Aristocratic lodgings: Sergei's Imperial Hospice

In 1881, after a long, tiresome journey from Russia, the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, brother of Czar Alexander III, arrived in Jerusalem where he visited the Russian Mission, various Russian properties in the Old City, Russian schools in Beit Jala and Eizariya and magnificent Russian churches and monasteries in Ein Kerem, the Eleon mountain and the Russian Compound. By that time there had been almost 40 years of Russian activity in the Holy Land. A Russian consulate in Jaffa had been established, throngs of Russian pilgrims came to pray and celebrate religious holidays in Jerusalem and it seemed that the status of Russia in the Holy Land, bolstered by its victories in the Crimean War, was undisputed. Like many other Western embassies, the Russian diplomatic mission sought to protect its local Christian population from the arbitrariness of the Ottoman bureaucracy. In 1882, the Grand Duke established the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, which oversaw the construction of several hospices, monasteries and churches in the area. The palatial Sergei's Imperial Hospice was completed in 1890 by architect Frank Gia. Its 25 luxuriously furnished rooms were intended as lodgings for aristocrats and notables. After the 1917 revolution the Russian Compound, including the Sergei's Imperial Hospice, became property of the Red Church. - K.S.