The next cover of “Legends of Voronezh” special project is dedicated to ceramic floor tiles that survived in many monument houses, as well as majolica, which were used to decorate the buildings facades. Local historians Olga Rudeva and Anton Pozdnukhov arranged a tour to the correspondents of RIA “Voronezh” of the places where the old tiles had preserved.

Originally from Egypt

The first tile appeared even 5 thousand years B.C. in the Mesopotamia. The ancient tile looked like a mosaic. It was used to decorate temples and palaces of the nobility. Ceramic products from glazed baked colored clay were produced in Ancient Egypt and Babylon.

– Blue tile was used to finish Goddess Ishtar’s gates, an ancient Babylonian monument, fragments of which are now kept in the Berlin Museum of the Antiquity of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, which, in turn, is a pavilion of the Pergamon Museum. It contains the finds of German archaeologists of the late XIX – early XX centuries in the territory of Mesopotamia, Olga Rudeva said.

In Europe, tiles appeared in the Middle Ages. For example, in Italy, glazed and painted tiles came from Moorish Spain through the island of Mallorca. That is why the beautiful ceramic product is called “majolica.” It came to Russia with Italian masters.

In the 18th century, the majolica production flourished in Russia. It was made at the Grebenshchikov Moscow Factory, in the workshops of the Gzhel settlement in the Moscow Region, in Yaroslavl. At the same time, the tiles were brought to Voronezh. They were used to finish stoves.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

“Metlakh tile” in Russia is known as all types of ceramic small-format floor tile, dates back to the German city of Metlakh, which became the center of tile production in the Middle Ages. The tiles were also manufactured in Russia according to the German technology. At the end of the XIX century, the largest manufacturer of Metlakh tiles in the Empire was the Kharkov Plant of the “Bergenheim” Partnership. It was founded by the Kharkov industrialist with the Finnish roots, Baron Eduard Bergenheim. In 1892, the factory launched the production of fireproof tiles for floors and sidewalks.


Bergenheim Tile (front side)
Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

– Bergenheim’s tile came to Voronezh right after his factory started working. Each tile had a brand mark. Tiles with “Baron Bergenheim” stamps were popular throughout the Russian Empire. It was used in the construction of railway stations in Moscow, Livadia Palace in Crimea, the “house with chimeras” in Kiev, as well as in the construction of churches throughout Russia, Olga Rudeva says.

After graduating from the Finnish cadet and then the engineering academy, Eduard Bergenheim moved to Kharkov, where in 1870 he joined the partnership of the Kursk-Kharkov-Azov railway. Working on the construction of the railway in the territory of the Kharkov Province, Bergenheim discovered large deposits of clay. This started the history of his enterprise manufacturing terracotta and other clay products, which was launched in 1876.

Print for ages

A year later, the factory produced ceramic sewer pipes, and later – refractory brick and pottery. In 1892, the factory has established the production of fire and acid-resistant tiles for floors and sidewalks. In the Soviet era, however, the name of Bergenheim was forgotten.

– I first saw Bergenheim name in the old red-brick house on Koltsovskaya Street. It was a hospital. There was no tile on the doorstep, but an imprint of the brand remained. I did not know who it was, Olga Rudeva confessed.

Bergenheim’s tiles were used to pave the floors in the lobby of the House with an Owl, in the professor’ s and rector’s corps of the Agrarian University, in the building of the Center for Social Initiatives (34 Tsurupy Street), in Kligman House of and Bristol.


Bergenheim tile (back side)
Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The second plant, which at the beginning of the XX century produced tile, preserved in Voronezh these days is Villeroy & Boch company.

– The front and black entrances were paved either with tiles or with marble chips. Most often it is the tile of the Bergenheim plant. The last time I found fragments of the Bergenheim tile on Uritsky Street. It was not inferior to the stone in hardness. In 2005, I personally collected the tiles near the red building at Feoktistov Street, adjacent to the Medical Academy. During the repair, the workers just threw out a bunch of tiles of the Bergenheim plant in excellent condition. The same thing happened in the building of School No. 28, where the tiles were chopped off the lateral junctions and staircases. We asked to preserve it at least in the central hall, and the management listened to us. This is a consequence of the fact that we grew up in a city without history. We need to understand that the floors under our feet are more than 100 years old. These things need to be protected. For example, in Portugal azulejo tiles are the national treasure, Olga Rudeva. said.

The print on the tile is not erased until now. Its secret is in a thick layer of pigment (about 1 mm).

– The print lasts for centuries. It is almost impossible to erase this millimeter, Anton Pozdnukhov says.

German majolica on the facade of Vartanov House (48 20 Let VLKSM Street)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The tile of rich blue and burgundy colors, which adorns the facade of the house, is an exact copy of the majolica of 1913, which was lost during the major renovation of the building in 2017. The old tiles were in a deplorable condition, the builders took it off. The new tiles of the same color as the original, was made by Voronezh ceramist Roman Suvorkov. Local historians Anton Pozdnukhov and Olga Rudeva have fragments of the original tiles.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The majolica tiles in niches on the facade of Vartanov’s House, was made using double-baking technology. The clay tiles were baked, covered with colored glaze and baked again. The originals still have factory marks, which allowed the local historians to conclude that the tiles were produced at German factory Boizenburg, founded in 1903. The factory began to produce tiles since 1907.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

– The builders who were repairing and conserving the house, were not satisfied with the quality of the brick. Apparently, Mr. Vartanov cheaped out on the quality of the brick and the tile: historical sources indicate that the quality of the tile has increased since 1921. So, up to that moment, the tile was not very good and cheap in its price segment. Nevertheless, it has preserved for 100 years, Anton Pozdnukhov noted.

The tiles at the Central Post Office (25 Prospekt Revolutsii)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The pre-revolutionary floor tile of the Bergenheim Plant in the Central Post Office imitates a chic carpet: hexagons, squares with eight-pointed stars resemble honeycombs.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

At the corners of the hall, the tiles seem to create a rim, and fold into a three-dimensional image in the center. In the left corner, the tiles covered with cracks. According to Olga Rudeva, the upper floor of the building fell there during the Great Patriotic War.

The tiles in the house of notary Boldyrev (2 Komissarzhevskaya Street)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The entrance of the house is paved with the tiles of Dzevulsky & Lang Plant. The local historians made this conclusion when they saw the plant’s brand – the six-pointed star of David. The production of ceramic tiles and red bricks was founded by Jan Dzevulsky and the brothers Jozef and Vladislav Lang. They launched their first factory in 1883 in Poland. In 1901, they opened a terracotta tiles production factory in Slavyansk. By the way, the design of the ceramic floors was developed by professional artists.

– There was competition in the ceramic tile market: the Bergenheim Plant was not the only manufacturer of tiles. Anyone could open their ceramic production, Olga Rudeva explained.

Majolica in Zinaida Ivanova’s guest house (3 Nikitinskaya Street)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The house in the style of Art Nouveau with the classicism features was built in 1911 according to the project of the famous Voronezh architect Mikhail Zamyatnin. It belonged to Zinaida Ivanova, the court counselor’s daughter. It was a guest house. If you look at the end of the building, at the top you will see a fragile majolica of turquoise color, which frames the upper part of the wall under the cornice. The facade of the house is decorated with the same majolica, but it was painted over during the renovation.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

– In the early XX century, facing with majolica was quite a frequent technic in modern. The facades of the buildings were decorated with huge panels. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, there are many ceramic panels in Art Nouveau houses. In Voronezh, the is only one large panel depicting the campaign of Peter the Great to Azov. It adorned Petrov’s house at Koltsovsky Square. Unfortunately, the house was demolished, Olga Rudeva said.

