Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

was

as a work of so late an era as the fifteenth century and the great metropolitan temple of an (even at that time) considerable nation, this brick-built edifice is .only calculated to excite astonishment from the primitive rudeness of its appearance, and, in point of real architectural merit, can never, with all its gilding, be brought to stand the slightest comparison with the contemporary structures of the West.

All the most remarkable buildings of the Kremlin were erected during the reign of Ivan III., or that of his successor Vassili. The walls and towers of that enclosure were constructed by two Italians, Marco and Pietro Antonio, between the years 1485 and 1492. The banqueting-chamber, which subsists at present, as described by Jenkinson in 1557, a fair great hall in the midst whereof is a pillar, four square, very artificially made,'* begun by Marco in 1487, and finished in 1491, by Pietro Antonio. The palace of the Tsars is the work of a Milanese named Aleviso, who began it in 1499, and finished it in 1508. The church of St. Michael was completed by the same architect in 1507. But the buildings of the Kremlin must not be considered in detail. Mean and insignificant as many of them are, if minutely and separately examined, the effect of the whole when seen from almost any point of view is, beyond conception, stately and picturesque. The strange and brilliant summits of so large an assemblage of churches, the contrast of bright colours with which many of them are painted, the curious architecture of the mural and other towers, and above all the palace of the Tsars, with its terraces, balconies, flights of steps and remarkable roof, unite to form a picture of more than ordinary richness and pomp; to which, indeed, we are by no means persuaded that all Europe can furnish a parallel, except perhaps on the shores of the Bosphorus. It will not be forgotten that this striking group of buildings, after having escaped destruction by fire, during the great conflagrations which ravaged Moscow in 1547, in 1571, and on the arrival of the French in 1812, was mined in two places by those insatiate marauders, on the eve of their memorable retreat. Fortunately no object of primary interest has suffered irreparable injury from the effects of this wanton explosion for which the obsolete military character of the Kremlin may have furnished a miserable pretext, but of which the real motives are no where to be found, but in the mischievous malignity of disappointment.

Notwithstanding the troubles which distracted Russia dụring the long minority of Ivan IV., the love of church-building was carried to such an excess that the young monarch, soon after he assumed the reins of government, found it necessary to restrain the practice by special enactments. The edifices thus raised at the expense of private individuals were probably, for the most part, small and unimportant; but the pre-eminent work of this reign was the extraordinary church or rather nest of churches still extant in the Kitai-Gorod at Moscow, which being dedicated to several different saints is described under various names, but is chiefly familiar to an English eye from the print in Dr. Clarke's first volume, where it is denominated the church of St. Baş:) No description can give an adequate idea of this strange anu fantastic building, in the design and execution of which the peculiarities of Russian architecture seemed to have reached their utmost limit of extravagance. Numerous bulbous cupolas, each differing from its neighbour in some detail of form or ornament, an oddly-shaped central spire, and the motley colours with which the whole exterior is painted, give to this extensive and irregular mass, a striking originality of character, which, though wild and barbarous, can never, we think, be contemplated without feelings of interest and admiration. "Pious individuals,' says Dr. Clarke,

* Purchas's Pilgrims, III. 242.

assumed * Hakluyt, i. 224.

bequeath legacies towards the perpetual gilding or painting of this or that dome according to their various fancies, so that it is likely to remain a splendid piece of patchwork for many generations. The date assigned to its construction by this ingenious traveller is 1538; but as it is said by the Russian historians to have been erected in honour of the capture of Casan, the era of its foundation must necessarily be placed at a period subsequent to that event, which took place in 1552. The interior is a cluster of small chapels and dark passages, and is totally unworthy of remark.

Ivan IV., though a ferocious tyrant, was much addicted to outward acts of piety and devotion; and whereas,' says an anonymous but apparently contemporary authority,* the Russes, in doing reverence and adoration unto God, do beat their foreheads against the ground, this Ivan Vasilovich, with performing the same ceremony, causeth his forehead to be full of boines and swellings, and sometimes to be black and blue, and very often to bleed. He is much delighted with building of churches, and spareth no cost for that purpose.' How great may have been the cost of the church in question we have no where the means of ascertaining : but if we may give credit to the anecdote, first related, we believe, by Olearius, the architect paid dearer for his labours than the prince, who incontinently deprived the poor foreigner of his eyes, lest he should emulate this master-piece else

where.

where. So grotesque and inconvenient a building, however, was not likely to provoke imitation. In fact, we find, from the evidence of existing monuments, that its influence produced but little effect on the subsequent fashions of Russian architecture; and the simpler form of Aristoteli's cathedral, with its square nave, four piers and five cupolas, continued during the 16th and part of the 17+

