Pyotr Melissino

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Pyotr Melissino
P.I. Melissino (Kursk gallery).jpg
A portrait of General of the Artillery Pyotr Melissino in the Kursk gallery, Russia.
Born 1726
Cephalonia, Greece
Allegiance  Russia
Years of service 1740 — 1797
Rank General of the Artillery

Pyotr Ivanovich Melissino (Greek: Πέτρος Μελισσηνός, Petros Melissinos), (Russian: Пётр Мелиссино), (French: Pierre De Mellisino); ca. 1726 – ca. 1797) was a General of the Artillery of the Russian Empire and was widely considered the best Russian artilleryman of the 18th century.[1]


He was born as Petros Melissinos on the Greek island of Cephalonia in 1726,[2] he was of Greek origin[2][3][4][5] and his father was a physician who belonged to the noble Greek family of Melissenos (Greek Μελισσηνός). Throughout his life, he prided himself on his Greek origin.[2] He received a thorough education in his youth and was fluent in many languages including Russian, German, Italian, French, Turkish as well as his native Greek, he also knew some Latin and English.[2] Melissinos arrived in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great and ended his career as Vice-President of the Commerce Collegium in 1740-45.

During the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774, Pyotr Melissino was in charge of the Russian artillery. His efficient command helped Russian forces prevail against a fourfold numerical superiority of the Ottomans at Khotin, Larga, and Kagula. In 1783, he was appointed Director of the Artillery and Engineering Corps in St. Petersburg. He is remembered as an organizer of the artillery education in the Russian Empire. After the ascension of Emperor Paul, Melissino was put in charge of the entire Russian artillery but died the following year.

Melissino was instrumental in promoting the career of one of Paul's favourites, Aleksey Arakcheyev. His son Aleksey Melissino, a Major General, was killed in the Battle of Dresden (1813). His brother, Ivan Melissino, was Dean of the Moscow University under Catherine the Great.

Jenkins (pp. 35–36) says:

Melissino as a freemason and his Masonic circle

In 1765, Catherine the Great was immersed in formulating her “Grand Instruction”, which was intended as a “guide to the Enlightened principles on which a better government and society might ultimately rest.” At the same time as the empress was composing her instruction, the eminent masonic figure of Melissinos established his new Masonic rite in St. Petersburg inspired by chivalric and clerical symbolism and rituals, which advocated an alternative worldview in which alchemy played a pivotal role. Over the course of the following two decades Melissinos’ high-grade system of Freemasonry acted as a key crucible in which both Russian and European aristocrats indulged their passion for alchemy in the Russian capital. We do not exactly know when Melissinos was initiated into Freemasonry. The first reliable Masonic reference about Melissinos is made by Boris Telepneff:

Melozino Rite (sic) which had flourished already from 1765 in the Lodge of Silence”. And the same author adds:

“A ‘Peter Mellozino’ is listed as Worshipful Master of a Lodge at Yassy, Moldavia, N° 469, one of the five Lodges composing ‘the Grand Provincial Lodge of Russia [...] originally established in St. Petersburg under the auspices of the Berlin Grand Lodge “Royal York”. This event took place on the 22nd May, 1770: Yelagin was elected Grand Master”.

So, if Melissino was Worshipful Master of the Lodge of Mars No 469 (and apparently the first WM after the establishment of the lodge) in 1770, then we can safely assume that Melissinos was an active Freemason to another system at the same time he had founded his own the Rite. From whom Melissino have been masonically influenced? Melissino may have been influenced by Baron (Louis) Théodore Henri de Tschoudy (1727–1769), who was in the Russian service between 1752–1755 and 1757–1760, and who championed alchemical and cabbalistic symbolism in his Masonic rites and philosophy. He was one of the most active apostles of the school of Ramsay, and adopted his theory of the Templar origin of Freemasonry. Tschoudy, the author of the ritual of The Flaming Star (L’étoile flamboyante), was in Russia off and on from 1753 to 1760 and acted as the private secretary of I.I. Shuvalov. He used the name of Chevalier de Lussy and Comte de Putelange and publishe the first French language periodical in Russia, le chaméleon littéraire, in 1759. His masonic rituals seem to have been very influential. Thus, as already mentioned, Melissinos was a “consumate socialite”, he was able to publicly flaunt his Masonic grandeur and elevated status in Petersburg’s elite circles. One must look into the distinctive features he developed in the mid 1760s within his own Masonic system.

It wouldn’t be an invalid assumption to attribute the ritual of the seven grade system to Melissinos. The possibility of his authorship is likely to be the case if one considers the following facts carefully. He had been a keen freemason for several years, fluent in many foreign languages, erudite, person of great education, member of esoteric circles and thus well-versed in esotericism and also in the Estern Orthodox ritual. This is the reason why Melissinos’ easily combined chivalric and clerical mythology and rituals linked to the Knights Templar and Orthodox and Catholic liturgical practices alongside Rosicrucian-style esoteric philosophy immersed in alchemical lore. Furthermore, Melissinos had many contacts with distinguished Greek freemasons who lived in St. Petersburg during that era. In fact, he could be regarded as the most prominent representative, as it were, of the Greek community of Petersburg. Another eminent figure of the society of St. Petersurg and member of Melissinos’ circle was Marinos Carburi or Charvouris (In Greek Μαρίνος Χαρμπούρης), another Greek from the Island of Kefallonia, serving as lieutenant-colonel in the Russian Army. Marinos (although we do not have any reference proving that himself was a freemason) was the brother of the famous freemason Marco Carburi (1731-1808), a chemistry professor at the University of Padua, who was sent in 1764-1765 to Sweden by the Venetian government to study mining techniques. Marco, while in Stockholm, visited a lodge, where conferred with Swendeborg. It must be pointed out that Carburi was the major proponent of the Rose – Croix masonry in Italy. He is the one that signed the Chart for the installation of the first lodge in Corfu, under the name Beneficenza.