A “boar” on the house of lieutenant Ivanov (5 Nikitinskaya Street)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The townspeople pass by this building every day, and no one knows that a quite large fragment of the front wall is faced with pre-revolutionary tiles. It looks like it was faced yesterday. This is the house of lieutenant Alexey Petrovich Ivanov, the leader of the nobility of the Voronezh District, the father of noblewoman Zinaida Ivanova.

– The house itself was largely rebuilt. But it has preserved the original tiles, the so-called “boar”. Why “boar”? This tile was made of bricks. The boar-tile is two sides of a brick. It was glazed on two sides, and then it had to be split in half. To make this easier, two round holes were made along the entire length of the brick. Therefore, when you look at the end, you get the impression that you see a pig’s snout, Anton Pozdnukhov explained.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The “boar” began to be used for facing the surfaces of buildings during the period of the domination of the Art Nouveau style.

– On the tile you can see that during baking, the glaze was draining from it, so the layer below is thicker than at the top, a gradient appeared, Anton Pozdnukhov noted.

The branded tile of the Bergenheim Plant in the Eye Hospital (22 Revolutsii 1905 Goda Street)


Photo – Anton Pozdnukhov

Anton Pozdnukhov found the rare branded tile in the building of the old Voronezh Regional Ophthalmologic Hospital. It has the manufacturer’s name – the Bergenheim Plant. The ancient staircase has preserved in the hospital, and the local historian found the tile on one of the landings.

– It was usually laid on the doorstep, in the most prominent place. In fact, this is the manufacturer’s advertisement, Anton Pozdnukhov said.

Unfortunately, access to the hospital is limited, and you cannot get inside from the street to admire the rare tile.

Majolica in the house of merchant Lagutin (24 Alexeyevskogo Street)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The house of merchant Tikhon Lagutin in the Art Nouveau style was built in 1911. The local historians call it a “house-museum under the open sky”. The facade of the monument is abundantly decorated with insets of various majolica tiles. There are five types of decorative ceramics of different sizes, shapes and shades: green, blue, gray.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

– The house is beautiful, but not well maintained. Due to the roof change during the Soviet era, many of the Art Nouveau details of the house were lost. For example, the pilaster strips, decorative elements that rise above the line of the cornice, have not been preserved. Stucco – lotus capsules – fell off from the facade, Anton Pozdnukhov said.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

Lagutin’s House was built as a guest house. The whole floor was one apartment.

– In the apartments of this house, Bergenheim tiles were used to pave the floors in the bathroom, on the balconies. In the postwar years, one part of the house was occupied by the Military Registration and Enlistment Office, the other was the military commissar’s apartment, Olga Rudeva said.

Floor tiles in the wing of Glushchenko Manor (69 Pyatnitskogo Street)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

An old tile of an unknown producer is located in the outbuilding of the manor. Despite the fact that no one washed the tiled floor on the landing for a long time, you can see a beautiful Art Nouveau print on the tile along the edges.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

Majolica on the facade of Samofalov’s Hotel (44 Prospekt Revolutsii)


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

The monument of the end of the XIX century, built in pseudo-Russian style, is decorated with majolica with a refined floral decor. The elegant eclectic main facade combines motifs of Gothic and Old Russian architecture, has rare colored ceramic inserts with oriental ornaments. The square tiles decorate the facade of the building like a kaleidoscope.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

Unfortunately, there is almost no information on the tile on Samofalov’s House. As suggested by Olga Rudeva, the majolica was produced not in Voronezh:

- Why do we know little about this? During the Soviet era, this was not an aspect for studying. The archives were thrown out for 70 years. In the capital, there are many such tiles. In Voronezh, there is only one majolica with oriental decor.


Photo – Yevgeniya Yemelyanova

During the overhaul of houses-monuments, builders often throw out the pre-revolutionary tiles, without thinking about how valuable it is for preserving the history of the house and the city.