The town of Torzhok sits along an ancient route between the two Russian capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg. This geography meant that numerous noblemen were awarded land plots around the town based on tenure in public service. As the cultural phenomenon of the Russian country estate was only emerging, this area was built up with exemplary estates, made up of mansions, utility buildings, and churches.
The main landmarks in Torzhok itself were designed by two of the greats of Russian architecture in the 18th-19th centuries -Nikolay Lvov and Carlo Rossi. Lvov's projects share common decorative features and mirror each other in certain structural aspects, which ties the town together into a wholistic architectural ensemble, one of rare integrity and completeness among the country towns in the Russian Neoclassical style. Whereas the town's location is provincial, its architecture is of the highest calibre. It features all main categories of urban building: churches and belltowers, merchant rows, the imperial road palace, private mansions of merchant and noble families. Newer urban buildout in Torzhok took place at a distance from the town centre, which has remained free from critical intrusions in later years - preserving the overall cityscape and skyline in an almost original condition.
Torzhok had economic and cultural ties with the nearby estates, of which the more notable ones were designed by Lvov: Znamenskoye-Rayok, Mitino, Nikolskoe-Cherenchitsy, Pereslegino, Pryamukhino, Arpachyovo, Gomitsy. Some properties did not survive as full estates, leaving behind only the churches. Nonetheless, taken together, they represent a broad range of architectural specimen, or a whole country estate encyclopaedia: manor house and its wings, rotunda church, large church with two belltowers and a canteen, belltower-and-lighthouse building, pyramid-helmed cellars. With reference to the evidence in theoretical writings, to Lvov's correspondence with the estate owners, and to his poetry, the country estates of the Torzhok district can be classified as an integrated historical-and-architectural complex. As one whole, it gives a complete representative picture of the estate culture in Russia at its peak.
"Historic Town Centre of Torzhok and Country Estate Properties Designed by Nikolay Lvov" is proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List as a serial nomination. The heritage site can potentially include up to 115 federal monuments and 120 regional monuments.
One of the oldest Russian towns, Torzhok took its current shape in the late 18th-early 19th centuries, during the period when it lived as an integral whole with the nearby estates and their owners. This came to be on the heels of the 1762 Manifesta on Freedoms of the Nobility, an Emperor's decree allowing the nobility to spend considerable time at their estates. The economic activity of country estates supported the noblemen's wealth; at the other end, as they were being built in and near regional towns, this process enriched provincial areas with high culture.
Following a 1766 fire that destroyed the centre of Torzhok, the town was rebuilt according to the master plans of 1767 and 1779 that laid down the Neoclassical urban design. The development vector for architecture style in Torzhok was determined by Nikolay Lvov, a prominent St. Petersburg architect during the Catherine the Great reign, when Palladianism gained currency in Russia.
Lvov's family estate was situated in Nikolskoye-Cherenchitsy, and he was connected, oftentimes through friendship or familial ties, with the owners of nearby estates - hence the dense concentration of his projects in the Novotorzhok Uyezd (the present-day Torzhok and Kuvshinovsky districts).
The two main architectural landmarks were designed by Lvov on Catherine the Great's orders: the Borisoglebskiy Cathedral and the belltower for the oldest town monastery. Drawing inspiration from Villa La Rotonda by Andrea Palladio and reinterpreting the layouts by Sebastiano Serlio, Lvov designs a large cathedral with a five-domed helm, as is the Orthodox tradition. In contrast to the grand and solemn exterior, the interior of the cathedral is astonishing in its light touch and peculiar variations on the classics. The structure is made of several distinct sections and is topped with a belvedere, one of Lvov's most favoured motifs. The former Red Square in the town centre has a spring that was fitted with a rotunda designed by Lvov. Lvov's creative solutions were mirrored in later architecture of the town. Other architects, who worked in the town after him, including the renowned Carlo Rossi, took into account existing Lvov's landmarks when integrating their projects into the town's fabric.
The development and diversity of Nikolay Lvov's architectural vocabulary can be seen across the estates around Torzhok. Recognized as an exemplary specimen of this genre, the Znamenskoye Rayok Estate reveals Lvov as a consistent proponent of Palladian ideas. The owner's manor and the colonnade that encircles the oval courtyard are marked by austere and simple forms. The interiors have retained the sophisticated intricate decorum and frescoes. The main manor hall has a double dome: the inner dome opens with a round oculus, a reference to the Roman Pantheon, and the outer dome lets in the reflected light from the windows in between the two dome layers.
