Back TRIUMPHAL ARCH IN MOSCOW

In the middle of 1814, a wooden Triumphal Arch was built beside the Tver Gates (at the end of present-day Gorky Street) for the solemn meeting with the victorious Russian troops returning from West Europe. The monument quickly became dilapidated and twelve years later, in 1826, the decision was made to replace the wooden Triumphal Arch with a stone one. The prominent Russian architect Osip Bove drafted a project the same year. But the decision about new planning of the parade square at the entrance to Moscow from Petersburg was made and the initial project needed readjustment. The new variant, on which Bove worked for almost two years, was adopted in April 1829.

The stone-laying ceremony took place the same year on August 17. A bronze plaque was bricked up in the base of the future monument with the inscription: "These Triumphal Gates are built in token of the memory of the triumph of Russian warriors in 1814 and the rebuilding of the splendid monuments and buildings of our capital, Moscow, ruined in 1812 by the invasion of the Gauls and the two hundred languages with them.".

The construction of the Triumphal Arch (the first and only monument erected after the war of 1812 in Moscow that was in the form of an arch) stretched out for five years because of lack of money and the indifference of the municipal authorities. Only on September 20, 1834 did the opening take place for this distinctive monument, which reflected the military power, glory and greatness of Russia and the heroism of its victorious soldiers. Bove created a bright and expressive image of unbowed Moscow arisen "from ashes and ruins," as it was written on one of the inscriptions on the arch.

The Triumphal Arch stood near the Tver Gates for 102 years. In 1936, the Soviet government decided to re-plan the square near the Belorussia Station and widen it to relieve transport traffic between Gorky Street and the Leningrad main road. The Triumphal Arch, the guardhouses (buildings for the military sentries) and the remains of the forged fence were pulled down. The rich sculptural decoration of the arch was kept for 32 years in the branch establishment of the Shusev Museum of Architecture on the grounds of the former Donskoy Priory. Even now you can see, to the right from the north entry in Great Cathedral, fragments of the old moldings, cast-iron plaques with reliefs of military armor and heraldic devices, the base and the capital of one of the columns.

In 1966 the Moscow Council of Labor Deputies made the decision about reconstruction of the Triumphal Arch at a new location. The architectural group of the Seventh Workshop of "Mosproject-3" worked out the details of the project. The task before them was not easy: in a single one of the cornices which crowned the arch, it was necessary to place 1276 independent details. The architects, artists and engineers had the prospect of reconstructing the initial appearance of the monument using preserved measurements, drawings and photographs and filling in the missing ornamental elements. Led by one of the elders of Moscow restoration, V. Libson, the leading collective of restorers consisting of the architects D. Kulchinsky and I. Ruben, and the engineers M. Grankina and A. Rubtsova, took the task in hand.

The sculptural restorers of the Industrial Arts Combine of the Soviet Ministry of Culture (that on Profsoyuzny Street) carefully studied the materials in the archives and prepared the plaster casts and molds for the details, which needed to be re-cast anew. More than 150 models, each an exact copy of a restored decorative element, were prepared.

The experienced masters of artistic casting in gypsum forms cast anew the individual figures, the lost parts of the military armor, the coat of arms of the old Russian cities, as well as reliefs with military attributes, in place of the originals, which were assembled in the walls of the vestibule of the panorama museum "Battle of Borodino" in 1962.

The chasers took considerable pains with the castings. Great skill was needed in order to assemble from the incomplete details, the reliefs with scenes of ancient warriors and the pyramids of military armor, and to reconstruct the lost fragments of the cast-iron "cloths" of the Triumphal Arch.

The question of a new place to accommodate the arch, and the extent of the restoration work elicited many disputes and proposals. Some thought that the Triumphal Arch should be restored on the Leningrad main road, not far from the Belorussia Station. Others proposed to move the arch outside the city limits to the Poklonnaya Gora (Hill of Greeting), and to restore it exactly as it had been created by Bove, with small, richly decorated guardhouses symmetrically placed on the both sides of the arch. Like powerful wings, the guardhouses had been connected with the body of the arch by an openwork forged grille. This ensemble had created a felicitous architectural termination for one of the main Moscow highways. However, the architects of the Fourth Workshop of "Mosproject-1", which decided the problems of accommodation, were persuaded that it was necessary to restore the Triumphal Gates as a monument, without guardhouses, at the entry plaza of Kutuzov Avenue.

The problem of installing this grandiose monument was not limited by the choice of the place on Kutuzov Avenue. Whereas Bove had placed the arch in the suburbs of the capital, among small buildings where it showed as the center of an architectural composition, the contemporary city planners were presented with the problem of installing the monument in an established urban landscape, among tall buildings whose height far exceeded that of the arch. It was necessary to place the monument in such a way that the high-rise buildings did not hem it in and it didn't get lost between them, and so that the unique decorative appointments of the arch could be seen from a distance. The architects found the most suitable place on the present-day Victory Square. This time, the Triumphal Arch was to be erected without guardhouses and railings. It was to be built, not as a set of gates with a passage through them, but as a free-standing monument with transport traffic flowing around it on both sides, so that it united and decorated the space between surrounding buildings and at the same time did not merge with it..