es to be the model most usually adopted in the Iu h's all the more considerable churches. 1'ransepts, as appears from the instance at Daphne in Attica, were erected in Greece as early as the reign of Arcadius and Honorius ; but since the Greek artists employed by the Russians seem to have proposed to themselves no other object of imitation but the single church of St. Sophia at Constantinople, it is not surprizing that they neglected to avail themselves of an invention which they did not find practised in that sumptuous fabric. In the course of the 17th century, however, a new arrangement began to obtain and soon produced a complete alteration of the plan which had hitherto been generally prevalent. The belfry belonging to the more ancient Russian churches, wherever such a building exists at all, is always insulated and often removed to such a distance from the nave as to appear a totally independent structure. It now became customary to place it invariably on the western side, and to connect it with the body of the church (to which its lower story afforded a species of vestibule) by a passage of moderate length. Thus, by means of this passage and vestibule to the west, and of the sanctuary which projected at the opposite extremity to the east, the ground-plan of the whole building was made to assume the shape of a cross, which was soon modified into a form little differing from that of our cathedrals. The connecting passage was enlarged, till it became the most considerable portion of the church: the ancient square nave acquired by this alteration the appearance of a transept, while the sanctuary alone was suffered to retain its former proportions, having never been sufficiently expanded to admit of a comparison with a Latin choir.* During the reign of Peter the Great, Russian church architecture was still further deprived of its original and national character, by the general adoption of the classical orders, which became fashionable at that period. The bulbous cupola likewise, though never altogether laid aside, began at the same time to fall into comparative disuse, and was replaced by an overgrown dome of the Italian form, which, being painted green, is, at present, the never-failing head-piece of every modern Rus

Evidence of this change may be traced in many of the smaller churches at Moscow, particularly in that near the Kunetskoy Most. VOL. XXVI. NO, LI.

sian

D

sian church. An ancient but tasteless custom was injudiciously retained of degrading the exterior architecture by the application of bright and incongruous colours, which though sufficiently suited to the irregular and barbaric structures of the Muscovite Tsars, but ill accord with the classical elevations of so young a city as St. Petersburg.

With the reign of such an innovator as Peter, our remarks on the antiquities of Russian sacred architecture may be brought to a timely conclusion; nor will it be necessary to detain the reader by many observations on the churches of the modern capital, few of which, either in point of style or of history, can be supposed to possess much interest in the eyes of a foreigner. That, indeed, which is dedicated to St. Isaac of Dalmatia, derives a claim to our notice from the unusual richness of its materials, having been constructed in great part of coloured marbles under the reign of Katherine II. ; but the architecture is beavy and poor, and the interior dark at noon-day. It was left unfinished at the death of the empress ; and the slabs prepared for its completion, having been diverted by her unworthy successor to the decoration of his own new palace, the remainder of the church was most impotently concluded in brickwork-a circumstance which gave

rise at the time to much interchange of severity between the wits and the autocrat of the north.

The church of our Holy Mother of Casan is the most beautiful which has hitherto been seen in Russia, and is, moreover, the work of a Russian architect,-a serf, as we have been told, of the Strogonoff family. It would not be easy to devise a more graceful accessory than the semicircular colonnade, which gives to the facade of this cathedral the air of a miniature of St. Peter's; but even here, a difficulty in the situation has led to the adoption of an arrangement, which detracts materially from the effect of the general design. We cannot but regret that this noble approach, instead of conducting the worshipper to the great western entrance of the temple, whence the perspective of the whole interior might be opened at once to his view, should be contrived with such provoking.infelicity, as to land him at the door of a transept! The church contains thirty-six Corinthian columns, each consisting of a single piece of red granite, four feet and a half in diameter. These were all furnished from quarries in the rocks of Finland, and constitute, perhaps, the most considerable work of the kind which has been executed since the decline of Rome. In other respects, however, there is little to admire in the interior; where the white-washed walls, though partially concealed by French standards taken in the campaigns of 1819-19, have in general a'cold and unsatisfactory effect, when contrasted with the rich hues of the sombre but magnificent pillars. The last, indeed, is a defect which may be easily remedied with the progress

of

opulence and taste, and if others more essential must remain, the Russians will still have abundant reason to glory in the possession of this fine public building-a monument of the genius of their artists, enriched with the blameless trophies of their patriotic defenders, and by far the most successful addition which has been made, in our time, to the ecclesiastical architecture of Europe.

Art. III.- A Geographical and Commercial View of Northern

Central Africa; containing a purticular Account of the Course und Termination of the greut River Niger in the Atlantic

Ocean. By James M'Queen. Edinburgh. 1821. 2. Pupers relating to the Suppression of the Slave Trude. Printed

by order of the House of Commons. 1821. IN N that part of the Gulph of Guinea, generally known by the

name of the Bight of Biafra, are situated four islands at equal, distances from each other, extending in a straight line to the south-west; their names, beginning at the northernmost and nearest to the African coast, are Fernando Po, Prince's Island, St. Thomas's, and Annabon. The last three belong to Portugal, and are peopled by a sort of half-cast Portugueze and negroes; first and largest is destitute of Europeans, and inhabited by a peculiar race, differing in manners, language and features not less from the other islanders, than from the negroes on the neighbouring continent. It was among the numerous discoveries made by the Portugueze towards the end of the fifteenth century; and from its beautiful appearance, received, from Ferpa) do Po the discoverer, the name of Ilha de Formosa : this name, however, it soon lost, and, for the last three centuries, has been known only by that of Fernando Po. The Portugueze built a fort on this island, but for some reason or other shortly quitted it altogether; and, about the middle of last century, exchanged it with the Spaniards for the small island of Trinidad, situated about 500 miles from the coast of Brazil, opposite to the bay of Espirito Santo.

The new possessors attempted to form a settlement upon it, but very soon abandoned the design and the island together, alleging, as a reason, the ferocity of the natives. Since that period, so rare has been even the casual visit of any European vessel, that the present generation of islanders had never seen one till the Pheasant sloop of war made her appearance there in the beginning of the present year; when Captain Kelly was visited by a man of colour, a native of Martinique, who called him

D 2

self

« AnteriorContinuar »