Of most other estates only the churches have survived. A genuine master, Lvov never repeats himself and, by rearranging a seemingly limited set of elements (standard layouts, his double-dome design, porticoes, colonnades), he is able to come up with novel creative, spatial, compositional and plastic solutions. Utility buildings and structures of the estates are plays on the spirit of Romanticism: pyramid-helmed ice cellars, bridges and forges built with boulders. A practitioner of theoretical and applied garden design, Lvov attached a great significance to cohesion between architecture and its environment.
Torzhok estates are integral to the life of Lvov as a man of letters. Alongside his close friend and relative Gavrila Derzhavin, an outstanding poet of his time, Lvov leans towards sentimental poetry and mostly writes about private happiness. He envisioned the ideal world of an estate as ceremonial and homely. Nikolay Lvov's ideas had a significant influence on the development of the image of estate culture in architecture ail around Russia.
The architecture of Torzhok and the nearby estates constitutes the most complete account of Nikolay Lvov's work as a follower of Palladio, an inventor engineer, a theoretician of garden design, and a sentimentalist poet.
Criterion (i): The architecture of Torzhok and the nearby estates are works of creative genius of Nikolay Lvov, who built on Palladio's ideas to come up with unique original designs. Lvov's incessant creative experimentation is evidenced by the diverse variability of techniques and integration of new forms.
Criterion (iv): The artistic techniques and the broad range of building types developed by Nikolay Lvov had a significant influence on the Russian Palladian architecture. He used his own projects in Torzhok and the nearby estates to trial bis innovative designs: the pyramid-helmed cellars, belltower and-lighthouse buildings, double dames, heating, and ventilation systems -based on his own theoretical publications.
Criterion (vi): The architectural works of Nikolay Lvov are directly associated with numerous cultural phenomena of the Russian Enlightenment. His architecture reflected the contemplations by Lvov and the poets in bis circle of nature and the human place in it, of the ideal of private life. Laying out parks and taming of wild nature is linked to the consistent development of garden design theory by Lvov and bis commissioners.
The current condition of the historic town centre of Torzhok and the nearby country estate properties is sufficiently good to regard them as an integral architectural and historic ensemble, and to gain insight into the underlying artistic, familial, economic linkages. The authenticity of the nominated properties is corroborated by numerous documentary sources and academic studies.
The historic town centre of Torzhok can be seen as a unity of major high-rise landmarks as well as churches, manors and private bouses in the Neoclassical style.
The oldest Neoclassical ensemble in Torzhok is Catherine the Great's Road Palace (1775). It began construction on the Empress' order, which mandated expressly to build it "in a decent location, with a good view of the town and providing a good view of the new stone building from the town as well." The park-side facade of the palace faces the high bank of the Tvertsa River, overseeing the key public space of the town - the Red Square (currently the 9th January Square).
The panoramic view from the palace allowed the guests to observe the town's major rebuilding effort under the 1779 master plan. Its implementation is the starting point for the familiar look and feel of Torzhok.
Diagonally from the Road Palace across the river are the most important town landmarks designed by Lvov- the aforementioned cathedral and belltower of the Borisoglebskiy Monastery. The monastery broke ground in 1785, also initiated by Catherine the Great and in her immediate attendance. Its monumental forms are a creative amalgamation of the exterior of Villa La Rotonda by Andrea Palladio and of layouts by Sebastiano Serlio. The belltower was built only after Lvov had died, but it adhered his designs: an alternation sequence of sections and a belvedere pavilion on top with a high spire.
The high-rise trifecta of the town is completed with the Church of the Pope Kliment (1835), its slender outlines serving as the vanishing point for many areas in Torzhok. It sits right on the centre line of the Road Palace across the river. Its belvedere pavilion echoes Lvov's belltower for the Borisoglebskiy Monastery, both in height and stylistic features.
The second important element of the town fabric are the numerous other churches mostly Neoclassical. Setting the architectural background, they are interlinked through shared elements (domes, colonnaded porticoes with pediments) as well as Lvov's signature motifs (tripartite Serlian windows, belvederes, rotundas).
