A portrait of General of the Artillery Pyotr Melissino in the Kursk gallery, Russia.
Cephalonia, Venetian Republic
|Years of service||1740 — 1797|
|Rank||General of the Artillery|
Pyotr Ivanovich Melissino (Greek: Πέτρος Μελισσηνός, Petros Melissinos), (Russian: Пётр Мелиссино), (French: Pierre De Mellisino); c. 1726 – c. 1797) was a General of the Artillery of the Russian Empire and was widely considered the best Russian artilleryman of the 18th century.
He was born as Petros Melissinos on the Greek island of Cephalonia in 1726, he was of Greek origin and his father was a physician who belonged to the noble Greek family of Melissenos (Greek Μελισσηνός). Throughout his life, he prided himself on his Greek origin. He received a thorough education in his youth and was fluent in many languages including Russian, German, Italian, French, Turkish as well as his native Greek, he also knew some Latin and English. Melissinos arrived in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great and ended his career as Vice-President of the Commerce Collegium in 1740-45.
During the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774, Pyotr Melissino was in charge of the Russian artillery. His efficient command helped Russian forces prevail against a fourfold numerical superiority of the Ottomans at Khotin, Larga, and Kagula. In 1783, he was appointed Director of the Artillery and Engineering Corps in St. Petersburg. He is remembered as an organizer of the artillery education in the Russian Empire. After the ascension of Emperor Paul, Melissino was put in charge of the entire Russian artillery but died the following year.
Melissino was instrumental in promoting the career of one of Paul's favourites, Aleksey Arakcheyev. His son Aleksey Melissino, a Major General, was killed in the Battle of Dresden (1813). His brother, Ivan Melissino, was Dean of the Moscow University under Catherine the Great.
Jenkins (pp. 35–36) says:
|“||Melissino himself was intelligent and ambitious and was doing much to promote the cause of the artillery. He could certainly have enjoyed an even more illustrious career were it not for certain defects of character which made him appear less serious about his profession than was in fact the case. He had a reputation of being vain, weak, and a spendthrift. He was a prominent figure in Saint Petersburg society; he spoke several languages, fenced and danced well, and was an authority on the theater. But it was difficult to take him seriously, and society had nicknamed him "le grand seigneur manqué." Nonetheless, the school rapidly acquired a name under him, and in very little time the number of cadets more than doubled. The sensible changes in the studies which he introduced with the help of his abler pupils bore fruit; and the major reform in the artillery which subsequently took place was largely the work of his former pupils.||”|
Melissino as a freemason and his Masonic circle
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In 1765, Catherine the Great was immersed in formulating her “Grand Instruction”, which was intended as a “guide to the Enlightened principles on which a better government and society might ultimately rest.” At the same time as the empress was composing her instruction, the eminent masonic figure of Melissino established his new Masonic rite in St. Petersburg inspired by chivalric and clerical symbolism and rituals, which advocated an alternative worldview in which alchemy played a pivotal role. Over the course of the following two decades Melissino’s high-grade system of Freemasonry acted as a key crucible in which both Russian and European aristocrats indulged their passion for alchemy in the Russian capital. We do not exactly know when Melissino was initiated into Freemasonry. The first reliable Masonic reference about Melissino is made by Boris Telepneff:
“Melozino Rite (sic) which had flourished already from 1765 in the Lodge of Silence”. And the same author adds:
“A ‘Peter Mellozino’ is listed as Worshipful Master of a Lodge at Yassy, Moldavia, N° 469, one of the five Lodges composing ‘the Grand Provincial Lodge of Russia [...] originally established in St. Petersburg under the auspices of the Berlin Grand Lodge “Royal York”. This event took place on the 22nd May, 1770: Yelagin was elected Grand Master”.
From whom Melissino have been masonically influenced? He may have been influenced by Baron (Louis) Théodore Henri de Tschoudy (1727–1769), who was in the Russian service between 1752–1755 and 1757–1760, and who championed alchemical and cabbalistic symbolism in his Masonic rites and philosophy. He was one of the most active apostles of the school of Ramsay, and adopted his theory of the Templar origin of Freemasonry. Tschoudy, the author of the ritual of The Flaming Star (L’étoile flamboyante), was in Russia off and on from 1753 to 1760 and acted as the private secretary of I.I. Shuvalov. He used the name of Chevalier de Lussy and Comte de Putelange and published the first French language periodical in Russia, le chaméleon littéraire, in 1759. His masonic rituals seem to have been very influential. One must look into the distinctive features he developed in the mid 1760s within his own Masonic system.
