|Saint-Petersburg is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Beginning from the 18 century the best achievements were put in practice in Saint-Petersburg. It is here there splendid palaces, cathedrals and monuments are built, museums with the richest collections such as the Hermitage and the Russian museum, the famous Mariinsky Theater are constructed.
Saint-Petersburg is often called the Northern Capital of Russia. It is the fourth largest megapolis of Europe. Its geopolitical, intellectual, economical, cultural and historical advantages are unique.
The city of St. Petersburg is relatively young according to European and Russian standards. Founded in 1703 it celebrated only 300th anniversary in year 2003. Though the city is rather young it has rich and fascinating history. Since the days of Peter I's "Paradise" and "North Venice" till nowadays St. Petersburg has been living an interesting life.
Since its birth Petersburg was the city of myths and mystery. You can hardly find such a young city wrapped in exciting stories, astonishing myths and mysterious legends. The unique history of the city is not only reflected in numerous rumors and still alive in destiny of people gazing through time from old portraits. The whole sophisticated development of St. Petersburg is materialized in its palaces and temples, park ensembles, street labyrinths and multistoried houses.
Like any other large city St. Petersburg will tell his stories to every attentive and interested observer. Outstanding personalities of culture and history - military leaders, courtiers, tsars and princes, artists and poets, writers and travelers lived and walked here. Come here to adore this "North Venice" of Peter the Great and his magnificent daughter Elizabeth; the city made the Russian Empire great power; where Lomonosov, Derzhavin, Pushkin, Gogol and Dostoevsky wrote their masterpieces. Come to get to know the history of St. Petersburg, White Nights of mysterious North Palmira and to see the spires of the Admiralty and Peter and Paul Fortress.
The city has an area of 606 sq. km., but if you include the immediate suburbs on the lowlands along the Neva and the Gulf of Finland, it is 1439 sq. km. The city measures 44 km from north to south and 25 km from east to west.
St. Petersburg developed according to a strict, well thought-out plan, which had been finalised by 1712. The wide Neva and all the numerous other rivers and canals were incorporated into the city's design and created its scale.
The historic centre of the city is Palace Square, which incorporates the Winter Palace, the General Staff Headquarters and Ministries Buildings. The Winter Palace used to be the Imperial residence. Several rooms in the palace were used to house unique works of art, and these rooms came to be known as the Hermitage. Later more buildings were constructed for the growing collections - the Small Hermitage, the Great Hermitage, the Hermitage Theatre and the New Hermitage. All these buildings now make up the State Hermitage - an enormous museum of art, history and culture. The collection includes paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and many other artists, as well as historical and cultural objects from many countries.
Nevsky Prospekt is St. Petersburg's main street. It began with the clearing of a straight cut through the forest and the building of a road on it.
The straight, wide thoroughfare starts from the Admiralty, passes through Ploshchad Vosstaniya and ends at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. It was named after Alexander Nevsky (or possibly after the monastery, which was also called Nevsky). The city's main highway contains St. Petersburg's major shops, theatres and museums.
In the early 20th century there were more than 100 islands in the city, but as a result of engineering work to develop the marine facade their number was reduced to 42. There are over 580 bridges, including 20 that can be raised (7 of these cross the Neva); the total area occupied by the river within the city's boundaries is 32 km (its total length from Lake Ladoga to the Gulf of Finland is 74 km). The length of the marine embankment within the limits of the modern city is about 35 km.
A great deal in St. Petersburg's artistic decoration is reminiscent of the city's naval glory, which is inextricably linked with the expanses of the Baltic Sea. Peter I did all he could to ensure that the sails of Russian ships were seen along the Baltic coast. Russia became a formidable naval power, confirming its superiority with glorious victories and round-the-world voyages.
