The exposition of the Catherine Palace (before 1910 – the Grand Tsarskoselsky Palace) covers more than 300 year history of the outstanding monument and acquaints with creativity of architects who participated in its construction and furnishing in XVIII-XIX centuries, and with achievements of restorers who have restored the palace after the Great Patriotic War. Of the 58 rooms of the palace, destroyed during the war, 32 have been recreated.
In 1717, when St. Petersburg was being founded on the banks of the Neva River, under the direction of the architect I.-F. Braunstein the construction of the first stone palace of Tsarskoye Selo which went down in history as the “stone palace” of Catherine I. In August 1724, as a sign of the completion of construction, a celebration was held in the palace, during which “thirteen cannons were fired three times”. The tsar and important statesmen were present at the celebration. At that time the palace was a small two-storey building typical for Russian architecture of the early 18th century.
During the reign of Empress Elizabeth, at the end of 1742 – beginning of 1743 it was decided to extend the building according to the project of M. Zemtsov (1688-1743) but the death of the architect prevented the implementation of the plan. After Zemtsov the work in Tsarskoye Selo was carried out by A. V. Kvasov (1720 – after 1770) and his assistant G. Trezzini (1697-1768), but in May 1745 Trezzini was succeeded by the famous architect S. I. Chevakinsky (1713-1780), who had supervision over the construction in Tsarskoye Selo until the early 1750s.
From late 1748 to 1756 the construction of Tsarskoye Selo was headed by the chief architect of the Imperial Court, F. Rastrelli (1700-1761). On 10th May 1752 Elizabeth Petrovna signed a decree on the major reconstruction of the old building, and on 30th July 1756 Rastrelli showed his new creation to the crowning client and foreign ambassadors.
The palace, built in the Baroque style, was admirable for its size, its powerful spatial dynamics and “picturesqueness” of the decor. The broad azure ribbon facade with snow-white columns and gilded ornaments looked festive. Rastrelli decorated the palace facades with figures of atlants, caryatids, lion masks and other moulded decorations, based on models by the sculptor J.-F. Dunker (1718-1795). Above the northern block stood the five gilded heads of the Palace Church; above the southern block, where the front porch was located, was a dome with a star of many points on a spire. About 100 kilograms of pure gold were used to gild the exterior and interior decorations. Then was finally decorated the parade ground, enclosed by palace wings and located in a semicircle one-story service buildings – circumferents.
Equally sumptuous was the decoration of Rastrelli’s apartments in the palace. The Main Enfilade created by him, decorated with gilded carvings, was called “golden”. The enfilade arrangement of the rooms, unknown in Russia until the middle of the 18th century, was also used by Rastrelli at other palaces, but only at Tsarskoye Selo was the length of the state rooms equal to the length of the entire building – from the Main Staircase to the Palace Church.
The next stage in the decoration of the state and living rooms of the palace dates back to the 1770s. The new owner of the residence, Catherine II, keen on antique art, wished to decorate her apartments according to her fashionable tastes and commissioned the Scottish architect and connoisseur of antique architecture Ch. Cameron (1743-1812). The interiors he created – the Arabesque and Lyon Drawing Rooms, the Chinese Room, the Dome Dining Room, the Silver Study, the Blue Study (Tabakerka) and the Dormitory – were distinguished by their refined beauty, austere decorations and a special elegance of decoration. Unfortunately, these rooms were destroyed during the Second World War and have still not been restored.
The rooms for Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich (the future Emperor Paul I) and his wife Maria Feodorovna, also designed by Cameron in those years, have been reconstructed: the Green Dining Room, the Waiting Room, the Ceremonial Blue Room, the Chinese Blue Room and the Dormitory allow us to see the unique interiors designed by the Scottish architect, whose work Catherine II so loved.
In 1817, on commission from Emperor Alexander I, the architect Vasily Stasov (1769-1848) created the State Study and several rooms adjoining it, all in a single style. Everything in these rooms was devoted to the glorification of the triumphs won by the Russian army in the Patriotic War of 1812.
The grand staircase created in 1860-1863 by Ivan Monighetti (1819-1878) in the Second Rococo style was the last accommodation in the enfilade of the palace.
The Grand Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg
Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg is considered not only Russia’s greatest landmark, but also a significant part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The famous, magnificent Grand Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, which is the central part of a huge architectural ensemble, is located on the territory of Tsarskoye Selo. Every day its halls are visited by several thousand tourists from all over the world. The building is an imperial palace which used to be the summer residence of Elizabeth Petrovna and Catherine I and Catherine II. This landmark is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The residence was named after Catherine I, on whose order it was built. The construction began in 1717. Since then, the building has been rebuilt several times and is currently a striking example of late Baroque.
Once a tourist finds out the address of the Catherine Palace, he usually tries to find out when it is best to visit it. There is no single answer to this question. In summer you can fully enjoy the facades of the palace, as well as views of the huge park, wide green alleys, walk around the Grand Lake. Horseback riding or a ride on an electric car is also very popular. On the lake you can swim in a gondola. The only disadvantage of the summer period is considered a huge influx of guests, so to get inside the palace of the tourist will have to stand plenty of time in line. Experienced travelers say that the best time to visit the park is in spring or summer, but you can get inside the palace in winter.
Literature often mentions Catherine Palace in the fall. Especially beautiful period for poets seemed Indian summer. The riot of colors strikes the imagination, the leaves on the trees of the most unusual colors merge into a single composition.
