Princess Elizabeth of Wied (Diana Mandache collection)
On 4th May 1863 Princess Elisabeth wrote from Moscow to her mother, the Princess of Wied, her first impressions of Moscow:
We are in Moscow, the old patriotic city, with its one- and two-storeyed houses, green roofs, and several hundred churches, all shining in their most variegated colours. When we arrived, a sunbeam fell through the thick clouds on some gilded cupola; the view from the Kremlin was highly impressive (curious), unhappily not sunny, but green. We look down upon nothing but verdant roofs. The dimensions of the streets are such that one scarcely knows which is street and which square. It is too wonderful.
The city, with its one-storeyed structures set in their surrounding gardens, is quite like the country – almost like a village — and yet it is very beautiful. One sees only little houses, many-hued, and much more highly-coloured churches: vivid blue with bright green roof and domes, or red, with green cupolas, or red, green and blue in the most fantastic mixture. Only in bright sunshine could I imagine Moscow peculiarly beautiful, when the hundreds of domes glisten and throw their rays on the green roofs, here, there, and everywhere.In the Kremlin I saw the church treasure, also the treasure and armour chamber, in which all the Imperial crowns are kept. I take a particular interest in this spot, for the sake of the age of these relics, and likewise the historical remembrances which are attached to them. In this room we also find the enormous silver kettles in which holy oil is prepared and sanctified. Every three years, during three days of continuous prayers, it is boiled and mixed with perfumed herbs, then it is blessed and consecrated in the church, and is called ‘la sainte crème’. Forty to fifty amphorae are filled with it, and from far and wide come prayers to possess some of this oil, because they use it for the dedication of churches, as well as for ceremonials of birth and death. For me it has something touching to think in how many ways men endeavour to hallow themselves, and although we are disposed to ask what is the benefit of this holy oil and holy water, there lies within the mere idea and its fulfilment a child-like desire to become quite pure; there is an unchanging faith in the power of prayer, which in itself is alone able to sanctify all things. In the Greek Church I find very many childish and cheerful ideas, and fewer superstitions than in the Roman Catholic belief – nothing, however, of the solemnity and earnestness of our religion. However, it strikes me that our Church in its noblest form (as I should also mention other Churches in their noblest form) is specially suited to the German character: we all have, more or less, the tendency to sound ourselves, probe into our own hearts, and to wholly retire within ourselves, and only out of our inmost souls to draw the fullness of the knowledge of God.
In June 1864 Helen, the Grand Duchess conveyed her niece back to Germany.
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see also Elisabeth of Romania writes on Bucharest