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Peter the Great ascended the Russian throne in 1682 according to the ancient order of coronation and in 1721 he accepted the title of Emperor. On 7 May 1724, Peter I crowned his wife Ekaterina Alexeevna Empress for the first time ever.

The coronation ceremony of Ekaterina Alexeevna was preceded by a nationwide proclamation of Peter I’s Manifesto from 15 November 1723 which provided grounds for her rights for the imperial title. In his Manifesto, Peter I announced that Ekaterina had always been his helpmate, she had participated in the Prut campaign in 1711 and had born hardships of the camp life.

Peter who did not like luxury changed his habits this time: the preparations began long before the imperial coronation, installed in Russia for the first time, and the governor spared no means to make it a splendorous event. The first imperial coronation was supposed not only to prove to the whole world that Peter assumed his right for the Emperor's title undoubted, but obviously also to demonstrate the might of the new Empire.

Even though the capital had been transferred to Saint-Petersburg, it was decided to hold the coronation celebrations traditionally in Moscow and the sacred action itself - in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. For the first time there was created a coronation commission and P. A. Tolstoy, Senator and Active Privy Councillor, was to head it. The commission decided to abolish Tsars’ insignia that had no analogues in the western culture and substitute the Monomakh’s Cap, earlier used for the coronations in the 16th -17th cc., for the imperial crown. It was also for the first time that the mantle, sewn of the golden brocade with fur lining of ‘ermines of the most marvellous whiteness’, was officially included in the coronation regalia.

The best artists and designers worked hard to create sumptuous decorations worthy of the imperial coronation. A platform covered with red cloth was installed on Cathedral Square for the solemn procession. The Assumption Cathedral was grandly decorated: Persian carpets were laid on the floor, in the centre, there was built ‘a throne’ – a pedestal with twelve steps, covered with red velvet and decorated with paintings and carved gilded bannister. Two tsar’s ‘armchairs’ were installed upon it; for the first time, Emperor and Empress were to sit together during the coronation. Close to the Emperor’s armchair, there was a table for the regalia covered with velvet. Under the pedestal, there was hung a canopy, fabrics for which were bought in Venice.

Proclamation of Russia an Empire found the reflection in the state emblem. The imperial regalia and coronation medals were served by kings of arms, whose vestments were decorated with the coat of arms of the Russian Empire, embroidered with gold and coloured silk. 

Early in the morning on 7 May the regiments of the imperial army entered the Kremlin and rested on Ivanovskaya Square. The grenadiers lined up aside the Red Porch and the pedestal. Imperial regalia on the golden brocade cushions were delivered from the Treasury Chamber and laid on the table close to their majesties’ chambers in the Kremlin Palace. At 8 o’clock the solemn ringing of church bells began in the Assumption Cathedral, where there was held a service for the health of their imperial majesties. 

The procession started at about 10 o’clock followed by the toll, drums and music of all regiments set on Cathedral Square. Peter, I accompanied by two assistants: Field Marshal General and His Serene Highness Prince A.D. Menshikov and General, Prince N. I. Repnin, appeared in “the summer caftan, waistcoat and culotte of the sky-blue silk, richly embroidered with silver, in red stockings and hat with a white feather”. Ekaterina Alexeevna wore the headdress decorated with precious stones and pearls and went on under the canopy, which six major generals carried. Five ladies supported the train of her gown. Catherine I was accompanied by the chamberlain, kammerjunkers of Empress’s court, ladies-in-waiting, maids of honour, colonels, officers and representatives of the national nobility. The clerical establishment came out from the cathedral to hallow the regalia with censing and sprinkling of the holy water. Bishops put a cross to their majesties’ lips for kissing and after that, the procession entered the cathedral to the sounds of a psalm. Emperor and Empress ascended the throne and sat into the armchairs. When the cathedral became silent, Peter I took the sceptre and ordered Bishops Theodosius of Novgorod and Theophane Propokovich to crown Ekaterina Alexeevna according to the church order. After Ekaterina read out loud the Creed, the bishops brought the crown to Emperor and he laid it upon Ekaterina with his own hands. The congratulations and long life proclamation by choirmen were accompanied by the toll and shoots of rifles and canons on Ivanovskaya Square.