Once the reconstruction of the entry plaza on Kutuzov Avenue had been approved by the Executive Committee of the Moscow Soviet, the builders set to work. They had at hand the task of making an absolutely even the surface around future arch, razing to the ground the height near StaroMozhaisky Road, building a new 15-meter-wide passage for transport, and building an underpass to connected both sides of avenue with the strip in the middle where the arch was to be raised.

The construction of the monument was lovingly carried out by the facing workers, concrete workers, fitters, stonecutters and welders of the 37-th Building Trust of Docks and Bridges.

On November 6, 1968 the remarkable creation of Bove found its second life. Through the labor of designers, restorers and builders, the most grandiose Moscow's monument in honor of the victories of Russian people in the Patriotic war of 1812 had been reconstructed.

Nowadays the Triumphal Arch stands on Victory Square, not far from the Poklonnaya Gora (Hill of Greeting), forming a united historical-memorial complex with the panorama museum "Battle of Borodino", the "Kutuzovskaya Izba" (Kutuzov's Hut) and the other monuments nearby.

The front side of the arch faces toward the entrance to the capital. In so placing it, the architects were observing the old tradition according to which the main fa├žades of triumphal gates and arches always face toward the road leading into the city.

The base of the monument is formed by a single-spanned arch with six pairs of 12-meter-high cast-iron pillars of splendid Corinthian order, arranged around two arched supports (or pylons). The pillars, 16 tons each, were newly cast by the Moscow plant "Stankolit" using the details of the single remaining old pillar. Between each pair of pillars, in the niches formed by them, you can see on high pedestals the powerful cast figures of warriors with heart-shaped panels and long spears, wearing old Russian chain-mail and helmets and with cloaks flung over their shoulders in the manner of Roman mantles. The bearded faces of the warriors are severe and expressive. The rhythmic, slightly artificial poses of warriors and their close-fitting, Roman type of tunic pay homage to the dominant classical style of the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Above the figures of warriors, on the upper part of the pylons, the high-reliefs are deftly executed, graceful and full of dynamism. The relief "Expulsion of the French", named by creators "Driving of the Gauls from Moscow" or "Beating the Two Hundred Languages", you can see the hand-to-hand combat against the background of crenellated Kremlin Wall. The Russian warriors in antique armor, irresistibly approaching from the right in dense ranks, press the enemy, whose army flees, throwing down its weapons. In the foreground you can see a Russian warrior. He holds a round shield, with the coat of arms of Russia on it, in his left hand. With a sweep of his right arm he raises his sword over the conquered enemy. This lifelike figure of the Russian warrior personifies the power of people of Russia, who have risen to struggle with the conqueror. The enemy's terror and sense of doom are opposed to the firm confidence and boundless determination of the Russian warriors, the liberators of Moscow. The figure of the fallen enemy warrior with bared breast is expressively executed.

The problem of composition is solved masterfully. The impression of motion is strengthened by the creation of spatial depth. The figures on the foreground and those the depth of the relief differ in size, and the figures nearest the viewer are almost independent sculptures. However, this does not prevent the high-relief from being aptly joined into the plane of the Triumphal Arch's wall. Here, conventionality and reality are merged together. The relief is executed with great patriotic feeling, passion and profoundly vital draftsmanship.

The other high-relief, "Liberated Moscow," is executed in a calmer manner. A reclining Russian beauty personifies Moscow. She holds in her hand a shield with the ancient Moscow coat of arms, on which you can see Saint George killing the dragon. She is wearing a peasant woman's dress and mantle and her head is decorated by a small crown. She extends her right hand to the emperor Alexander I. You can see him in the rich array of a Roman emperor. These central figures are surrounded by the images of Hercules with a cudgel on his right shoulder, Minerva, an old man, a woman and a youth. Behind them, the crenellated Kremlin Wall serves as a backdrop.

You can see the combination of Russian national traits with the antique in the clothes of the figures, as it was in the previous relief. Without doubt, this high-relief is much inferior to "Expulsion of the French," although they are similar to each other in their tendency, leaving behind the traditional limits of classicism and taking on the traits of romanticism.

The traditional figures of Glory trumpeting the victory soar in the pylons above the curve of the arch. On the whole perimeter of the strongly projecting cornice are placed the coats of arms of all of the administrative regions of Russia whose inhabitants participated in the fight with the invader.

On the cornice are allegorical statues of Victory frozen in calm poses, distinctly standing out against the light-colored foyer of the attic. The seated figures are oriented in a strict vertical line with the verticals of the pylons, as if crowning each pair of pillars. At the feet of the Victories are heaped military trophies. The classically severe faces are enlivened by light smiles.

The arch is crowned by the chariot of Glory, which seems to be flying over the attic of the arch. Six horses, moving in measured steps, draw the chariot. In the chariot proudly stands the winged goddess of Victory. With the laurels raised high in her right hand she crowns the victors. The solid, rounded forms of her body exude energy. The glance of this ancient Greek goddess is turned to all who enter the capital. She seems to be rushing forward to announce to them the glad news of the victory of Russian arms.