St. Petersburg's first theatre was opened by Peter I's sister Natalya in 1709. The city is famous for its theatres - not only for the companies, but for the beauty of the theatres themselves. From the earliest years of St. Petersburg theatres were built into the Imperial palaces, while the imposing, monumental buildings of the public theatres were erected on the city's squares. St. Petersburg is rightly known as the cultural capital.
The city boasts one of the oldest circuses in the country, opened in 1877. A great contribution to the musical heritage of the city and the country is made by the Shostakovich Philharmonia and the Glinka State Academic Capella.
Among St. Petersburg's unique attractions are its numerous palaces, constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the city was the capital of the Russian state; they formed the ceremonial face of the city. Several of the palaces and other buildings are outstanding examples of world architecture. They include the vast Winter Palace, the principal feature of Palace Embankment and Palace Square. Also worthy of attention are the Mikhailovsky Palace, the architecture along Nevsky Prospekt and the Engineers' Castle, which overlooks the expanse of the Field of Mars.
St. Petersburg has 10 cathedrals, 39 Orthodox churches, Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches, an Armenian-Gregorian church, a Buddhist temple, a Muslim mosque and two synagogues. The world-famous cathedrals are: the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral of the Holy Trinity - one of the leading examples of 18th century Russian ecclesiastical architecture; the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan - a monument of Russian military glory, featuring trophies from the Patriotic War of 1812; and an example of classicist architecture - the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ ("The Saviour on the Blood").
Patriotism, heroism, self-sacrifice and valour arouse particular respect. It is not surprising that the people's feats of arms are reflected in the splendid architecture, the numerous monuments and the names of streets and squares in St. Petersburg.
The Summer Garden is one of the favourite spots in our city for locals and visitors alike. It is situated in one of the outstanding sections of embankment on the left bank of the Neva and occupies nearly 12 hectares. The garden was created in 1704 according to an idea of Peter I; it became his formal residence and the city's greatest adornment.
Arts' Square (Ploshchad Iskusstv) comprises the Russian Museum, the Mussorgsky Opera House, the Musical Comedy Theatre, the Great Hall of the Philharmonia and the Ethnographic Museum. From 1819-1825 a palace designed by architect Karl Rossi was built for Tsar Alexander I's brother Mikhail. Today the Mikhailovsky Palace is the home of the Russian Museum, one of the world's great museums containing the largest collection of Russian fine arts: ancient icons, paintings by Kiprensky, Shchedrin, Venetsianov, Bryullov, Kramskoy, Repin, Surikov, Serov and Vrubel, portraits by Nikitin, Rokotov, Argunov, Levitsky and Borovikovsky.
Peter and Paul Cathedral is the oldest church in St. Petersburg; building started within a month of the city's foundation on 29 June 1703. It was completed on 1 April 1704 and dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Peter and Paul Fortress is the Imperial burial-vault: it contains the remains of almost all the Russian Emperors and Empresses. Marble sarcophagi are installed over the graves of the Tsars and members of their families.
Over the course of two centuries from St. Petersburg's foundation in 1703, magnificent palace and park complexes were constructed close to the Russian capital: Peterhof (Petrodvorets), Strelna, Oranienbaum (Lomonosov), Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), Pavlovsk, Gatchina and a number of other country residences for Emperors, Grand Princes and grandees. They reflect all stages in the development of Russian architecture and landscaping from the 18th to 20th centuries.
The world-famous "capital of fountains" or "Russian Versailles" was founded by Peter I. In 1918 the main summer residence of the Russian emperors became state property and by 1941 ten museums of art and history had been opened on its premises. During the war of 1941-45, Peterhof was razed to the ground by the Nazis. Restoration work began in as early as 1944, after the Nazis were expelled from the town, and, for the most part, the ensemble was returned to its former splendour. The first fountain began to operate once more in 1946. The Hermitage pavilion reopened in 1952 and the Great Palace in 1964. In 1966 the Great Cascade was fully reconstructed. Restoration work is, however, still in progress.