Another eminent figure was Georgios Papazolis (in Greek Γεώργιος Παπαζώλης) from Siatista. He was the one who inspired brothers Orloff with the vision of the independence of Greek populations.There are no archives according to which we could positively deduct the symperasma that Papazolis was a freemason. Only the Greek historian Kalevras points out that Melissinos and Papazolis (who was initiated by Nikolaos Artinos and Leon Leontiadis to the secret society “Athina” or “Hercules Ropalon” ) founded a secret society in St Petersburg με σκοπό τη διάδοση στο ρωσικό στρατό της ιδέας της απελευθέρωσης της Ελλάδας. In April 1782, secret societies were forbidden in Russia. Although Freemasons were non included, Melissinos foreseeing the probable victory of Yelagin’s Grand Lodge, now left almost supreme, took advantage of the edict to gracefully withdraw from the contest and retired to Moscow, directing his lodges to close their doors, in obedience to the law.

The degrees of the Melissino Masonic Rite

Very little reliable information is available about Melesino and his system. The common and oldest source appears to be a paper issued in the Altenburger Zeitschrift für Freimaurerei, 1st vol (1823): 20-31, a reference provided by the entry Melesino in Lenning II. Nettelbladt wrote “Melesino became acquainted with several masonic systems in France, England and Italy” without giving any authority for his statement (Nettelbladt 294). These three countries, listed in the same order, come in a letter written in 1809 by Starck to Nettelbladt quoted below, where they apply to an unnamed “famous brother of that Chapter who died in 1764”, which cannot apply to Melissino who died in 1797.[6]

According to Isabel De Madariaga Melissinos’ system “was affiliated to that of Yelagin”. However, in respect of the rituals, the only trustable source of Masonic information is Lenning. Telepneff comments that “it seemed to be rather chaotic and out of sequence” with the other degrees of the Rite, which generally “lacked uniformity and continuity”. According to MacKenzie the Rite contained the exoteric teachings of the Order of Ishmael, however this argument lacks any further proof.

The seven degrees according to the Melissinos’ system were as follows:

1. Entered Apprentice;

2. Fellow-Craft;

3. Master-Mason;

4. Dark Vault;

5. Scottish Master;

6. Philosopher;

7. Spiritual Knight (Magnus Sacerdos Templariorum)


  1. Schenker, Alexander M. (2003). The Bronze Horseman: Falconet's monument to Peter the Great. Yale University Press. pp. 172–173. ISBN 0-300-09712-3. Marin’s first connection in St. Petersburg was his compatriot Colonel Melissino, who, as Russia's best artilleryman, must have been of considerable interest to Venetian intelligence services.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Masson, Charles François Philibert (1802). Secret memoirs of the court of Petersburg: particularly towards the end of the reign of Catharine II and the commencement of that of Paul I. T.N. Longman and O. Rees. pp. 339–340. OCLC 35652011. GENERAL MELISSINO - In these Memoirs we have frequently spoken of general Melissino, whose name will long live in Russia. He originally came from Cephalonia, and prided himself on his Greek origin, which he was fond of recollecting… A sure discernment, an exquisite sensibility, with him compensated for a particular study which circumstances had not allowed him ; but he spoke, equally well and correctly, Russian, German, Italian, and French : he knew enough of modern Greek and Turkish to make himself understood; and he was not unacquainted with Latin and English. Gallant and magnificent, his military entertainments, his camps, his parties, and even his orgies and follies, will long be the subject of conversation.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Telepnef, Boris (2003). Outline of the History of Russian Freemasonry. Kessinger Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7661-8110-6. Peter Melissino, a Russian General, of Greek extraction; born, 1726; died, 1797<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Илизаров, Симон Семенович (1999). Московская интеллигенция XVIII века. Янус-К. p. 178. ISBN 978-5-8037-0028-9. МЕЛИССИНО Иван Иванович (1718—23 марта 1795, Москва) — литератор, куратор Московского университета. Сын греческого лекаря, который выехал из Венеции в Россию при ...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Mandich, Donald R. ; Placek, Joseph Anthony (1992). Russian heraldry and nobility. Dramco. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-9633063-9-5. MELISSINO This family is descended from a most distinguished Greek family which resided in Constantinople …A descendant, Rikhard Melissino in 1454 left behind his property on the Island of Crete and settled in Cephalonia from which in more recent times Ivan Afanasievich Melissino departed for Russia. He and his descendants served the Russian Throne in distinguished posts and gained fame for their family...CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Dr Lefakis, Leandros. "The Melissinos' Rite - A contribution to Russian Spiritual and Knight Masonry" (PDF). Dr Leandros Lefakis. Retrieved 2015-12-21. External link in |website= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev: Grand Vizier of the Russian Empire (Dial Press, 1969)

This article incorporates material from the public domain 1906 Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary.