In 1780, during the War of Independence of the
United States, France and Great Britain once again confronted each other. In
order to protect her merchant fleet, Catherine the Great, the empress of
Russia, launched three fleets as part of the Ligue of Neutrals, the
first legal declaration of the freedom of the seas.
The Slava Rossii (Pride of Russia) was separated from the rest of the fleet during inclement wheather on the Mediterranean, and sank south of the Island of Levant following a navigational error. The ship was armed with 66 cannons, and was built in 1774 at Arkhangelsk by Gunion and Portnov, two Russian master builders.
The shipwreck was discovered in 1957, and was subject of two excavation
campaigns in 1980 and 1981. Beside a large section of the hull, it has rendered
important archeological items: on one hand, a large range of weapons, from
light arms (rifles, pistols, swords, daggers) to heavy artillery (mortars, "unicorns",
cannons and their accouterments). Also found were innumerable objects that
exemplify daily life and work on board:
The shipwreck has also given up a remarkable series of portable icons (80) made of a copper alloy: diptychs, triptychs, portable altars, some of them decorated in cloisonné enamel. These icons give a moving testimonial to the piety of the Russian sailors, and to the influence of the "old faith".
Excavation : Max Guérout / Groupe de recherche en Archéologie Navale (GRAN)
Photos : GRAN and Philippe Foliot, CNRS/CCJ