The seven degrees according to the Melissinos’ system were as follows:
1. Entered Apprentice;
4. Dark Vault;
5. Scottish Master;
7. Spiritual Knight (Magnus Sacerdos Templariorum)
It wouldn’t be an invalid assumption to attribute the ritual of the seven grade system to Melissino. The possibility of his authorship is likely to be the case if one considers the following facts carefully. He had been a keen freemason for several years, fluent in many foreign languages, erudite, person of great education, member of esoteric circles and thus well-versed in esotericism and also in the Eastern Orthodox ritual. This is the reason why Melissino easily combined chivalric and clerical mythology and rituals linked to the Knights Templar and Orthodox and Catholic liturgical practices alongside Rosicrucian-style esoteric philosophy immersed in alchemical lore. Furthermore, Melissino had many contacts with distinguished Greek freemasons who lived in St. Petersburg during that era. In fact, he could be regarded as the most prominent representative, as it were, of the Greek community of Petersburg. Another eminent figure of the society of St. Petersurg and member of Melissino circle was Marinos Carburi or Charvouris (In Greek Μαρίνος Χαρμπούρης), another Greek from the Island of Kefallonia, serving as lieutenant-colonel in the Russian Army. Marinos (although we do not have any reference proving that himself was a freemason) was the brother of the famous freemason Marco Carburi (1731-1808), a chemistry professor at the University of Padua, who was sent in 1764-1765 to Sweden by the Venetian government to study mining techniques. Marco, while in Stockholm, visited a lodge, where conferred with Swendeborg. It must be pointed out that Carburi was the major proponent of the Rose – Croix masonry in Italy. He is the one that signed the Chart for the installation of the first lodge in Corfu, under the name Beneficenza.In April 1782, secret societies were forbidden in Russia. Although Freemasons were non included, Melissino foreseeing the probable victory of Yelagin’s Grand Lodge, now left almost supreme, took advantage of the edict to gracefully withdraw from the contest and retired to Moscow, directing his lodges to close their doors, in obedience to the law.
- Schenker, Alexander M. (2003). The Bronze Horseman: Falconet's monument to Peter the Great. Yale University Press. pp. 172–173. ISBN 0-300-09712-3.
Marin’s first connection in St. Petersburg was his compatriot Colonel Melissino, who, as Russia's best artilleryman, must have been of considerable interest to Venetian intelligence services.
- Masson, Charles François Philibert (1802). Secret memoirs of the court of Petersburg: particularly towards the end of the reign of Catharine II and the commencement of that of Paul I. T.N. Longman and O. Rees. pp. 339–340. OCLC 35652011.
GENERAL MELISSINO - In these Memoirs we have frequently spoken of general Melissino, whose name will long live in Russia. He originally came from Cephalonia, and prided himself on his Greek origin, which he was fond of recollecting… A sure discernment, an exquisite sensibility, with him compensated for a particular study which circumstances had not allowed him ; but he spoke, equally well and correctly, Russian, German, Italian, and French : he knew enough of modern Greek and Turkish to make himself understood; and he was not unacquainted with Latin and English. Gallant and magnificent, his military entertainments, his camps, his parties, and even his orgies and follies, will long be the subject of conversation.
- Telepnef, Boris (2003). Outline of the History of Russian Freemasonry. Kessinger Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7661-8110-6.
Peter Melissino, a Russian General, of Greek extraction; born, 1726; died, 1797
- Илизаров, Симон Семенович (1999). Московская интеллигенция XVIII века. Янус-К. p. 178. ISBN 978-5-8037-0028-9.
МЕЛИССИНО Иван Иванович (1718—23 марта 1795, Москва) — литератор, куратор Московского университета. Сын греческого лекаря, который выехал из Венеции в Россию при ...
- Mandich, Donald R.; Placek, Joseph Anthony (1992). Russian heraldry and nobility. Dramco. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-9633063-9-5.
MELISSINO This family is descended from a most distinguished Greek family which resided in Constantinople …A descendant, Rikhard Melissino in 1454 left behind his property on the Island of Crete and settled in Cephalonia from which in more recent times Ivan Afanasievich Melissino departed for Russia. He and his descendants served the Russian Throne in distinguished posts and gained fame for their family...
- Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev: Grand Vizier of the Russian Empire (Dial Press, 1969)