Indeed, autumn for these territorial regions is considered a prosperous season for travel planning. Thus, the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg can be visited in mid- to late September, when the rainy season has not yet begun, but the sun is no longer so scorching. The fall decoration of the garden looks just as gorgeous as its spring version, but from March to early May the Petersburg weather is rainy.
History of the Catherine Palace
It is worth noting that the palace has survived several eras, which is why its architecture has found its reflection in each of them. In addition, personal taste preferences of each of the rulers of those times, for whom the building was a residence, also had their influence. The year 1717 is considered to be the year when the construction of the palace started and it was headed by architect Johann Brouwenstein from Germany. From the very beginning the building was planned as a residence of Catherine I. The building was completed in 1724. According to the first design plan the building was a two-storeyed building of small size, made in the Dutch style. If you look through the photos of the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg at the time of different rulers, you can notice a certain dynamics. For example, after Elizabeth Petrovna ascended the throne, she instructed the famous architects of Russia not only to increase the area of the structure, but also to improve it.
According to history, modern tourists see the Catherine Palace exactly as it was during the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna.
The year 1752 was also a period of change. The Empress thought the residence was too small and old-fashioned, so she had it restored by the architect known as Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The rebuilding work lasted four years. The changes were grandiose, and it was after this period that the building received the Russian Baroque style, in which it survives to this day. One hundred kilograms of gold were used to gild the facade, which also decorated the statues along the perimeter of the roof. The park area, which was presented together with the palace in 1756, is also particularly graceful. At that time Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg made a lasting impression on foreign ambassadors and Russian nobles.
The palace greeted the tourist with the Main Staircase, for which white marble was used. Architect I. Monighetti was working on it. This unsurpassed architectural creation occupies a part of the Chinese Hall, which is distinguished by special thematic decorations, among which are porcelain dishes and vases. Special attention should also be paid to such interior details as a large wall barometer and clock. The staircase is decorated with two Cupids, one of which is still sound asleep and the other has just begun to wake up. Carved moldings of unsurpassed quality have been used to decorate the ceilings and walls. The ceiling space is occupied by the famous painting “Aeneas and Venus,” “The Judgment of Paris,” and “Jupiter and Callisto.” The staircase leads its guests to the halls of the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, whose photos can be viewed online:
- The Great Hall, also known as the Light Gallery, is considered the largest room by comparison. Its main purpose was considered the reception of honorary guests, as well as the organization of solemn balls. The decoration of the room is striking in its unreal beauty. The main feature of the design is considered an alternation of window openings and mirrors. It was this technique that helped to visually enlarge the hall and make it almost infinite. To make the Empress’s voice sound more commanding, commanding, here any loud sound is repeated exactly thirty-two times. In sunny weather, the Bright Gallery is bathed in sparkling light, which is reflected by golden surfaces. At night, a huge number of candles are lit inside the hall. Completing the interior image is the parquet, made of stained oak.
- If you visit the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, you can see the Cavalier’s dining room, located near the Great Hall. Its walls are decorated with gold carved patterns and numerous paintings. In the center is a massive dining table covered with a draped tablecloth and decorated with satin ribbons. The tourist has the opportunity to get acquainted with the famous Order services. The dining room served as a room for official receptions for the few guest groups. Therefore its decoration is distinguished by modesty and special coziness.
- The white formal dining room was intended for dinners held exclusively for the imperial family. Official receptions were held here with a complex table setting, which reeked of luxury; guests were always met with fountains of champagne or wine. The walls of the dining room are decorated by paintings depicting hunting scenes. So the Catherine Palace inside is distinguished by rich decoration and spectacular design solutions.
- The painting hall is considered to be one of the most fascinating, historically significant rooms, where a huge number of paintings, painted by talented artists from Western Europe, are kept. Here hangs a painting commissioned by Peter the Great. It was called “The Battle of Poltava”. The room originally served as a kind of a cabinet, where meetings and diplomatic receptions were held. It is also worth noting that the gallery was completely destroyed during the war, but all the works had been previously removed and preserved. They returned to their places, after the complete reconstruction of the building.
- Catherine the Great always singled out the Arabesque Room among all the palace rooms, which had been decorated by C. Cameron. The panels of arabesques told about the life of the ancient Romans. It depicted not only people, but also monsters from the mythology of the time. A distinctive feature of the room is considered to be its restraint, refinement and elegance. It is noteworthy that the history of the Catherine Palace has hardly touched this room.
- The Amber Room is often called the true eighth wonder of the world. Originally it was a study or a place where you could just get some privacy. The amber panels on display were a gift to the royal family from King William I. During the war the room was completely lost, that is, taken abroad in Russia. Where exactly it was taken abroad is still not known. Masters worked on the restoration of the room from 1979 to 2003.
In addition, there is enough information not only about the outstanding merits of the sight, but also about how to get to the Catherine Palace to save your time. The most convenient way to get to the destination is from the Vitebsk railway station, from where the train goes to the platform called “Tsarskoe Selo”. From the station go directly to the museum by bus 371 or cab number 377.
It is noteworthy that each individual room is a unique, fully completed composition, which is characterized by a moderate luxury. After the tourist understands where the Catherine Palace is located, he should understand that it is best to choose the time before lunch for the tour, as it lasts quite a long time. In any case, it is better to visit the building itself and the surrounding park in two approaches, so as not to miss a single detail.
The audioguide, tickets 700 rubles, payment by card. Address: 7 Sadovaya street, Pushkin, St. Petersburg, +7 812 415-76-67, +7 812 415-76-68