Prince Igor Konstantinovich and the Iverskaya Chapel



Prince Igor Konstantinovich, 10 June 1894–18 July 1918

Prince Igor Konstantinovich was the sixth child and fifth son of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich the elder and Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Mavrikiyevna (née Princess Elisabeth Auguste Marie Agnes of Saxe–Altenburg). This large, close-knit family of eventually nine children (of whom eight survived into adulthood) stood in stark, welcome contrast to the decadent, dysfunctional antics of many other members of the extended Imperial Family.

Igor and his siblings were the first to be affected by a new law passed by Tsar Aleksandr III, dictating that, henceforth, only the children and male-line grandchildren of a Tsar merited the titles Grand Duke or Duchess and Imperial Highness. This law was meant to cut down on the amount of people getting salaries from the Imperial Treasury. These great-grandchildren and their descendants, thus, were simply to be known as Prince or Princess and Highness.


Prince Igor (left of centre) during the war, developing into a rather handsome fellow

Igor and his siblings grew up in Pavlovsk, a St. Petersburg suburb. Like all Romanov males, he entered the Corps des Pages military school at a young age, and was taught at home by tutors. He was closest to his brother Oleg, who was killed in action in 1914. Their father, a man of letters, wrote poems and plays under the initials K.R., and founded several literary societies. Because he was so attracted to the old Russian traditions and customs, he gave his children old-fashioned, folksy names which weren’t in vogue in Imperial society, like Ioann, Tatyana, Oleg, and Igor. They represented a romantic ideal of Russia as it was.

Igor and his brothers Konstantin, Oleg, Ioann, and Gavriil served in the Izmaylovskiy Guards Regiment during the Great War. They served with distinction and became decorated war heroes, well-liked by their fellow soldiers. Igor earned the rank of captain. However, he fell sick with pleurisy and pneumonia in 1915, and still wasn’t well after he returned to the trenches.


Prince Igor and Tsesarevich Aleksey at Stavka (military HQ) during the war

In April 1918, he fell into Bolshevik hands and was taken to the Urals along with his brothers Konstantin and Ioann; their cousins Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley and Grand Duke Sergey Mikhaylovich; the Tsaritsa’s sister Ella and one of her nuns; and Grand Duke Sergey’s secretary. They initially were held in Yekaterinburg but denied communication with the Tsar’s family, and then taken to nearby Alapayevsk.

On 18 July 1918, a day after the Imperial Family’s murder, the Alapayevsk prisoners were blindfolded, had their hands bound, and were taken to an abandoned mineshaft in wagons. Only Grand Duke Sergey knew they were being taken to be murdered, and tried to resist. They were all thrown alive into the mineshaft, which was full of water. Not everyone died instantly, but they were all dead by the time the White Army reached the area and discovered what had happened.

In my alternative history, the Alapayevsk prisoners are rescued, and Igor becomes Grand Duchess Mariya’s husband.


19th century view of the Iverskaya Gate and Chapel, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Iverskaya (Iberian) Gate, alternately called Resurrection (Voskresenskiye) Gate, is one of the historic entrances to Moskvá’s Red Square and Kreml. It’s surrounded by Red Square, Manezhnaya Square, Voskresenskaya Square, the State Historical Museum, and City Hall.


Modern view of Iverskaya Gate and Chapel, Copyright Stoljaroff

Since 1669, Iverskaya Chapel has been home to a copy of the Panagia Portaitissa (Ikon of the Blessèd Virgin of Iveron), which according to legend was created by Saint Luke. The original ikon is resplendent in silver and gold. Tradition dictated everyone visit the chapel to venerate the ikon before entering Red Square, no matter how high or low one’s birth. Prisoners and outlaws could pray right beside the Tsar.


Iverskaya Gate towers, Copyright Hons084Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0

The day before his coronation, the Tsar came to Iverskaya Chapel to venerate the ikon, just like any other worshipper. Coronations were held in Moskvá, the ancient capital, not St. Petersburg, the modern capital.


Ikon of the Blessèd Virgin of Iveron

8 thoughts on “Prince Igor Konstantinovich and the Iverskaya Chapel

  1. Pingback: A to Z Reflections 2016 | Welcome to My Magick Theatre

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