The churches usually face larger open spaces and often serve as their elevational and stylistic backbone. For example, in the Red Square, this role is filled by the small Holy Cross Rotunda Chapel (Nikolay Lvov, 1813-1815). Same side of the town also is the Church of the Assumption (1746) in the Drovyanaya Square (currently Ananyin Sq); Church of the Intercession (1823) sitting on a high hill; Georgievskaya Church (1805) and Church of the Holy Sign (1784) in the Khlebnaya Square (currently Pushkin Sq); seen from the Sobomaya Square and from the water are the Transfiguration Cathedral (1822) and Jerusalem Entry Church (1837-1842) built by St. Petersburg architects Carlo Rossi and Peter Visconti.
On the other side of the town, to the east, this role is filled by the Elias Church (1822) in the Ilyunskaya Square, seen from the river up the Krasnaya Gora slope; the Resurrection Cathedral (1796); and the Church of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner (Ivan Lvov, 1840) of the Ascension Monastery; the Holy Cross Church (1837) and the Church of St. Nicolas (1850).
The third "background" component of Torzhok architecture comes in the form of Neoclassical estates and manors, of which about 200 properties are protected as federal and regional heritage sites. The homogeneity of their decorative style sets a common frame for perception of the town fabric: diverse order elements, plastic shaping of details, centred attic floors and arched gateways.
Country estates built near Torzhok by Nikolay Lvov or by bis design projects usually came as a set of buildings: the owner's manor, a church, utility buildings, garden architecture - that would be integrated into or informed by the natural and artificial garden landscape. None of the estates has survived in its original composition. Nonetheless, taken in aggregate, they paint a complete picture of Lvov’s estate architecture.
The most salient project by Lvov is the Znamenskoye-Rayok Estate commissioned by the Glebov-Stershnev family and built in 1787-1798. It is composed of the owner's manor and its wings that are linked by an oval-shaped colonnade. The central hall of the manor is adorned with a double dome, a reliable structure extensively tested by Lvov in churches. The centre line of the park-side facade is aligned with the curvature of the river in the nearby valley. The park has retained its key elements: walkways, a pond with an artificial island, a series of dammed impoundments. The estate church has survived as well, but it dates back to an earlier period. Located a few kilometres away, near the Vasilyeva Mountain burial ground, is a laconic chapel- also attributed to Lvov.
The most important site in the Torzhok series is Lvov's own Nikolskoe-Cherenchitsy Estate.
The centrepiece of the estate is its grand rotunda, which doubled as a church (upper level) and as a family tomb (lower level). Only one of the side wings has survived from the manor. Near the wing is a massive pyramid-helmed cellar of two chambers, the lower chamber to be used as iced storage and the upper, apparently, as a conditioned refreshing space. At a distance, on the nearby hill is a forge build with large boulders and stones.
In the neighbouring village of Arpachevo, Lvov was commissioned by his relatives to design the Church of Our Lady of Kazan (1791). It is appended on one axis with Doric sex-column porticoes and on the other axis with semi-circular apses. Adjacent to the church is Lvov's unique design- a four-level belltower-and-lighthouse building.
Another specimen of Lvov’s boulder architecture is the large arch bridge (spanning almost 100 m), which is part of the Vasilyovo Estate landscaping. The estate was owned by the architect's relatives D.I. and I.I. Lvov.
Another project reliably attributed to Lvov is the church of the Pryamoukhino Estate with its cross-shaped layout. It is elevated on a basement floor with a rusticated on-ramp made of large stones. The main space is lined on all sides with four-column porticoes. The building is topped with an unusual square dome with four tripartite Serlian windows in its base. The Bakunin family, who owned the estate, maintained correspondence with Lvov, their distant relative, to discuss the garden design; the manor itself and the park have only survived in part.
Two other properties in the nomination are large churches that remain of two former estates.