It is interesting to note that the Metropolitan of Moscow refused to sanctify the Triumphal Arch on its opening in 1834 because of the presence on it of sculptural images of mythological gods.

In the center of the attic, above the road, you can see the memorial plaques with inscriptions on the both sides of the arch. The inscription on the one that faces the city consists of from the words of M. Kutuzov, addressed in 1812 to the Russian troops: "This glorious year has passed. What will not pass, what will not fall silent, are the famous deeds and feats carried out in this year. With your blood, you rescued the Fatherland. Brave and victorious troops! Each of you is the savior of the Fatherland, and Russia greets you by that name." On the main facade is repeated the text of the inset plaque. Reading these lines, we, the descendants to the fifth generation of the heroes of 1812, lose the sensation of time, and it is as if we stood side by side with those who fought beside the walls of Moscow, who raised the city from ruins, who accomplished their feat of arms and their feat of labor more than 160 years ago.

The walls of the arch are faced with white stone, mined near Moscow in the village of Tatarovo. In his time, Bove partly used white stone that had decorated the Mytishinsky aqueduct, which had been reconstructed at that time. The skillful combination in one monument of varied materials and contrasting colors - black cast-iron moldings and white stone - intensifies the artistic expressiveness of the monument.

In this monument, the architectural and sculptural conception are in absolute unity. The arrangement of the sculptures of the arch, conceived and executed with virtuosity, takes into account the play of light and shadow. One is easily convinced of this, if one walks around the arch at sunrise or at sunset, that is, at its maximal illumination. The pillars and the figures of the warriors are not contiguous with the walls of the arch, so it is as if the light flows around them and, reflecting from the white walls, additionally lights the black figures from behind and from the sides.

The creators also splendidly decided the shapely architectural proportions of all elements of the Triumphal Arch. Mentally enlarge the height of the figures of the warriors, and they will disturb your perception of the high-reliefs. Change the dimensions of the pedastal of the arch, and it becomes necessary to resize the cast-iron pillars. Raise the arch above its present 28 meters, and all its sculptural appointments will become small and will get lost on the background of the aperture of the walls. All this reaffirms the correctness of the selected proportions and their strict interdependence.

The talented Russian sculptors Ivan Petrovich Vitali and Ivan Timofeevich Timofeev helped to express Bove's idea of clear and calm consciousness of the victory. They carried out the majority of the work from the architect's drawings, which outlined the general lines of the sculptural decoration of the arch. In the work of Vitali and Timofeev is felt the aspiration to simplicity and truthfulness. Their work is distinguished by self-restraint and dignified tranquillity.

The perfect beauty of forms, vitality of modeling and firmness of lines speak of the sculptors' deep understanding of the essence of antique art and the appearance in their works of realistic motifs. The main merit of Vitali and Timofeev is that in the composition of the Triumphal Arch the monumental sculpture is aptly matched with the massive architectural forms.

The names of its creators and the history of the building and renewal of the Triumphal Arch are recorded on the memorial cast-iron plaque placed under the vault of the arch: "The Moscow Triumphal Gates were built in 1829-1834 in honor of the victories of the Russian people in the Patriotic war of 1812, according to the design of the architects Osip Ivanovich Bove and the sculptors Ivan Petrovich Vitali and Ivan Timofeevich Timofeev. The arch was restored in 1968."

Nine years passed after the reconstruction of the arch, and in September 1977 it was once again surrounded by scaffolding. Roofers, sandblasters, sealers, welders, mechanics, fitters, lapidaries and stonemasons of the trust "Mosstroy-7" worked hard during several weeks, one group succeeding the other. The rubberoid roof of the arch under the hooves of the bronze horses was replaced by Teokol mastic interlaid with fiberglass, which is more resistant to the influence of rains, snow and sun. The zinc covering was replaced by a copper one with a reinforced system of fastening. The corrosion which had appeared here and there on the cast sculpture was removed by polishing the surface to brilliance, and then covering these places with red lead and a special black paint shot with dark green in imitation of patina. The granite pedestal was renovated, the wall and inscriptions were cleaned, and the paving stones on the square surrounding the arch were leveled.

The Triumphal Arch is a beautiful symbol of victorious Moscow, inbued with the idea of the triumph of the Russian people. It is the main monument of the Patriotic War of 1812 in the Russian capital of Moscow. It is a visual realization of the deep gratitude of posterity to the heroic victors. "Russia ought solemnly to recall the great events of 1812," wrote the great Russian critic V. Belinsky. The reconstructed Triumphal Arch on the Square of Victory is the best confirmation of this.


© 1981, Publishing house "Moscow Worker", the book "Moscow to the heroes of 1812" by Smirnov Alexander Alexandrovich.
© 1998-2002, The team of the Project 1812. Text prepared by Oleg Poliakov. Translated by Maxim Gontcharov. Edited by Annette Kavanaugh.