Then the liturgy began. When the Royal Doors opened Peter I led Ekaterina to them on his own. Then the bishops anointed her with oil and after that Empress took communion as a secular. After the liturgy, the canons and rifles fired and Bishop Theophane addressed their majesties with a congratulatory speech.

When the religious rite was over, their majesties went left the cathedral followed by the toll and the sounds of trumpets, kettledrums and drums. Emperor went to the palace, while Empress upon tradition went to the Archangel Cathedral, where she came to kiss the relics of Tsarevich Dmitry and bowed before the coffins of ancestors of His Majesty during the prayer. 

From the Archangel Cathedral Empress started for the Ascension Monastery to bow before the remains of Russian Tsarinas, where they had been buried. During this solemn ceremony, accompanied by cavalry guardsmen, lackeys, page-boys, outrunners, officers and bodyguards, Field Marshal General, Prince A.D. Menshikov threw to people gold and silver medals in velvet sacks with golden eagles. This rite held in Russia for the first time was obtained from the descriptions of coronation ceremonials in European courts and resembled the Byzantine tradition when after coronation the Emperor threw as present small bundles with gold and silver coins to people. 

When the ceremony was over Empress started for her apartments in the Kremlin Palace. Afterwards there took place a ceremonial passage of Their Majesties to the solemn repast in the Faceted Chamber the walls of which were decorated with velvet and Chinese ornamental golden brocade and the floors covered with Persian carpets. The central pillar of the chamber was surrounded by the shelves with golden and silver tableware.

The action was performed upon the ceremonial worked out by the coronation commission. When Peter and Catherine rose to the places prepared for them one of the bishops blesses the imperial table, which was located under a canopy and served with gold tableware and utensils of ‘antique refined work’. Afterwards, the state officials followed by the cavalry guardsmen took out the dishes and served them.

Foods and drinks for common people were served in Cathedral Square. Fried bull stuffed with poultry was laid on а platform and two luxurious fountains spurted with white and red wine. At night the whole city was illuminated. The next day Catherine I accepted congratulations from the members of the imperial house, foreign ambassadors, secular and spiritual nobility. In the evening she returned to the Summer Palace accompanied by cavalry guardsmen.

Портрет императора Петра I.

Portrait of Emperor Peter I

G.F. Hippius (after a drawing by A.I. Sandomury).

Saint-Petersburg, 1822-1827. (?)

Paper; lithography.


The representation of Emperor Peter I’s image is far from the official one. The portrait was made by the lithographer and drawing artist F. Hippius, who had received artistic education in Europe and lived in Saint-Petersburg in 1820-1849. In 1822-1827s he had been publishing a series of lithographic portraits of prominent cultural figures of Russia. The artistic touch of the master differs by large album sketch, which is also specific to Emperor Peter I’s portrait, probably created at that time.



Картина «Портрет императрицы Екатерины I».

Painting "Portrait of Empress Catherine I"


Unknown artist.

It is a knee-high portrait of Catherine I with a red curtain on the background. Her body is slightly turned to the left and the head is crowned with a minor Imperial Crown with a cross. Her hair, twisted with pearl threads, lay down on shoulders as two curls; pearl earrings are in the ears. Catherine wears a dress with a white skirt and a blue-coloured bodice decorated with diamond agraffe and laces. On the chest, there are St Andrew’s ribbon with a cross in the bowknot and the star. The sceptre and orb are represented on the red velvet cushion on the left. 

Блюдо «Коронация Екатерины I».

Dish "Coronation of Catherine I"

Мoscow, 1724-1727s

Master Nikolay Fyodorov (?).

Silver; chasing, gilding.

