The Tomb of the Princes Pozharsky and Khovansky in Suzdal

Excavation of the funerary structure for the Princes Pozharsky and Khovansky in Suzdal’s Spaso-Euphimiev Monastery was undertaken in 2008 in connection with the restoration of the monument to Prince D.M. Pozharsky built in 1865–1885 and destroyed in 1933. The tomb of the Princes Pozharsky was examined in 1851–1852 by Count S.A. Uvarov. One of the aims of the new excavations was to identify burials using modern methods and to study the structures involved and the funerary rite.
On its east side the burial chamber adjoins the apse of the southern side chapel in the Cathedral of the Transfiguration. The graves in it form three austere rows. The west row consists of brick vaults containing wooden coffins, which have been arranged close up against each other and above some of them the remains of the base for the upper part of the tomb had survived. In the middle row the white-stone anthropomorphic coffin of Prince Nikolai Andreyevich Khovansky was discovered: on it the date of his death was recorded — 1608. The east row incorporated vaults and three white-stone sarcophagi. One of them, for a child, was made out of two gravestones dating from the first half of the 17th century. The lid of the second sarcophagus bore the record of the death of Prince Fyodor Pozharsky (d. 1632), son of Prince Dmitrii. Prince D.M. Pozharsky left instructions that he should be buried near the head of his son, but Brick Vault No. 14, which had survived to the west of the burial of Prince Fyodor, did not contain a sarcophagus. To the North of Prince Fyodor an elderly woman was buried — Fyodor’s mother, Praskovya Varfolomeyevna (d. 2.09.1635 in Moscow), or his grandmother Euphrosiniya (d. 1640). A vault containing the burial of a woman aged 20–30, assumed to be the second wife of Prince D.M. Pozharsky — F.A. Golytsina (d. 1651) — completes the east row.
Count A.S. Uvarov considered that the third unnamed sarcophagus was the coffin of Prince D.M. Pozharsky (d. 1642) and he opened it up and described the contents in detail. The sarcophagus had at one time been encased in brick with a ”canopy” at the level of the floor. New surveys have made it possible to reconstruct the appearance of the burial and a general view of the interior. The details of the funerary rite reveal similarity between the tomb of the Princes Pozharsky and the royal tombs in the Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin and the cemetery of the Romanovs in the Novospasskii Monastery.
Anthropological analysis of the remains of 72 individuals linked with this tomb has revealed a predominance of men over women (61:32%), which clearly shows how preference was given to men in monastery cemeteries. Only 7% of the deceased were children. Outside the tomb the ratio was even more striking: among the 94 skeletons in the open-air cemetery none were those of children (the preferred option was probably to bury infants in convents), while 84% were male and only 16% female. The practice of using family graves in a tomb or vault evened out the ratio of men to women somewhat and also explains the presence of children. The average age of the deceased in the tomb was high: 41 for men and 35 for women. The remains of mounted warriors could be singled out from the rest. It was not possible to distinguish the remains of monks, although we know that some of the deceased had taken vows.
Investigations of this tomb have been described in a number of academic articles, on the basis of which attempts have been made to piece together the archaeology of the “Time of Troubles”: the excavations of Kazan Cathedral in Moscow, the collections from the Tushino Camp and so on. They have a special significance for the public at large now that the main public holiday in the Russian Federation has been established — National Unity Day, on November 4th. The history of this important day can be traced back to the events of the Civil War in 1612. The Liberation of Moscow from the army of Rzeczpospolita and its Russian supporters is inseparably linked with the name of its hero — Prince Dmitrii Pozharsky. Scientific investigations are encouraging the glorification of historical events, which ensured Russia’s national independence.
After the completion of these investigations, the monument to D.M. Pozharsky was restored and it was solemnly inaugurated on October 4, 2009 in the presence of the President of the Russian Federation.

L.A. Belyaev

Digital publication