The Story of Love Worth a Million Golden Rubles
17 July, 2014
The Story of Love Worth a Million Golden Rubles
The palace was situated at Kargareteli Street in Tbilisi and was called The Palace of Love or the One Night Palace since the day of its construction. Today the palace, constructed in the Gothic style with Islamic influences, is host to Georgia’s Museum of Theater, Cinema, Music and Choreography.

A well-known architect Paul Stern was commissioned to build the castle in 1895 by Duke Constantin Oldenburg, who was head over heels in love. He was fascinated by a married woman,
the wife of a famous Georgian noble.

In May 1882, a well-known artist Mihaly Zichy was painting illustrations for “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” in Kutaisi. It was said that the countenance of Nestan-Darejan in the illustrations was copied from that of Agrafina Japaridze, beautiful wife of Tariel Dadiani, a noble. This was noted by Constantin, who was at that time busy with constructing a railroad from Tbilisi to Poti. Constantine Oldenburg fell in love with Agrafina at first sight, to the point of sending a man to Tariel Dadiani to negotiate his divorce so that he could marry his wife. The noble almost went insane at the prospect of someone asking for his wife’s hand. As rumor has it, Oldenburg managed to not only gain Agrafina’s love, but also to bribe Dadiani to divorce her. It is said that the noble was given a million of golden rubles to seal the deal. Nobody knows if this is true, but a mocking rhyme “Agrafina giggled and off to the duke got haggled” was quite popular in Tbilisi and Kutaisi back then… Regardless, the fact was that Dadiani and Agrafina divorced and she settled in Tbilisi together with Oldenburg. The duke loved her so much that he ceaselessly kept trying to impress her… And so the idea of building a palace of love was born, for which he bought land from a wealthy Tbilisi merchant. Before Oldenburg could get count Dadiani’s agreement to divorce, the couple were seeing each other in secret at the palace’s tower.

The building itself resembles a castle rather than a palace. It has a main building, a front entrance and a tower. As rumor has it, this tower was a silent witness to many of the lovers’ meetings.

Giorgi Kalandia, Director of the Museum: “The attic, right under the tower’s roof, contains a small hatch, which takes you to a small room. This is where the duke and the duchess met each other prior to their wedding.

Agrafina gifted Oldenburg with three daughters (Aleksandra, Ekaterine and Nina) and three sons (Nikolai, Aleksi and Petre). However, hers is story with a sad ending: rumors say that Agrafina was strangled by the Bolsheviks in that very tower. In the 30’s, Tbilisi was rife with rumors about this palace being haunted. People kept seeing a woman’s silhouette in its windows and hearing her charming laughter…”

After Oldenburg and his Georgian beloved one moved to Europe, the palace of love became connected with yet another Georgian-European love story.

For a certain time, it served as a home for Prince Miurat, husband of Salome Dadiani. It is said that he became enamored with a woman who lived in a mosaic-decorated house opposite his own (which stands to this day), some one by the surname of Tsitsishvili. Apparently, Miurat spent hours standing at the palace’s balcony, trying to catch a glimpse of his beloved. One day they met at the garden. In memory of that meeting, the prince erected a pavilion there, which was later destroyed. Communists, apparently, took a liking to this story, replacing the destroyed pavilion with one made of bamboo.

The building’s story didn’t end with Miurat either. By Stalin’s decree, the palace was turned into a school for the disabled. The deaf-mute sister of Lavrenti Beria studied in this school. According to GiorgiKalandia, it’s most likely that the palace retained its old charm only due to Beria’s intervention.

“Besides all this, one puzzle remains unsolved. This is the only building in Tbilisi to grace a family coat of arms. The coat of arms also depicts a unicorn and a mythical equine the blood of which is said to heal injured people. We spent a lot of time searching for the owners of this coat of arms. It turned out to belong to Verigins, a Russian bloodline. It is known that Verigin the noble was banished to Tbilisi prior to leaving for Canada. He was a friend of Alexander Tolstoy, who also lived in Tbilisi. But what connects the Verigin family to the Palace of Love is not known.”

Before it got restored, the building of the palace was in a catastrophic state due to 20 years of disrepair. Thanks to the effort of its new administration, it was literally reborn. The museum it hosts is another matter entirely – it is home to 30,000 unique items. Previously unknown works of Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani, Irakli Parjiani, Sergo Parajanov and David Kakabadze are also kept here. Their artwork depicts Old Tbilisi and tells its story.

Today’s palace lives with two histories simultaneously – the old and the new. The new one belongs to the museum; the place where Duke Oldenburg and Agrafina Japaridze met each other is now used by newlyweds and unmarried couples alike as a dating spot. Many of them use it to take memorable photos to serve as keepsakes.

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