended in June 1831 by Vorontsov before the building has risen from its foundations. Vorontsov was travelling in England, where he doubtless saw the buildings of the newly emerging Jacobethan style. It was a hybrid revival style based on the English buildings of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, which, in turn, had been influenced by the Renaissance style that belatedly arrived in England in the 16th century. It was at this time that Vorontsov decided to review the design in order to incorporate these new trends from Western European architecture.
This major change from a Classical design to a far more complex revival style, little known in Russia, meant Vorontsov had to find an alternative architect to execute a new design; this was further complicated by Vorontsov's desire to not only have Jacobethan style, but also to incorporate motifs from Indian architecture which as a result of the British Empire, were also gaining popularity in Britain. This Anglicised interpretation of Indian architecture is exemplified by the Brighton Royal Pavilion, completed in 1823, and the Sezincote House, completed a few years earlier. Both these building drew heavily on the Indian motifs, which were later to be evident at the Vorontsov Palace and were new and novel designs at the time of the prince's visit to England.
Vorontsov decided upon the British architect Edward Blore (born 1789 – died 1879) to complete the building. Blore had already worked on many grand British buildings and a couple of buildings in colonial Australia. Blore himself did not visit the town of Alupka, however, he was well informed about the area's mountainous landscape and terrain. When the construction restarted in 1830, under the supervision of Blore's fellow architect William Hunt, it was discovered that a foundation and basement of the palace's main concourse was already in place, owing to its original design by architects Boffo and Harrison.
Construction of the Vorontsov Palace used new 19th century methods and techniques and took eighteen years to complete; it was designed in a blend of late English Tudor revival style, elements of Scottish Baronial, Moorish Revival, Gothic Revival architecture and Islamic architecture. The northern exterior of the palace is reminiscent of the building and architectural style of a late Tudor country house; the further away a portion of the palace is from the main gates, the less English its architectural style.
While the palace's northern entrance facade and precincts are principally designed in an English late Tudor style, the building has strong eastern architectural influences. These are particularly evident in the chimney stacks which resemble Islamic minarets. The southern garden facade shows the strongest of the building's Islamic influences; it has a flat roof topped by two minaret-style towers at its centre. These minarets flank a massive projecting double height porch entered through a high Islamic horseshoe arch. The interior of the porch, more an elaborately decorated open vestibule than porch, has an inscribed Shahada stating "There is no God but Allah" in Arabic. The porch is flanked by two short wings—each adorned with balconies overlooking over the terraces and their statuary.
The palace consists of a total of 150 rooms, the most notable of which are the blue room, chintz room, dining room, and the Chinese cabinet. The museum covers the first floor's first eight rooms, featuring more than 11,000 exhibits, including engravings of the 18th century, paintings from the 16th through 19th centuries, including those depicting Crimean scenarios by Armenian seascape painter Ivan Aivazovsky, as well as furniture crafted by Russian wood masters from the 19th century.
The library is based on Sir Walter Scott's own library, revealing the personal friendship that Blore had with Scott. Inside, the library features about 6,000 literary and musical works of the 18th and 19th centuries. The interior's woodwork, including the doors, panelling, and ceilings, is made out of oak. The walls are adorned in cloth, with designs made by Dutch, Flemish, French, and Italian painters. The palace's Gothic fireplaces are made out of polished diabase.
Vorotsov imported thousands of his serfs from the Moscow, Vladimir, and Voronezh governorates of the Russian Empire to construct the palace. These unpaid workers performed all the labour by hand, aided only by primitive hand tools. Masons were also brought in to help with the construction. The palace's ashlar blocks were made from a local greenish-gray tinge diabase, chosen for its unique color to match the colours of the surrounding mountainous landscape and forest greenery. All other building materials were imported from outside the Empire.
One of the first of the palace's many rooms to be completed was the main dining room, built from 1830 to 1834. The principal central wing of the mansion was constructed from 1831 to 1837. Between 1841 and 1842, a billiard room was constructed adjoining the dining room. From 1838 through to 1844, the guest wing, the east wing, towers, the service wing, and the front entrance were completed. The final wing built of the mansion was the library wing; this under construction from from 1842 to 1844. The remaining four years of building works were spent on the palace's interior decoration.
The construction of Mikhail Vorontsov's summer residence in Alupka so impressed Tsar Alexander II that he decided to have his own family retreat built at neighbouring Livadia. Thus starting a tradition of imperial residency of the area which would attract many of Russia's smart and most elite to also build villas and palaces in the Crimea.
The palace sits surrounded by gardens and a park; these grounds consisting of 40 hectares (99 acres) were laid out by the German landscape gardener Carolus Keebach. in the first half of the 19th century in the form of an amphitheatre: featuring wide open spaces and gardens planted alongside the walkways. The walkways are gravelled with 29 bags of coloured stones brought in from the Crimean city of Koktebel.
The largest of the landscaping undertakings carried out on the palace's grounds were performed between 1840 and 1848 with the aid of soldiers, who also assisted in the formation and leveling of the terraces laid out before of the palace's southern façade. Fauna was introduced from various locations throughout the world, including the Mediterranean, the Americas, and East Asia. Flora imported over a 150 years ago still numbers almost 200 species.
