The State Historical Museum is a museum of Russian history wedged between Red Square and Manege Square in Moscow. Its exhibitions range from relics of prehistoric tribes that lived on the territory of present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. The total number of objects in the museum's collection comes to millions.
The place where the museum now stands was formerly occupied by the Principal Medicine Store, built by order of Peter the Great in the Moscow baroque style. Several rooms in that building housed royal collections of antiquities. Other rooms were occupied by the Moscow University, founded by Mikhail Lomonosov in 1755.
The museum was founded in 1872 by Ivan Zabelin, Aleksey Uvarov and several other Slavophiles interested in promoting Russian history and national self-awareness. The board of trustees, composed of Sergey Solovyov, Vasily Klyuchevsky, Uvarov and other leading historians, presided over the construction of the museum building. After a prolonged competition the project was handed over to Vladimir Osipovich Shervud (or Sherwood, 1833–97).
The present structure was built based on Sherwood's neo-Russian design between 1875 and 1881. The first 11 exhibit halls officially opened in 1883 during a visit from the Tsar and his wife. Then in 1894 Tsar Alexander III became the honorary president of the museum and the following year, 1895, the museum was renamed the Tsar Alexander III Imperial Russian History Museum. Its interiors were intricately decorated in the Russian Revival style by such artists as Viktor Vasnetsov, Henrik Semiradsky, and Ivan Aivazovsky. During the Soviet period the murals were proclaimed gaudy and were plastered over. The museum went through a painstaking restoration of its original appearance between 1986 and 1997.
Notable items include a longboat excavated from the banks of the Volga River, gold artifacts of the Scythians, birch-bark scrolls of Novgorod, manuscripts going back to the sixth century, Russian folk ceramics, and wooden objects. The library boasts the manuscripts of the Chludov Psalter (860s), Svyatoslav's Miscellanies (1073), Mstislav Gospel (1117), Yuriev Gospel (1119), and Halych Gospel (1144). The museum's coin collection alone includes 1.7 million coins, making it the largest in Russia.
A branch of the museum is housed in the Romanov Chambers Zaryadye and Saint Basil's Cathedral. In 1934 The Museum of Women's Emancipation at the Novodevichy Convent became part of the State Historical Museum. Some of the churches and other monastic buildings are still affiliated with the State Historical Museum.References:
The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church's towers are 80 m high and topped by four small spires.
In the 11th century, this area was occupied by a Romanesque church, which was built there for foreign merchants coming to the nearby Týn Courtyard. Later it was replaced by an early Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn in 1256. Construction of the present church began in the 14th century in the late Gothic style under the influence of Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler. By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The church was controlled by Hussites for two centuries, including John of Rokycan, future archbishop of Prague, who became the church's vicar in 1427. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.
After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation (part of the Counter-Reformation). Consequently, the sculptures of 'heretic king' George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made from by melting down the chalice. In 1679 the church was struck by lightning, and the subsequent fire heavily damaged the old vault, which was later replaced by a lower baroque vault.
Renovation works carried out in 1876–1895 were later reversed during extensive exterior renovation works in the years 1973–1995. Interior renovation is still in progress.
The northern portal is a wonderful example of Gothic sculpture from the Parler workshop, with a relief depicting the Crucifixion. The main entrance is located on the church's western face, through a narrow passage between the houses in front of the church.
The early baroque altarpiece has paintings by Karel Škréta from around 1649. The oldest pipe organ in Prague stands inside this church. The organ was built in 1673 by Heinrich Mundt and is one of the most representative 17th-century organs in Europe.