Mephistopheles Facade Facing Orthodox Church Taken Down In St. Petersburg
- By Anna Dolgov
- Aug. 27 2015 10:56
- Last edited 10:57
Aá100-year-old bas relief depicting theámythical demon Mephistopheles has been removed fromáthe facade ofáa historical building ináSt. Petersburg overlooking theánearby construction site ofáa new Orthodox church, local inhabitants said.
Mephistopheles is aámythical demon that appeared as theádevil ináJohann Wolfgang von Goethe's play "Faust." Theábas-relief ofáthe character had been aáfeature ofáone ofáSt. Petersburg's minor landmarks, aábuilding onáLakhtinksaya Street known as theáHouse with Mephistopheles.
Local news outlets andásocial media users reported that theárelief was removed fromáthe building without explanation onáWednesday. According toáone Facebook user, historian Dmitry Bratkin, theáhouse was designed byá19th andáearly 20th century architect Alexander Lishnevsky.
"Naturally, theámonument was under protection," Bratkin said. "Or had been. Fifteen minutes ago, Mephistopheles was knocked off theáfacade."
One resident ofáthe building, Kirill Alexeyev, told independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that "workers showed up atá10 ináthe morning, did not introduce themselves, andádid not say who had sent them."
Instead, theáworkers asked theábuilding's residents toámove their cars away fromáthe building toáavoid being damaged byáfalling plaster, andáthen proceeded with theáremoval ofáMephistopheles, Alexeyev said.
"I said: What have you done, this is after all aámonument protected byáthe state," he said, Novaya Gazeta reported. "They responded: Not toáworry, it is old andádilapidated, andáit will be restored ináplaster."
Theápromise ofárecreating aáversion ofáthe bas-relief ináplaster indicated that theádemolition had been aá"planned action," supposedly approved byáthe authorities, instead ofáa grass-root stunt byáactivists displeased byáthe sight ofáa mythical demon, Alexeyev suggested.
However, aáspokesperson foráthe city's architectural monument preservation department, known byáits Russian acronym KGIOP, denied any knowledge ofáthe incident, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Theáremoval ofáthe historical bas-relief has also prompted protests byásome local lawmakers. St. Petersburg municipal legislator Boris Vishnevsky has sent aácomplaint toáKGIOP, while his fellow lawmaker Alexander Kobrinsky said he would ask police toáopen aácriminal investigation onácharges ofádestruction ofácultural heritage sites, St. Perersburg's Fontanka news agency reported.
Some commentators also claimed that theáremoval ofásculpture might be connected toáthe construction ofáan Orthodox church that would face theá"House with Mephistopheles."
"A couple ofádays ago, aácross was placed onáthe roof ofáthe church that is under construction across [the building]," Bratkin wrote onáhis Facebook page. "Yesterday, some sprightly people showed up andátook photographs ofáthe facade with theáMephistopheles, andátoday atá3 ináthe afternoon, aáworker hung down fromáthe roof andá— whack, whack, whack."
Natalya Levina, another local woman, said her neighbors had spotted "people fromáthe church" looking around andáinquiring about theá"demon," theáMetro news agency reported.
Historical-preservation activists have asked police andáthe construction firm that is building theáchurch about who had authorized removing theáMephistopheles image, Levina was quoted as saying. Both organizations denied having any knowledge of who authorized its removal, she said, according toáthe report.
Lishnevsky, theáarchitect, died during World War II after being evacuated toáa hospital ináYaroslavlá— aáhistorical city 250 kilometers toáthe northeast ofáMoscow. Much ofáhis work survived theádevastation ofáthe was andáthe secular policies ofáthe Soviet Union.
TheáMephistopheles bas-relief was created iná1910-1911, Fontanka reported.