The Peter and Paul Church in Pereslegino (Zagorye) is Lvov's revisitation of his first construction project- the St. Joseph Cathedral in Mogilev (1780). The cathedral was conceived as a memorial to the military alliance between Russia and Austria against the Ottoman Empire. lts dedication ceremony was attended in Mogilev by Catherine the Great and the Austrian Emperor Joseph II. Sadly, the cathedral was destroyed in 1938. Judging by archival photographs, the variant in Pereslegino is characterised by more refined and slender forms. The church presented a number of remarkable and unique features: a facade with two belltowers; a canteen with a half-cylinder arched roof and double-file colonnades along the sides; and, most notably, a double dome where the outer layer bears frescoes of the apostles that can be seen through the inner layer.
The Vladimirskaya Church in Gornitsy is yet another bold experiment with composition. Traditionally reserved for the altar, in this design apses are placed on the sides, the entryway is through a four-column portico, and the slender belltower, topped with a belvedere, is right above the altar area. Commissioned by a local estate owner, Peter Beklemishev, the project was built from 1789 to 1795.
The historic town centre of present-day Torzhok has retained the authentic atmosphere of a Russian town from the Neoclassical era. Its natural conservation was aided by early stagnation of economic activity as cargo flows were diverted from river to rail transport, with the rail line bypassing the town. New urban districts have been developed away from the centre, and the hilly terrain bas served to mask the construction of stylistically out-of-place buildings. This has protected the town centre from destructive intrusions of later architecture - the landmark positions are still occupied by Nikolay Lvov and his contemporaries' projects. The architectural language of Classicism is still setting the frame for perception of the town fabric.
A review of archival photographs from the tum of the 19th-20th centuries confirms the very high degree of integrity in an overwhelming majority of historic sites. lt also makes evident the fact that the skyline, an especially treasured parameter in old cities and towns, has remained unchanged.
Surprising as it might be, the tumultuous history of the properties in the 20th century did not result in any radical reconstruction and, thus, had no deteriorating impact on their exceptional authenticity. The structures and walls as well as interiors have not been altered in the Znamenskoye Rayok Estate, the Borisoblebsky Cathedral, the churches in Pryamukhin, Arpachev, Nikolskoe; original frescoes adorn the pyramid-helmed ice cellar in Nikolskoe and the rotunda chapel on the Vasilyeva Mountain.
Under the Russian legislation, restoration of these buildings must comply with the strict requirements on preliminary research, evidence-based approaches, original processes, technologies and materials. Such strictly regulated restoration work has been done on the chape! in the Red Square, the pyramid-helmed ice cellar in Nikolskoe, and the bridge in Vasilev.
There has been an upswing in restoration efforts in Torzhok recently. With the support of the Russian Culture Federal Targeted Programme, there is ongoing research and restoration work on the cathedral and belltower of the Borisoglebsky Monastery; similar work on the Road Palace in Torzhok is funded by the New Development Bank of BRICS. Large-scale restoration is being done on the Transfiguration Cathedral (Carlo Rossi, 1822) and the Jerusalem Entry Church (Peter Visconti, 1837- 1842).
A review of the heritage sites already inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List shows that serial Palladian properties have been universally recognized as key elements in the European and North American heritage. The main conclusion to be drawn from such a review is that their value lies precisely in the linkages that emerge between numerous properties in a larger area. These linkages are primarily artistic, but also economic.
The best way in order to properly contextualize Lvov's architectural legacy in and around Torzhok is to start with the most important and most similar analogy. This would be the works of his paramount influence Andrea Palladio. Palladio's legacy is grouped into a similarly structured site, City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto. The site covers the historical city centre of Vicenza, which counts 23 Palladian buildings, and 24 of the most representative country villas. The inscription was not impeded neither by the administrative boundaries (the villas are located across four administrative districts), nor by the distance between them (the two farthest points are 180 km apart). As ownership rights have not been interrupted in Italy, most buildings belong to private owners. This means that the site Management Plan had to be developed by several public and private institutions. A UNESCO office was set up inside the Municipality of Vicenza to coordinate the nomination and then monitor the Property Management Plan.
The sites under this nomination constitute a kind of Palladianism encyclopaedia, a collection of archetypes that later informed a great many of building projects in Europe. Crucially, the city of Vicenza, or la città di Palladio, has overall preserved its authentic look. Key aspects of the site nomination were the authenticity of the urban structure, forms of individual buildings that make up the cityscape, the use of traditional construction materials and technologies, and the buildings' functional use.
Following the inscription of Vicenza, the World Heritage List was expanded with architecture complexes in the USA, France, UK, and Germany.