The coronation took place on 7 May 1724 in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. One of the central moments of the first Russian coronation depicted on this dish was when Peter the Great laid the crown on Catherine I. Catherine stands on her knees in a full-dress gown and mantle trimmed with ermine which is held by the page-boys. The mantle included in the state regalia for the first time was made especially for this ceremony. A crown in Peter’s hands is the first imperial crown of Russia which was also made for this coronation. Behind Peter’s figure on the left, there is Y. V. Bruсe with a gilded cushion for the crown in his hands. It was him who brought the symbol of the monarch’s power into the cathedral for the first time. Two bishops are on the right from Emperor. Probably it were bishopsTheophane (Prokopovich) and Theodosius (Yanovsky), shown in a mitre with a crosier in his hands, who both passed the mantle to Peter to lay it on Catherine. Theodosius performed the ritual of chrismation and Theophane, famous for his eloquence, delivered a congratulatory speech. A man in a lush wig standing close to Theodosius is obviously the supreme marshal of coronation Earl P.A. Tolstoy, who headed the procession with regalia.

The dish came from the palace property. It remains unknown, when and under what circumstance it appeared there. It could either be an order of Peter himself or, probably, of Catherine - after her husband’s death. 

Корона императрицы Екатерины I.

Crown of Empress Catherine I

Saint-Petersburg, 1723.

Master Samson Larionov.

Silver; casting, chasing, carving, gilding.

During the coronation of Catherine, which took place on 7 May 1724 in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, Peter the Great laid the new imperial crown on her head. This crown substituted the Monomakh’s Cap used for coronations in the 15th-16th cc. Unfortunately, Catherine I’s crown was not preserved in its initial state since the precious stones, which used to decorate it, were removed from the crown almost right after the coronation without any known reason. 

The crown consists of a hoop and a high arch attached to it. Two lower semispheres are located below the arch. There is an inscription on the arch: Her Majesty Serene Sovereign Empress of All Russia Ekaterina Alexeevna crowned in Moscow on the 7th day of May in 1724.

The crown of Catherine I belongs to a so-called mitre-shaped type, accepted by the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire in the middle of the 15th c. Such type combines the crown, a symbol of the highest secular authorities, and mitre, a symbol of the highest ecclesiastical authorities that was based on the political doctrine stating that Сhristian governor is both the head of state and the head of the church at the same time. The crown should be dated back to the second half of 1723 since initially the coronation of Catherine I was assigned for the end of this year, but then was shifted due to the sudden illness of Peter. The crown was created by Samson Larionov, a goldsmith that worked first in the Armoury Chamber in Moscow, and after 1710 – in Saint-Petersburg, where he made ‘diamond things at the court of Her Imperial Majesty’.

Коронационное платье императрицы Екатерины I.

Coronation Dress of Empress Catherine I 

Berlin (?), 1724.

Silk, taffeta, gold threads; weaving, needlework, applique work.

The dress was passed to the Armoury Chamber on 23 May 1724 ‘from the rooms of Her Imperial Majesty by valet Koz’ma Spiridonov’as part of coronation vestments’ set of Empress Catherine I. The set included also ‘slippers’ made of silver brocade, white kid gloves, stockings and crimson garters embroidered with silver. The coronation dress of Empress Catherine I is made of silk and adorned with luxurious embroidery. On the skirt the fountains embroidered with silver alternate with the bouquets braided with lace; appliqué embroidered crowns are placed in the marks formed by flower garlands. As F.W. Bergholz, who was at the coronation, noted, the dress of Ekaterina Alexeevna was sewn in ‘a Spanish style’. Obviously, such a stylistic decision in regards to the coronation costume of the first Russian Empress was adopted from the west-european monarchs. Even in the 19th century some of them used costumes in the ancient Spanish style for the coronation.

Жетон в память коронации императрицы Екатерины I.

Counter commemorating the Coronation of Empress Catherine I 

Saint-Petersburg mint, 1724.