Keebach had the park designed in such a way that it would incorporate the landscape's native vegetation, mountain springs, and nearby rocky masses, in addition to foreign plant species brought in from the Mediterranean, both North and South America, as well as from East Asia. Today, the park still features more than 200 exotic tree and shrub species, including a wide variety of pam trees, laurels, cypresses, olive trees, and evergreen viburnum, among many others.
In the summer of 1848, the palace and its grounds were enhanced by the addition of three pairs of white marble Medici lions; this statuary was placed alongside the wide flight of steps climbing the terraces to the palace. Each of the statues statues,by Italian sculptor Giovanni Bonnani, are depicted in a varying pose—a pair of "sleeping lions" at the bottom of the steps, "waking lions" near the centre, and "standing lions" at the top nearest the palace.
Crimea's coastal highway runs through the park, dividing it into the upper and lower portions. The upper park is dominated by the mountain springs, as well as by the native southern coast forestry and clusters of foreign tree growth. A feature of the upper park is the Fountain of Trilby, which was placed there in 1829. The lower park is modelled upon a style called the Italian Renaissance garden. It features three pairs of Medici lions near the staircase leading up to the palace's southern façade, carved out of carrara marble by sculptor Giovanni Bonnani.
For three generations, the Vorontsov Palace belonged to the Vorontsov family. Four years after the October Revolution, in 1921, the palace was nationalised, after which it was converted into a museum. This occupied the main, dining, and library wings of the building. In addition to the state-confiscated Vorontsov family possessions, the museum also featured the exhibits of the nationalised estates of the Romanovs, Yusupovs, and Stroganovs all of whom had estates in the vicinity. In 1927, the palace's Shuvalov wing housed a sanatorium "10 Years of October," while the palace's main concourse became home to Alupka resort's polyclinic and spa baths.
When World War II began in 1941, most of the museum's exhibits were evacuated for safety from Alupka. However, some 537 artistic and graphics exhibits (including temporary exhibition paintings from the State Russian Museum and the Simferopol Art Museum), 360 pieces of the building's decor, sets of unique furniture, and a series of historic books were stolen by occupying Nazi German forces, amounting to a loss of 5 million rubles at the time.
During the war, Adolf Hitler presented the palace as a reward to Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, who made it personal headquarters. This explains why the palace was so well preserved. The building was later converted into a museum for Wermacht officers stationed in and around Crimea. Originally, the Nazis had planned to dynamite the palace, but the rapid advance of the Separate Coastal Army and supporting Yalta partisan groups during the Crimean Offensive saved the palace from destruction.
From 11 to 14 February 1945, the Yalta Conference took place in the neighbouring, former imperial Livadia Palace; this was between representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill and his British delegation were given temporary residence within the Vorontsov Palace. Within two weeks, construction workers had restored 22 rooms in the main palace, 23 rooms in the Shuvalov wing, and even replanted the palace gardens. The palace's English-inspired architectural style gained praise from Churchill himself: Churchill was so taken by the garden's Medici lions that he later asked Stalin if he could take them home; Stalin declined the request.
The setting of our abode was impressive ... Behind the villa, half Gothic and half Moorish in style, rose the mountains, covered in snow, culminating in the highest peak in the Crimea. Before us lay the dark expanse of the Black Sea, severe, but still agreeable and warm even at this time of the year. Carved white lions guarded the entrance to the house, and beyond the courtyard lay a fine park with sub-tropical plants and cypresses.
Following the war, the palace was used as a summer retreat for the Soviet secret police, and later as a trade sanatorium. In 1956, the palace was once again reinstated as a museum, and two years later, it was further expanded by art treasures. However, the majority of the artwork looted during the war was never recovered, only a small fragment of the former collection was rturned to the museum. In 1965, the palace was included into the "Alupka Palace-Park Complex," a national historical preserve which also includes the Massandra Palace in neighboring Massandra, built in the Louis XIII château style for Russian Tsar Alexander III.
Although it has survived years of wear and warfare, one of the palace's wings is now in danger of collapsing into the Black Sea below. Cracks have begun to appear in the library, housing almost 10,000 books and manuscripts. Although Edward Blore had a state-of-the-art drainage system built into the palace's foundation, years of neglect and the construction of a nearby sewage pipe in 1974 have helped to increase the potential for a landslide. Another potential looming disaster is surrounding the medieval-style gatehouse near the palace's west side.
Owing to its status as an important local tourist attraction and architectural monument, the Vorontov Palace and its surrounding park complex were commonly featured in Ukrainian and Soviet cinema productions such as: An Ordinary Miracle (1964), Nebesnye lastochki (1976), Crazy Day or The Marriage of Figaro (2004), and Sappho (2008).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vorontsovsky Palace.|
- "Official website". Alupka palace-park museum preserve (in Russian). Retrieved 2011-07-29.
- "M.Vorontsovs palace, Alupka : palaces". Encyclopedia of Sights. Retrieved 2011-07-29.