2008 World Monuments Watch
With its unusual blend of Palladian grandeur and characteristic Russian style, the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign has been attributed to the famous eighteenth-century Russian architect Nikolay Aleksandrovich Lvov. This church was a monumental part of the Soymonov estate at Teplovo, which the aristocratic Soymonov family founded after Empress Catherine the Great relieved Russian aristocrats of their military service requirements, allowing them to spend more time and money on leisure activities and property. After the 1917 Revolution, many churches and aristocratic properties were destroyed, including many of Lvov’s constructions. By the end of World War II, all of the buildings on the Soymonov estate had been razed except for the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, which was abandoned in 1937. The interior elements and ornaments of the church were removed during the Soviet period; since then, the church has remained unoccupied. The masonry and roof has decayed, many of the doors and windows are missing, some of the vaulting has broken, and columns, cornices, and entablatures are on the verge of collapsing. Vegetation and exposure to the elements are damaging the structure. Towns once in the vicinity of the church were destroyed in the 1960s in an effort to get rid of “unsustainable” communities, leaving no local parishes that could use, maintain, or restore the site. The challenge of conserving and reusing abandoned and dilapidated pre-Soviet buildings is a major issue in Russia. It is hoped that Watch listing will call attention to the plight of this and other buildings facing similar challenges.