Gold, chasing.

On the obverse side of the counter, an imperial crown lies on the quadrangular plinth with an inscription ‘IN COMMEMORATION’. On both sides of the image, there is an inscription ‘FROM GOD EMPEROR’ and ‘OVERALL JOY’is at the edge. On the reverse side of the counter under the imperial crown, there is an inscription in four lines ‘CATHERINE EMPR/ESS CROW/NED IN MOSCOW/YEAR 1724’. Participants and guests of the ceremonial events were given golden and silver coronation medals and counters as a reward, while in crowded streets mainly the copper counters were thrown to the common people. This counter came from the Archives in 1883.

Медаль в память коронации императрицы Екатерины I.

Medal commemorating the Coronation of Empress Catherine I 


Moscow mint. 1724.

Medallists V. Klimentov (after an original by A. Schultz; the obverse side), I. Kozmin (after an original by A. Schultz; the reverse side).

Gold; chasing.

The tradition of coronation medals and counters issue takes its origin in 1724 - from the first Russian coronation of Catherine I. The coronation medal was a programme piece of work that embodied the image of a sovereign, who had ascended the throne, by means of plastic art.  Ceremonial portrait of the governor in the coronation vestments and with attributes of power on the obverse side disclosed to the world a new ruler, while a symbolic and allegoric image on the reverse side gave base to the ideology of new government.  An inscription used to be a substantial constructive part of the medal’s graphic structure that explained the sacral significance of the event. Beginning with Peter the Great all Russian monarchs had a clear understanding of ideological and artistiс meaning of coronation medal as a method of propaganda. It is not surprising that the best west-european medallists were invited to Russia for the production of medals and further education of Russian students. Each coronation medal was confirmed by the new ruler and could be chased only at the Mint. The tradition of rewarding with the coronation medals and counters originates from the coronation of 1724: gold and silver medals were given to the prelaсy of the Russian Empire, foreign ambassadors, clergy, military, and court officials according to the rank; the counters were given to the lower military ranks and were thrown to the crowd. Before each coronation, many issues regarding the coronation medals were decided, such as quantity and size of gold, silver and copper medals; their delivery to the foreign states and distribution among officials of different ranks, foreign guests, ambassadors, maids of honour and dames of the Order of St Catherine.


Палаш коронационного гайдука.

Broadsword of Ceremonial Bodyguard

Moscow, the Armoury Chamber, 1724; bladeSolingen, 1715.

Hilt mastersIvan Mikitin, Gavriil Ievlev, Timofey Nikiforov.

Steel, copper alloy, wood, fabric; forging, casting, engraving,carving, gilding,flat-chasing, silvering.

This broadsword was a part of the set that included 16 broadswords for Empress Catherine I’s bodyguards, who participated in her coronation. Yet at the end of the 17th c. the Russian aristocracy borrowed from its east-european neighbours, Polish and Hungarian magnates, a fashion to follow each departure with a convoy of dressed up and armed combat servants – heyducks, who played the role of bodyguards. Catherine I had such an escort long before the coronation: in 1718 the Olonets Arms Factory produced 12 broadswords upon her personal order. However, before the coronation, it was decided to increase the number of bodyguards up to 16 so the masters of the Armoury Chamber had to produce 4 additional gilt copper broadswords according to the available models. These hilts were mounted together with blades and acquired scabbards that were worn on a shoulder-belt, not on a sword-belt. The new and old hilts were distinct only in the decorative details, made in different manner; later blades were made by both Russian and German masters, while the blades of the first order were all made in Olonets. All in all only three bodyguards’ broadswords were preserved in the Armoury Chamber, one of them was produced for the coronation of Catherine I in 1724 and another one – in 1718 in Olonets. After the coronation, the bodyguards used this weapon while escorting the Empress. After 1724, these broadswords were used for the coronation two more times – when Emperor Peter II and then Empress Anna Ioannovna ascended the throne.