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Massandra Palace: Well-Preserved Residence of the Last Romanov Emperors

At the Fountain in Front of Massandra Palace
The working fountain in a beautiful park in front of Massandra Palace on a nice sunny morning.

The construction of the Massandra Palace began in 1879. Since then, the estate has changed owners at least 4 times, but no one has ever actually lived in the castle. There has never been a comprehensive reconstruction of the facades, therefore, the palace has been preserved in its original form both inside and out.  Massandra Palace is now a museum dedicated to the reign of the Romanovs, and the exhibits present the original artifacts that were made by potters, stone-cutters, furniture makers and woodcarvers commissioned by the Imperial Court.

Inside you can see that all the rooms, including classrooms, a bedchamber, a billiard room, and a library, look quite habitable, nevertheless, neither the original owners who implemented the original construction had time to live in this residence, and those who subsequently owned the palace did not like it, despite the fact that it is a fabulous and majestic building.  The story behind the imperial residence in Massandra is therefore quite interesting.

Owners of the Massandra Palace

In 1879, Semyon Vorontsov, the son of the Governor-General of New Russia, commissioned the French architect Etienne Bouchard to construct a magnificent castle with two central towers, a design that was similar to French castles located in the Loire Valley. Unfortunately, the architect died, and for several years no one was interested in the palace until it was bought for Alexander III.

Woman-Sphinx with a Ball at Massandra Palace
Sculpture of a woman-sphinx with a ball at the facade of Massandra Palace located on the Southern coast of Crimea
Front angle view of a sculpture of the woman-sphinx with a ball at Southern facade of Massandra Palace.

The emperor liked the idea of ​​building a castle in the French style and invited the talented Russian architect (of German ancestry) Maximilian Egorovich Messmacher (also known as Maximilian von Messmacher) to continue the construction. Messmacher’s design was reminiscent of a French chateau, being less austere, and with the addition of many windows, turrets, and spires. The resulting building was an excellent example of other royal castles built in the style of the storyteller Charles Perrault. Nevertheless, the original source of inspiration, the castles of the French aristocracy from the Valais de la Loire, is clearly traceable.

Following the death of Emperor Alexander, the palace was opened to the public. The furniture was created specifically for public visits, so the palace has no common interior design concept, but a mix of several different styles.

Nicholas II loved to walk around Massandra, came to the area primarily for hunting, but stopped in the palace itself only once, when it was necessary to spend the night on the road.

Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty (Angle View)
Angle view of the interior of the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty in Massandra Palace made by the tradition of classicism.

After many years, the palace became a state summer residence and the “property” of Joseph Stalin. At this time workers at the palace removed the original satyrs from the fences, replacing their heads with lions, because they considered that their “leader” would not like the original sculptures. However, Stalin did not like the Massandra Palace (possibly because of his hatred of imperial luxury), and therefore his cottage was more ascetic and protected.

Modern Exposition

The facades of the building still look as magnificent as they did after their original construction. The scaly roof of layered graphite, made according to old, already forgotten, French technology, has been well preserved. The palace is “guarded” by a satyr playing the flute and two statues of sphinx-like women with balls.

In the castle, you can see the chambers of the emperor and empress, and their fully equipped cabinets with preserved fireplaces. Local Crimean brown marble was used for the fireplaces, and the masters used solid pieces of stone for the portals.

The interior decorations, such as vases, frames, candlesticks, dominate the Baroque and Rococo styles.

Under Branches of the Giant Sequoiadendron
Under the huge branches of Sequoiadendron giganteum, evergreen coniferous tree of gigantic size in Massandra park.

Around the palace, a magnificent park with fountains has been preserved. The park covers an area of ​​almost 40 hectares. Unconditional decorations of this park are two giant evergreen sequoias (sequoiadendron giganteum), the highest mammoth trees in the Crimea. The trees were planted on the western facade of the Massandra Palace 130 years ago when Messmacher was involved in the project during the 1890s. At the present time, the approximate girth of the giant sequoias is roughly nine meters, and the height around forty meters. The Nikitsky Botanical Garden received the seeds for these trees in 1840 from the former Russian colony Ross in California.

Bust of Alexander III at Massandra Palace
Bust of Russian Emperor Alexander III (years of life 1845-1894) at the Massandra Palace.

The museum in the Massandra Palace provides an opportunity for the public to view the life of the imperial family, and to appreciate those things the Romanovs loved to surround themselves with, and to feel the atmosphere of that era.

The story of the palace is also written in the present, and on June 1st, 2017, a bronze bust commissioned from the sculptor Apollonov, was unveiled to commemorate the life of Tsar Alexander III The Peacemaker. The event also commemorated the 175 year anniversary of the birth of the palace architect Maximilian Messmacher; the 135 year anniversary of the founding of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society and the 25 year anniversary of the opening of the Massandra Palace as a museum.

Address and Opening Hours

Simferopolskoe sh., 13, Masandra

Every day from 08:00-19:00 (July, August, mid of September); 09:00 to 18:00 (April, May, June, mid of September, October); 09:00 to 17:00 (January, February, March, November, December)

Photographs from the Tour

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