Building of the palace and park ensemble and a landing-stage for boats bound for Kotlin Island began in the early 1700s. The first palaces and pavilions were erected, parks were laid out and a network of fountains constructed. These were later repeatedly expanded and modified.
The centrepiece of the Peterhof ensemble is the Great Palace, which stands on a natural terrace facing the sea (original building 1714-25, designed by Johann-Friedrich Braunstein, Mikhail Zemtsov and Jean-Baptiste Le Blond). To this day, the palace retains the appearance that it acquired in 1745-55 after reconstruction work was carried out by the outstanding representative of Baroque architecture, Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. The interiors of the palace - the Throne Hall, Peter I's oak-panelled study (carved by Nicolas Pineau), the Chinese Lobbies, the Portrait Hall, the White Dining-Room, and others - are all master pieces of decorative and applied art.
The picturesque parks play an important part in the Peterhof ensemble. These include the regular Upper Gardens, the Lower Park, the gardens of Venus and Bacchus and the landscaped English and Meadow Parks, amongst others.
Peterhofs unique network of fountains has brought it worldwide acclaim. The better-known Great Cascade, consisting of 64 fountains (the largest of which is Sampson Tearing Open the Jaws of the Lion), is the work of the sculptor Mikhail Kozlovsky. Its 225 sculptural decorations were contributed by Fedot Shubin, theodosius Shchedrin, Ivan Prokofiev, Ivan Martos and others. The Avenue of Fountains, the Fountain of Marble Benches, the Chessboard Hill, the Golden Hill, the Pyramid and the Sun are the only ones of their. kind. There is a total of 3 cascades and 144 fountains in Peterhof s parks.
On the shore of the Gulf of Finland stands the one-storey Monplaisir Palace (1714-23, designed by Le Blond, Niccolo Michetti and Braunstein; supervised by Peter I). Items of 18th-century palace decor and Western European paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries taken from Peter I's collection are on display in the rooms and galleries, that lead off from the central State Hall.
Peter I's relics, and paintings by Western European artists, can be seen in the Marly Palace (1720-23, architect Braunstein).
The Hermitage Pavilion (1721-25, architect Braunstein) served as the prototype for all similar 18th century pavilions in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The interiors of the vestibule, kitchen and pantry on the ground floor have been restored along with the large hall on the first floor in which 124 Western European paintings are exhibited.
The Cottage Palace in the Alexandria Park was erected between 1826 and 1829 by the architect Adam Menelaws as a summer residence for Nicholas I's family. It was built in the style of medieval English architecture. Its interiors have been completely restored and now contain display of works by Russian and European painters,, as well as diverse objets d'art and sculptures.
In 1988 the museum of the Benois family opened in the western wing of the Maid-of-Honour Houses, built in 1864 according to a design of Nikolai Benois. The bulk of its collection consists of gifts presented by Benois' descendants. The exhibition focuses on the work of such members of the dynasty as Alexander and Leonty Benois, Evgeny Lanceray, Zinaida Serebriakova, Peter Ustinov and other luminaries. The museum holds temporary exhibitions of works from the Peterhof palaces and private collections and hosts displays by modern artists.
The Hermitage is one of the world's greatest art museums and Russia's largest art repository, totalling about three million exhibits.
The date of its foundation is considered to be 1764, when the first consignment of 225 paintings, acquired by Catherine II in Berlin, arrived in St. Petersburg. In 1863 the Hermitage became a public museum.
At present the museum occupies five buildings: the Winter Palace (1754-62, architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli), the Small Hermitage (1764-77, architect Yuri Velten and Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe), the Old Hermitage (1770-87, architect Yuri Velten), the New Hermitage (1842-51, architect Leo von Klenze) and the Hermitage Theatre (1783-87, architect Giacomo Quarenghi). There is also an exhibition at the Menshikov Palace, a branch of the Hermitage.
The purchase of art collections for the imperial family continued until 1917. The first of these was the collection of Count Heinrich Briihl, bought in 1769 from his heirs in Dresden. It consisted of 600 canvases, including such masterpieces as Portrait of an Old Man in Red by Rembrandt, Perseus and Andromeda by Rubens and the Deposition by Poussin. At a later date, the famous collections of Sir Robert Walpole and Count Baudouin were acquired from London and Paris.
Besides paintings, the museum also acquired collections of prints and drawings, classical antiquities, objects of Western European applied art, weapons, coins, medals and books (Voltaire's library). In the 19th century the Hermitage began to receive archaeological artefacts which, among other things, formed the nucleus of the celebrated collection of Scythian gold.
After the 1917 revolution, numerous works of art found their way into the museum, following the nationalization of private collections. Especially important additions came from the Petrograd mansions of the nobility: the Yusupovs, Sheremetevs, Shuvalovs and Stroganovs, to name but four. In Soviet times the museum's reserves were considerably augmented with materials brought back from scientific expeditions.
In order to take in all the collections currently on show you would have to cover a distance of 22 km. It would take you almost 15 years to embrace all the treasures, spending 8 hours a day in the museum and for a minute examining each exhibit.
In the Hermitage you can explore the art of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Classical Greece and its colonies in the northern Black Sea coast area. You can also examine the culture of the Etruscans and the primitive tribes of Siberia, as well as seeing Egyptian mummies, antiqoe pottery, Tanagra statuary, Roman sculptural portraits, Scythian and Sarmatian artefacts, the unique complex of the Pazyryk burial mound of the 6th-4th centuries B.C., and many other things.
The Western European Department covers the art of Italy (8th-18th centuries), Spain (15th-19th centuries), the Netherlands, Holland and Flanders (15th-17th centuries), France (15th-20th centuries), Germany (15th-18th centuries) and England (17th-19th centuries). Its displays include masterpieces by great painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Giorgione, Titian, Veronese, Caravaggio, Tiepolo, El Greco, Jose Ribera, Francisco Zurbaran, Diego Velazquez, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Francisco Goya, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, Frans Snyders, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Hans Holbein the Younger, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorraine, Antoine Watteau, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, Eugene Delacroix, Camille Corot, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Andre Derain, Maurice Vlaminck, Pierre Bonnard, Albert Marquet and Fernand Leger. Also to be found here are exquisite sculptures by Michelangelo, Antonio Canova, Etienne-Maurice Falconet, Jean-Antoine Houdon and Auguste Rodin, and displays of Western European arms (15th-17th centuries), Italian majolicas, tapestries, Limoges enamels and Sevres porcelains.
The Department of the History of Russian Culture contains a great variety of masterials, dating right back to Ancient Rus'. Particularly noteworthy are exhibits from the Petrine era and the mid-to late 18th century. An exhibition entitled "The Artistic Decoration of the 19th century Russian Interior" is permanently on view.
The interiors of the Winter Palace are among the masterpieces of Russian monumental and applied arts. They were decorated according to designs by such illustrious artists as Rastrelli, Vasily Stasov, Carlo Rossi, Auguste Montferrand, Alexander Briullov and Andrei Stakenschneider. Of particular interest are the Jordan Staircase, the Field-Marshal's Hall, the Small Throne Room, the Gallery of 1812 (a monument to Russia's military victories), the Hall of St. George (The Great Throne Room), the Malachite Hall and the Hermitage Theatre.
The exhibition "The Winter Palace of Peter I", which opened in 1992, is devoted to the founder of the city. It is situated on the site of the former palace of the first Russian emperor. The foundation and the walls of the palace were uncovered during a restoration of the Hermitage Theatre.
The Peter and Paul Fortress
A monument of military engineering and architecture, the Peter and Paul Fortress is the historical nucleus of St. Petersburg around which the construction of the city began. The 16th (27th, New Style) of May 1703, when the foundation stone was laid on Zaiachy (Hare) Island by order of Peter I, is considered the date of birth of the northern Russian capital. The fortress was originally named "Sankt Pieter Burkh", the town of St. Peter, but was usually referred to as "Peter and Paul' a P reserve.< cultural and historical of status official the given was Fortress Paul Peter 1993 In Leningrad. History Museum to over turned were fortress structures main 1956 in here opened museum 1924 Palace. Winter storming for post command which Committee, Revolutionary Military Petrograd headquarters field housed it 1917 uprising October During 1917. since been has This island. centre located cathedral after Fortress?, s>
The six bastions of the fortress are named in honour of Peter I and his closest associates, who supervised the construction work: Gosudarev (the Tsar's), Menshikov, Golovkin, Zotov, Trubetskoi and Naryshkin. The architectural ensemble comprises the fortified walls, curtain-walls, bastions and ravelins (1706-40, architect Domenico Trezzini, engineer Burchard Christophe von Mimnich). It also includes St.Peter's Gate (1717-18, architect Trezzini), which is decorated with a carved bas-i relief, The Casting down of Simon Magus by the Apostle Peter by Conradt Ossner, and the Boat-House (1762-66, architect Alexander Wist), which contains a replica of Peter's boat, the "Grandfather of the Russian Navy" (the original is now in the Naval Museum). The building of the Mint (1798-1806, architect Antonio Porto), the Engineers' House (1748-49), the Commandant's House (1743-46, engineer de Marin) and others complete the ensemble.
The focal point of the ensemble is St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral (1712-33, architect Trezzini). Its bell-tower served as the city's watch-tower and became a symbol of the consolidation of the new capital on the Baltic lands. Crowned with a gilded spire, the bell-tower remains the tallest building in the city (122.5 m). The centrepiece of the interior of the church is the gilded iconostasis (1722-29), which was executed in Baroque style by Moscow carvers in accordance with a design by Trezzini and Ivan Zarudny. From the very beginning the cathedral served as the sepulchre of the Romanov Dynasty. All of Russia's emperors, from Peter I to Nicholas II, and their families (except for Peter II and Ioann VI) are buried here. East of the cathedral one can see the Grand Dukes' Burial Vault (1896-1908, architects David Grimm, Anthony Tomishko, Leonty Benois), where thirteen members of the imperial family were buried before the 1917 revolution. In 1992 Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich Romanov, who died in exile, was laid to rest here, and in 1995 the remains of his parents, Kirill Vladimirovich and Victoria Fedorovna, were brought from Coburg (Germany) and interred in the vault.
By the east wall of the cathedral is the Commandant's cemetery where 19 of the 32 fortress commandants are buried. In 1991, a monument to Peter the Great was erected at the central alley, near the cathedral. This was a gift to the city from the famous Russian artist, Mikhail Shemiakin.
The Museum of the History of St.Petersburg has several exhibitions on the premises of the fortress. The oldest of these is located in the former prison of the Trubetskoi bastion, built between 1870 and 1872. From the time of Peter the Great, criminals accused of treason against the State were kept in the casemates of the fortress and later in the dungeons of the Secret House in the Alekseevsky ravelin. Among the prisoners of the Russian Bastille were Peter's own son, Tsarevich Alexei; Artemy Volynsky, the cabinet-minister of Empress Anna loannovna; the leader of the Polish revolt, Taddeusz Kosciuszko; members of the Russian liberation movement, including Alexander Radishchev, the Decembrists, the Petrashevtsy, the great writer Fedor Dostoyevsky, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, the revolutionary democrat Nikolai Chernyshevsky, the geographer and nihilist Peter Kropotkin, the writer Maxim Gorky, members of the People's Will organization, socialist-revolutionaries and Bolsheviks... After the February Revolution of 1917 the ministers of the overthrown Tsarist government were incarcerated in the Trubetskoi bastion and on the night of 26 October 1917 members of the Provisional Government were brought to its prison. During the Civil War, victims of the "red terror" and participants in the Kronstadt revolt of 1921 were held here. The exhibition, which was first opened in the former prison in 1924, gives an idea of its construction and the conditions in which several generations of prisoners were kept.
