Mosaic with angels and limestone stairs: Church ruins unearthed during park improvement in Moscow

Mosaic with angels and limestone stairs: Church ruins unearthed during park improvement in Moscow
The foundation of the Tryokh Svyatiteley church, parts of its altar wall, and other artifacts were discovered by architects on the site of a former summer stage as they oversaw a park improvement project in the Tverskoy District.

The Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage has recognised the church ruins located on the grounds of the former Skorbyashchensky Convent in Novoslobodsky Park as a cultural heritage site and placed them under state protection. The area was examined by architects as part of the park improvement project oversight.

The church was built in the late 19thË—early 20th century at the Skorbyashchensky Convent. It was designed by architect Pyotr Vinogradov (1858-1910). In the 1930s, the church was torn down. Its ruins were used to create a 1.5 m high elevation, on which a paved dance floor was set up. During the years following the war, it was used as a summer stage for children's shows. Some of the wooden flooring has survived to this day.

"Archaeologists knew that there used to be a church somewhere around the elevation, but they did not know its exact location. Only the draft designs of the church have survived. Since the park had seen numerous renovations, archaeologists had to thoroughly examine the area to determine which artifacts date back to the convent’s time. They found some building parts here, including a pillar and remnants of the altar wall (a wall that separates the altar from the "public" area of the church – Of particular archaeological value is the surviving part of the church wall featuring a fragment of a mosaic, on which outlines of angel wings can be made out," Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage said.

The archaeological examination of the site is still in progress, Mr Yemelyanov added. Other finds include a piece of metal door binding, mosaic fragments, marked osaic bricks, a 20-kopek coin dated 1880, and a personal metal cross. They will be examined by specialists and transferred to Moscow museums.

As they surveyed the park, architects also discovered some interesting artifacts dating back to the Soviet period: coins, bottle corks, a lipstick case, keys, locks (including with sawed bail), and a woman’s ring with a stone (presumably jasper).

Older residents of the area say that during the post-war years, the children's park was frequented by outlaws from the Maryina Roshcha neighbourhood, notorious for its high crime rate. It is quite probable that the finds dating from this period belonged to this segment of the population.

Since the improvement project includes only ground work, the church ruins have been conserved, and their future will be decided by experts.

The first major find in the park was made in early July, when architects discovered a large white marble cross (1.5 m x 60 cm) in a power cable trench. This find indicates that there used to be a cemetery here before the church was demolished in the early decades of the 20th century.

The Skorbyashchensky Convent was founded in 1891 and lasted until 1918. It was located on the corner of Novoslobodskaya Street and Vadkovsky Pereulok. The convent had four churches, including the only surviving Church of Saviour the Most Merciful. Three other churches and most of the buildings belonging to the convent were torn down in 1929. The former convent’s site is currently occupied by Moscow State Technological University.

Construction and improvement projects in central Moscow frequently unearth valuable historical artifacts. During recent improvement projects at Armyansky and Maly Zlatoustinsky pereuloks, archaeologists found religious artifacts, household objects, and coins dating from the 18th and 20th centuries. The discovered artifacts will be restored and turned over to city museums.

Improvement projects in Moscow are observed by archaeologists to ensure that discovered artifacts are not damaged. Experts examine the condition and value of the finds to decide how to preserve them and display in the city’s museums. Over the past few years, archaeologists have found more than 10,000 artifacts during city improvement projects. At Birzhevaya Square alone architects have collected about 50,000 artifacts, with some of the oldest dating back to the 12th century. After thorough examination, all artifacts are transferred to Moscow museums.