The site Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville includes the works of the American architect-President in private and public projects. In the academical village of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson expressed his view of the ideal university organization and of the wholistic educational environment, which extends beyond the classroom. Jefferson was influenced by Palladio and the Greco-Roman architecture and consulted for his projects with the architects William Thomton and Benjamin Latrobe. The centre of the layout is given to an open lawn 200 ft in width, segmented in three levels and enclosed with trees. The yard is framed with interconnected buildings, which house the east and west pavilions and terminate in a large rotunda. Jefferson's rotunda was inspired by the Roman Pantheon and was used as a library, the heat of the university.
Jefferson's private estate on the Monticello Hill is a product of Palladian architecture as well.
Same as the university ensemble, it is helmed by a tall dome.
The importance of the American analogy for Torzhok lies in the dimension of personality, the two contemporaries: like Lvov, Jefferson was a statesman who found creative outlet in architecture; both contributed to advancement of Enlightenment in their respective countries; neither shied away from the intricacies of infrastructure as can be seen in their experimentation with heating and ventilation.
The French site From the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Production of Open-pan Salt is linked to another Palladian great, Claude Nicolas Ledoux. The saltworks facility was built in 1771-1779 and manifested the Enlightenment ideas of streamlined layouts and the harmony between efficiency and culture. Do bear in mind that the exact same can be argued for Lvov's projects.
The Royal Saltworks comprise eleven Neoclassical buildings, arranged in a crescent. The main building, i.e., the director's house, is adorned with porticoes and a peristyle. To the sides of the central building are utility and production buildings, and the dormitories behind them.
The British site the City of Bath reflects the dominant role of Palladianism in the English architecture of the 18th century. Bath exemplifies the shift away from the uniform street layouts of Renaissance cities that dominated through the 15th-17th centuries, towards the idea of planting buildings and cities in the landscape to achieve picturesque views and forms, echoed in the environment. This unifying of nature and city, seen throughout Bath, is perhaps best demonstrated in the Royal Crescent (John Wood Younger) and Lansdown Crescent (John Palmer). Bath's urban and landscape spaces are created by the buildings that enclose them, providing a series of interlinked spaces that flow organically, and that visually (and at times physically) draw in the green surrounding countryside to create a distinctive garden city feel.
German Palladianism is represented on the World Heritage List by the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Worlitz. Also built in the 18th century, this ensemble is the product of creative cooperation between Prince Leopold III of Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817) and the architect Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff. Strongly influenced by the Enlightenment ideals and newly acquired international experience, they sought to move away from the Baroque concept of a garden and towards a more natural landscape, as the ones they had encountered in Palladian parks of England and France.
In line with the ideals proclaimed by Rousseau, the authors wanted agriculture in Anhalt-Dessau to serve educational purposes, implementing the systems borrowed from England. Another, parallel goal was to integrate the aesthetic and educational components into the landscape. Thus, the buildings by Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff became important models for the development of architecture in Germany and Central Europe. Schloss Wôrlitz (1769-1773) was the first Neoclassical project in the history of German architecture. The churches in Riesigk (1800), Wôrlitz (1804--09), and Vockerode (1810-11) were the first Neoclassical, ecclesiastical buildings in Germany, their towers enlivening the marshland, floodplain landscape in which they served as way markers. In parts of the Baroque Park of Oranienbaum, an Anglo-Chinese garden was laid out, now the sole surviving example in Europe of such a garden in its original form from the period before 1800. 1
Today, the environmental and cultural site of Dessau-Worlitz spans the area of 142 km2 in Saxony-Anhalt.
In closing, it should be noted that the Historic Town Centre of Torzhok and Country Estate Properties Designed by Nikolay Lvov are, by a set of key parameters, on par with the most important Palladian ensembles of Europe and North America. Their main commonality is in the deliberate and systemic integration of religious, residential and utilitarian buildings, and parks into the creatively interpreted landscape. In terms of architecture, they are similar in that they interpret the Antiquity through the lens of Palladianism, which provides a shared vocabulary but also opportunities for indefinite variation and innovation. In this sense, these names rightfully belong together with Palladio - the figures of Jefferson, Ledoux, and Erdmannsdorff, as well as their creative equal Nikolay Lvov.