In 1975, a permanent exhibition about the history of St. Petersburg was opened in the building of the former Commandant's House. It provides insights into the history of the Neva lands from early times to the founding of St.Petersburg in 1703, and traces the development of the city until the mid-19th century. The Engineers' House is now used for various displays of material from the museum's rich reserves.
A museum devoted to Russian rocketry and the history of cosmonautics is also to be found within the Peter and Paul Fortress. It is situated in the halls that served as the testing grounds of the first Soviet rocket engine laboratory in the 1930s. The Gas Dynamics laboratory was headed by Victor Glushko, the man who initiated rocket engine production in Russia. The rooms in which the designers worked have been restored to their original form. The exhibition provides information about the founders of Soviet cosmonautics - Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Nikolai Zhukovsky and Sergei Korolev, to name but three. Here you can see the starting control apparatus of the spaceship Soyuz-16, models of various types of rocket engines and spacecraft equipment, authentic space suits worn by cosmonauts and photographs of the Moon, Venus, Mars and Saturn taken by Soviet astronauts. Documents and photographic material on the testing of rocket engines and the launch of the first Soviet missiles are also on display.
Every day at noon a shot is fired from the cannon on the Naryshkin bastion and every year, on 27 May, the Peter and Paul Fortress is the site of celebrations marking the Day of the City.
Work on the palace and park in Tsarskoye Selo was started in the early 8th century at a site called Saari Mois ("elevated land") by the local Finnic inhabitants. The place was eventually transformed into the Russian "tsarskoye", or "Tsar's village". A small stone ace (1717-23, architect Johann Friedrich Braunstein) was first built Peter I's wife, Empress Catherine I. Between 1752 and 1756, by order of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli united all the separate parts of the palace to create a single ensemble. The Great (Catherine) Palace, with its majestic and sumptuous 306-m long facade, main staircase and suite of halls, which abound with gilded woodwork, mirrors and amber, ranks among the masterpieces of Russian Baroque.
Tsarskoye Selo flourished under Catherine II. It was during her reign that the Church and Zubov Wings of the Great Palace were built alongside the Cold Baths with the Agate Rooms, the Hanging Garden and the Cameron Gallery, in the style of ancient Roman thermae (1780-87, architect Charles Cameron).
The imposing Alexander Palace was erected between 1792 and 1800 by Giacomo Quarenghi for Catherine II's grandson, the future Emperor Alexander I.
The architecture of the palaces blends harmoniously into the surrounding landscaped parks and gardens. The Catherine Park is punctuated with a host of pavilions (the Hermitage, the Grotto and the Admiralty), designed by such famous architects as Mikhail Zemtsov, Sabbas Chevakinsky, Antonio Rinaldi and Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. It also boasts a variety of fanciful bridges, pergolas and sculptures. To commemorate the victory of the Russian Fleet over the Turks in the Bay of Chesme in the Aegean Sea in 1770, the Chesme Column was erected in the centre of the Great Pond. The landscapes of the Alexander Park with their romantic structures, such as the Chinese Village, the Arsenal and the White Tower, are no less picturesque.
Prior to the 1917 revolution, the Great Palace served as the summer residence of the Russian emperors. In 1918 a museum of art and history opened here. During the Nazi occupation the palaces and monuments of Tsarskoye Selo suffered immense damage and since 1957 repairs and restoration work have been conducted.
The museum houses remarkable collections of paintings, porcelain, furniture and fabrics. Visitors can explore Rastrelli's Grand Hall in the Great Palace and the Portrait Hall with its canvases by Dutch, Flemish, Italian and French artists. Work is currently in progress on the re-creation of the world-famous Amber Room, which disappeared during the Second World War. Details of the contemporary version can already be seen. In terms, of its artistic workmanship, it is in no way inferior to and perhaps, in some respects, even superior to the original. An exhibition, devoted to the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family, occupies the Alexander Palace.
