25. The Kremlin as seen by a British naval captain
Narrative of a Visit to the Courts of Russia and Sweden in the Years 1830 and 1831 by Captain C. Colville Frankland, RN.
(Charles Colville Frankland (1797-1876) entered the navy in 1813, was made captain in 1841 and retired as admiral in 1875. He published a book of his travels to Constantinople in 1829, and this narrative of his visit to Russia and Sweden in 1832.)
After dinner I visited all the churches of the Kremlin, beginning with the Cathedral of the Assumption, (Ouspenskoi.) This is a very curious and interesting church, of I know not what style of architecture, but partaking of the Norman, Saxon, Byzantine, and Lombard. Its interior is decorated with very curious old frescoes, which are valuable, not for their intrinsic merit, but inasmuch as they show what was the state of the art of painting in 475, or rather in 154, when the church was decorated by the Tsar Vassili Ivanovitch. This cathedral boasts of a Virgin (`but well I wot the only virgin there,') painted by St Luke, (the sweet physician,) — the said St Luke could have hardly had time to paint all the pictures, bad as they are, attributed to him, and to write his Gospel into the bargain. This black ill-looking idol is decorated with a superb solitaire, valued at 8o,000 roubles: the frame containing her ladyship's portrait is estimated at 200,000 more. Money badly spent, thought I.
There are so many holy pictures of Saints, Martyrs, & c. here, miraculous as well as ludicrous, that I cannot attempt to name them. This church contains the tombs of the Patriarchs, and abundance of highly venerated relics. C'est un triste sort que celui d'un Saint; he is not permitted to rest quietly in his tomb,
but is exposed to the gazings, and mouthings, and mumblings of deviits of all ages, classes and sexes, from the rising up of the sun until the going down of the same. The Iconostase, or Holy of Holies, is resplendent with gold and silver, and magnificence. It contains inestimable riches, consisting of ornaments
belonging to the Patriarchate and priesthood, and to the divine service; besides which, are various valuable presents made to the church, and abundance of relics, by Tzars and nobles. The silver lamps alone in this cathedral are said to weigh 8 poods. The Iconostase contains 5o poods more silver.
2nd. The Cathedral of the Annunciation, founded in 1397, rebuilt in 1489, finished by Aleviso in iscri, repaired by Peter the Great, and brushed up by Catharine II in 177o; it is also ornamented with curious frescoes, among which are the heads of heathen philosophers. The Iconostase dazzles the eyes with gilded
silver. This church contains a great variety of musty and disgusting relics set in silver frames, which the deluded and absured people were kissing with great veneration. Independently of these spiritual riches, the temporal of the church amount to 2 poods, 5 pounds, 2 zolotniks of gold, and 34 poods of silver. 3rd. The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, founded in 1333, in commemoration of a famine, contains the tombs of the Grand Princes and Tzars up to Peter I ranged in battlearray all round its interior. Here are likewise the relics of St Michael of Tchernigoff, and of St Dimitri of Ouglich.
4th. The Church of the Saviour in the Woods is a curious old specimen of Muscovite architecture. It contains the relics of St Stephen of Perme. It was founded in 1330.
5th. The Monastery and Church of Tchoudoff, founded in 1365. Here the Grand-Duke Vassili Vassilievitch shut up the metropolitan Isidore, who was upon the point of making common cause with the Western Church, by acknowledging the supremacy of the Pope. Here are a few relics of saints, &c. and a great many Persian banners captured by Yermoloff and Paskewitch.
6th. The Church of the Nunnery of Vossnassenie. Here I saw all the nuns, and d-d ugly they were.* They looked like travestied men. Nothing can be more unbecoming than their high black cap, shaped like the helmet of the infantry of the feudal times; and their long, slovenly, black and dirty gown, or rather coat.