Holy Throne and ancient trinkets: 17th-19th century artefacts unearthed in central Moscow

Holy Throne and ancient trinkets: 17th-19th century artefacts unearthed in central Moscow
The location of the Three Saints’ Church
Archaeologists have unearthed various artefacts which are 150-350 years old. The items, including old trinkets and everyday objects, were found during a city improvement project in Maly Zlatoustyinsky Pereulok and Novoslobodskaya Street where the Three Saints’ Church once stood.

Archaeologists unearthed the Holy Throne site among the newly-discovered ruins of the Three Saints’ Church. The Holy Throne was located inside a square earthen-floor opening in the Church’s altar section along the building’s axis. It was 90 centimetres long and 90 centimetres wide and was rimmed with bricks.

It appears that the heavily damaged Holy Throne was deliberately dismantled. Evidently, it happened when the Church was demolished in the 1930s. The Holy Throne was located beneath the ruins, while the brick framework of a Soviet-era dance floor towered above. The stone or wooden Holy Throne is used for conducting rites and sacraments in Christian churches.

Archaeologists also discovered seven household items dating to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including half of a ring, a fragment of a little bell and a cast-iron button-shaped weight. These artefacts were manufactured in the 17th and 18th centuries. Experts also found an ornamented thimble and the ceramic chibouk/ mouthpiece of an 18th century Turkish smoking pipe, an 18th-19th century iron heel-plate and the base of a 19th century porcelain candlestick.

The open ornamented thimble, used for mending and stitching rough materials, such as leather and thick fabrics, is the best-preserved artefact. It is decorated with several ornamental belts. Archaeologists point out that the mass production of thimbles in Russia began only in the 17th century.

Experts will meticulously study all artefacts that have been unearthed in Maly Zlatoustyinsky Pereulok, and they will later transfer them to local museum collections. As for the above-mentioned Holy Throne, until a decision is made on the possible restoration of the Three Saints’ Church buildings on Novoslobodskaya Street, it would be premature to completely excavate the foundations of the church because of the risk of damage.

“Excavation works on Moscow’s streets are yielding more and more interesting artefacts. While implementing the 2018 city improvement programme, archaeologists have found over 5,000 artefacts, mostly household items. It is always interesting to guess who could have used these items, for example, worn a ring. Or, perhaps, someone smoked a pipe, while reading a book in a candle-lit room, or sewed up buttons using a thimble. I believe that many city residents will agree with me that this brings us a bit closer to those who lived in Moscow and its environs several hundred years ago,” Head of the City Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov noted.

This summer, experts located the ruins of the Three Saints’ Church, while improving Novoslobodsky Park. The Church, designed by architect Pyotr Vinogradov (1858-1910), was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at the Convent of Consolation for All the Afflicted. It was demolished in the 1930s; construction waste formed a 1.5-metre tall mound for a brick-framed dance floor. After the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, the dance floor was turned into a summertime stage hosting various events and festivities for children. Part of the wooden planking survives to this day.

Ruins of the Three Saints’ Church

In early August, the Department of Cultural Heritage declared these ruins a newly-found regional-level cultural heritage site. Therefore any renovation or restoration work can be carried out only under the Department’s supervision and should be duly coordinated with its officials.

Mr Yemelyanov noted that people should not intrude on excavation sites and newly-found properties. Nor should they dig up various sites on their own because this may prove dangerous for cultural landmarks and for the people themselves. These actions are also punishable under the Code of Administrative Offences, he added.

A mosaic with an angel at the Three Saints’ Church, 20th century

The local convent at the intersection of Novoslobodskaya Street and Vadkovsky Pereulok was established in 1891 and closed in 1918. The Convent had four churches, including the Church of the Most Merciful Saviour that survives to this day. The other three churches and most of the other buildings were demolished in 1929. Moscow State Technological University Stankin is currently located here.

Archaeologists keep an eye on renovation, improvement and construction projects and the relaying of utility lines. They unearth items that have historical significance and preserve the memory of city life and past generations of Muscovites. Experts are doing their best to prevent any damage to artefacts and landmarks, they analyse their condition and decide how to preserve them and whether to display them at museums.

For example, archaeologists discovered household and religious-art items, as well as 18th-20th century coins, during the renovation of the Armyansky Pereulok and Maly Zlatoustyinsky Pereulok. The artefacts will be restored and preserved and later displayed at local museums.

Fragment of an icon frame. Maly Zlatoustyinsky Pereulok, 19th century