In 1777, work began on an estate by the banks of the Slavianka, given by Catherine II to her son, the future Emperor Paul I. Originally, only two modest wooden cottages were built. Later, in 1782-86, Charles Cameron erected a palace and laid out a park. The harmonious ensemble of Pavlovsk was created within a period of 50 years.
The Great Palace, a splendid specimen of Russian Neoclassicism, is remarkable for its proportionalism and refined decor. Together with the low galleries, leading to the wings (rebuilt in the 1770s by Vincenzo Brenna), the palace looks out onto a large open courtyard. After the fire of 1803, the palace was reconstructed under the supervision of Andrei Voronikhin. The state rooms, which were adorned with sculptures, carvings and paintings, were decorated through the combined efforts of the architects Voronikhin, Cameron, Brenna, Quarenghi and Carlo Rossi, the sculptors Ivan Martos, Ivan Prokofiev, Mikhail Kozlovsky and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky and the painters Pietro Gonzago and Giovanni Battista Scotti.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries a landscaped park was created on the banks of the Slavianka. Part of the grounds - the "Private Garden" and the Great Circles - have retained features of a regular garden, decorated with sculptures and elements of landscape architecture. In the park one can see Cameron's Pavilion of the Three Graces, Temple to Friendship, Aviary and Apollo Colonnade. The on-umental mausoleum of Paul I (To the Husband-Benefactor, 1808-09, by Thomas de Thomon), the decorative Peel Tower (by Brenna) and the Rose Pavilion (by Voronikhin and Rossi) are also situated within the grounds.
After the 1917 revolution, this residence of the Russian emperors became a museum. During the Second World War the palace was ruined by the Nazis and restoration work continued until 1970. Today, all 45 of its rooms are open to visitors, including such gems of Neoclassical art as the Italian and Grecian Halls, which are notable for their lavish use of artificial marble, moulding and gilding.
Art collections that began to take shape under Paul I and Empress Maria Fedorovna are on display in the halls. Among them are a rare collection of antique sculptures, a superb collection of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Hubert Robert and Jose Ribera, and examples of Western European and Russian decorative and applied art.
The Pavlovsk palace museum and beautiful parks surrounding it are very popular with both the residents and guests of St. Petersburg. In keeping with a long-established tradition, concerts of classical music are held regularly in the Grecian Hall.
The first mention of Gatchina dates back to 1499, when it was known as the village of Khotchino. In the early 18th century it belonged to Peter I's beloved sister Natalia Alexeyevna, then passed to the Kurakin princes. In 1765 Catherine II presented it to her favourite, Count Grigory Orlov, who shortly afterwards commissioned Antonio Rinaldi to create a huge palace and park there. In 1783, after Orlov's death, Gatchina became the residence of Catherine II's son and heir to the throne, the future Emperor Paul I.
The Gatchina palace and park ensemble is one of the finest specimens of early Russian Neoclassicism. The palace, faced with local limestone and resembling a medieval English castle, was erected between 1766 and 1781. The interior decor was created by Russian masters according to designs by Rinaldi and Vincenzo Brenna. At the same time, Russia's first landscaped park was laid out. In the 1790s, the Gatchina palace was partly rebuilt by Brenna and in the 19th century it was again reconstructed by the architect Roman Kuzmin.
After the revolution, the living-rooms were opened to visitors and a museum of 18th and 19th century palace decoration and domestic life was established. During the occupation, the Nazis almost completely destroyed the interiors, felled the trees in the park, and reduced many of the buildings in the park to ruins. Before retreating, they set the palace on fire. Restoration and reconstruction work began in the 1970s and the museum in the Gatchina palace was reopened in 1985.
