History of the Monrepos
The owners of the Monrepo estate:
Ludwig Henrique Nicolay
History of the Monrepos
The Monrepos Park is located on the island Tverdysh (formers names Slottsholmen in Swedish and Linnansaari in Finnish). In the middle of XVI c. there was a farm estate named Lill Ladugård, the owner of which was engineer A. de Koulon , vice-governor of Vyborg since 1732.
The story starts in 1760, when Peter Stupishin (1718–82), the commander of Vyborg’s fortress, acquired ‘Old Vyborg’ manor on Linnansaari Island. Here he began the creation of Sharlottendal Park, named after his wife Charlotte.
The manor and park were then bought by Friedrich Wilhelm Karl Herzog von Wurttemberg (1754–1816), the brother of Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna (future wife of Emperor Paul I of Russia). Prince Friedrich gave the park its present name ‘Monrepos’ (‘My rest’ or ‘My repose’), presumably to remind him of the Swiss house Monrepos near Lausanne where he had spent his youth; thus the park was designed according to European precedent. On his forced departure from Russia (following a divorce scandal), Friedrich gave his German residence near Stuttgart the same name, Monrepos.
It was the manor’s next owner, who bought it in 1788, the German born Baron Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolay (1737–1820), who was to play the greatest part in the creation of today’s landscape park. Upon graduation from Strasbourg University Nicolay had gone to Paris, where he made various acquaintances amongst the French Encyclopaedists. A versatile translator, an admirer of Rousseau and acquainted with Voltaire, Diderot, and d’Alembert, he personified the ‘Siecle De Lumieres’, the Enlightenment. In 1769 Nicolai was invited to the Russian Empire to become tutor of the then Grand Duke Paul, and later the private secretary of Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna, and on Paul’s succession he was appointed as President of the St Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences (1798– 1803).Von Nicolay was now a high-ranking court official, as well as a renowned poet, translator and playwright.
Having a profound knowledge and love of Classicism in both art and literature he was at the same time sensitive to new artistic trends. Circumstance now gave him an opportunity to realize his main intent, to enrich a majestic and wild landscape without destroying it, with taste and in the manner of an exquisite artist. Nicolay was to record his creation in a long poem ‘Das Landgut Monrepos in Finnland, 1804’ [The Monrepos Estate in Finland], illustrated with lithographs by Luis-Julien Jacquotte. It was both a kind of guidebook and an embodiment of the aesthetic views of ‘the poetic gardener’, idyllic in spirit with an emphasis on emotional sensitivity and the elevated sentiments of Neoclassicism. One can unmistakably recognize here many cross-European trends of the epoch, including Rousseau’s cult, a vivid interest in Northern mythology (epic of Ossian etc.) and the English garden style. Nicolay spent the last seventeen years of his long life at Monrepos.
Under Nicolay’s son Paul Nicolay (1777–1866), a notable Russian diplomat, the ensemble of Monrepos was completed. Paul Nicolay had spent more than thirty years in Denmark in Russia’s diplomatic service; perhaps thanks to this the theme of the Scandinavian North has a special resonance at Monrepos. Among majestic rocks Paul erected the sculpture of Vainamoinen, hero of the ‘Kalevala’ epic; a powerful seer with supernatural origins, he was a master of the kantele, the Finnish harp-like stringed instrument. This monument has been named by academician Dmitri Likhachev ‘the first such monument of this literary personage in Europe’. On Ludwigstein Island he built a memorial chapel in Neo-Gothic style, establishing a Nicolay family mausoleum.
In addition to this, Paul set up a magnificent obelisk in memory of his brothers-in-law, Charles and Auguste de Broglie, Russian Imperial Army officers who perished in the Napoleonic wars.
The artistic and aesthetic background of Monrepos comes from a diverse lineage and owes much to the contributions of architects and sculptors of different styles and nationalities; the Italian Giuseppe Antonio Martinelli, the Russian Alexander Pavlov, the Dane Gotthelph Borup, the French August de Mountferrand, the English Charles Heathcote Tatum, the Finnish Johannes Takanen and others. Tree saplings for Monrepos were sent from Poland, the garden sculptures from Italy and Denmark, and garden works were conducted under German gardeners. The style of Monrepos was influenced by various European fashions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So, among other park pavilions there were ‘The Turkish tent’, ‘The Chinese parasol’ and ‘The Temple in a Greek style’.
The manor remained within the Nicolay family until 1942, when it passed into the ownership of Count Nicolas von der Pahlen, nephew of Marie Nicolay, the last member of the original family of owners. Count von der Pahlen owned Monrepos until 1944. During 1918–1939 and 1941–1944 Monrepos, with Finnish Wiipuri, was part of an independent Finland, in 1939–1940 and again since 1944 it became part of territory of Soviet Union (now Russian Federation). Under the Soviet regime Monrepos Park was transformed into ‘the city park of rest’. It was only in 1988 that the State Historical and Architectural Cultural Preserve of ‘Monrepos Park’ was established.
Now, Monrepos is one of the favourite recreation areas and one of the main city sights.