As the visitors turn off the motor road into the lane lined by the stately pines, they see the main building with a tall spire. Its design is marked by clarity and restraint: . a facade in the depth of the court, an unassuming portico above the porch, illuminated in the dusk by the ancient lamps, plain smooth walls with the tall windows, set in white-stone platbands.

The building stands on top of the hill and its garden terraces down to the Moskva River.

A small stone church of the Archangel Mikhail was built here in the middle of the 17th century and the village which appeared later on was named Arkhangelskoye. In the first quarter of the 18th century, it had an old boyar house, a church, a brewery, a mill, weavers’ handicraft houses and a dozen or so peasant huts.

The face of the village began to change after 1730, when Count D. Golitsin, the owner of the estate exhiled from Petersburg, settled here. A big wooden house was built on the grounds to the taste of this highly educated nobleman of the Peter I epoch.

He brought to Arkhangelskoye his remarkable library, one of the largest collections in Russia in that period.

After his death hardly anything was built here for the next fifty years. At the end of the 18th century, his great-grandson A. Golitsin started constructing a superb terraced classical garden based on the design of the French architect de Gurne.

The local craftsmen built a magnificent country palace with a white-stone colonnade. They constructed terraces beyond the southern facade of the building and placed sculptures in the French garden criss-crossed with rows of clipped lime-trees.

After A. Golitsin’s death, the widow sold the estate to Count N. Yusupov, the Director of the Imperial theatres and of the Hermitage. The owner of more than 20,000 serfs, Yusupov speeded up the finishing work in the palace which he intended for his art gallery containing among other outstanding masters of the 17th-19th century the works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Claude Lorraine, Bajamonte Tiepolo, Philippe Buchez, Jean Baptiste Greuse.

Then came the war of 1812. The Napoleon’s soldiers sacked the place, luckily most of the paintings were carted east before they came. In the spring of 1813, after the troops of the French invactors were driven from the Russian land, the restoration work was started on the estate grounds conducted by the Count’s serf architect Vassily Strizhakov. When he died, his disciples under architect Y. Tuyrin and the French painter-designer de Corteil completely restored the house after it had been gutted by the fire in 1820. The garden had been also reconstructed.

Originated 130 years ago. the ensemble today is one of the main attractions for the visitors to the capital.

The ground floor has a suite of halls decorated by the serf craftsmen, unique furniture, sculptures and busts, ancient porcelain and bronze articles.

On the walls are paintings by Van Dyck, Claude Lorraine, two huge canvases by Bajamonte Tiepolo, works by Charles Le Brun, Reni Guido, Philippe Buchez and by many other outstanding European masters of the 17th- 18th century.

On the first floor, where all the furniture and decorations had been destroyed, is the exhibition of the porcelain and faience china-ware and figurines made by the local craftsmen. Much space on this floor is taken up’ by the library containing books printed by the best European printers of the 16th-19th century. You will find here Luther’s Bible printed in 1560, books of the times of the French Revolution of 1789, the first publications of Rousseau, Voltaire, Schiller and the rare Russian books.

Yusupov was fond of the theatre and built a play-house on the estate grounds in which the scenery, made by the Italian master P. Gonzaga, the only in the world, is preserved to these days.

Do not miss “The Colonnade”, the most recent building here. The monumental building surrounded by the open colonnade was intended as a sepulchre for the former owners of the estate. It was completed in 1916 and had never served its purpose. After the restoration, it became a museum where porcelain and faience chinaware are on display.

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4 Dec 2008