Today visitors can enjoy the decor of the Anteroom, the Marble Dining-Room, the Throne, White and Picture Halls. The superb parquetry designs, painted ceilings, stuccowork, bronzes, furniture and gobelins are of immense artistic value.
The palace's former art collections containing Russian and Western European paintings, porcelains, and Oriental objets d'art, are gradually being restored to their former owner. Visitors can also explore a mysterious subterranean passageway leading from the palace to the Echo grotto. On display is a remarkable collection of fire- and side-arms by I6th-20th century masters, begun by Count Grigory Orlov. On the parade ground, in front of the palace, is a bronze monument to Paul I, sculpted by Ivan Vitali (1850-51).
The Gatchina gardens and parks are laid out in a picturesque fashion and abound with diverse vegetation, planted with due regard to the different hues of leaves and needles. There are numerous bridges, terraces and spectacular stone staircases. The Eagle Pavilion on Dlinny (Long) Island, the Venus Pavilion on the "Island of Love", the Birch and Admiralty Gates, the Forest Hothouse (architect Brenna), the Aviary (architect Andrean Zakharov) never fail to catch the attention of visitors. The Prior's Palace, made of tamped earth, looks like a medieval castle (1797-99, architect Nikolai Lvov). The original Birch House, recalling a large pile of birch logs (1780s, artist A.F.Viollier), was restored between 1971 and 1975. Gatchina's famous parks are centered around its picturesque lakes and ponds - the White and Silver Lakes, the Carpiev Pond - and the islands and peninsulas in-between.
The palace houses an exhibition that tells the story of its owners and the history of its construction.
Work on the palace and park ensemble of Oranienbaum began under Prince Alexander Menshikov (who owned these lands in the early 18th century) and took almost a century to complete. In 1727 Oranienbaum passed to the State and served as the summer residence of the imperial family. The palaces were nationalized after the 1917 revolution and were gradually turned into museums.
Today, the Oranienbaum estate comprises three ensembles: the Great Palace, Peterstadt and the "Personal Dacha".
The Great Palace (1710-27, architects Giovanni Mario Fontana and Gottfried Johann Schadel) was built in the Baroque style. It is one of the few surviving structures from the Petrine era that has retained many of its original features despite multiple reconstructions carried out at different times by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, Antonio Rinaldi, Carlo Rossi and other architects. The palace complex also incorporates the Picture House, constructed in the first quarter of the 18th century, and the Lower Garden, one of the first regular gardens in Russia.
The palace ensemble of Peterstadt features the Gate of Honour (1757, architect Rinaldi) - a relic of the Poteshny (Toy) Fortress of the heir to the throne (the future Emperor Peter III), Peter Ill's two-storey palace (1758-60, architect Rinaldi) and Peter's Park, which acquired its present form in the 1830s. The rooms of the palace abound with painted panels, intricate stuccowork and parquetry designs. On display is a collection of 17th and 18th century Western European paintings. There is also an exhibition devoted to the history of the construction of the palace and park ensemble in Oranienbaum.
The ensemble of the "Personal Dacha" consists of Catherine II's Chinese Palace (1762-68, architect Rinaldi), the Sliding Hill Pavilion (1762-74, architect Rinaldi) and the surrounding Upper Park.
The highlight of the estate, the Chinese Palace - is a splendid monument of Rococo architecture. Its interiors are striking for the wealth and variety of their decor. Particularly exquisite is the Buglework Study. The state rooms are adorned with stylized Chinese motifs, hence the name. The palace houses collections of paintings by artists of the Venetian School, Russian and Western European porcelain, furniture and works of Oriental decorative and applied art, which were very highly rated in the 18th century. The halls of the Sliding Hill Pavilion (the hill itself has not survived) contain a display of porcelain statuettes from Meissen.
The Great Palace, Sliding Hill Pavilion and Picture House are currently under reconstruction.