The palace and park at Gatchina dates back to the time of Empress Catherine II. In 1765, the tsarina gave her favourite, Count Grigory Orlov, a lavish gift – the Gatchina estate. The picturesque landscape, spring-fed lakes with connecting tributaries and rivers made it possible to create here the unique landscape park with the palace of remarkable architecture as its focal point.
The design for the palace was developed by the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi and the construction began in 1766. According to the contemporary records, the Empress and her suite visited Gatchina several times to inspect the construction. The building works were completed by 1781. The palace that emerged as a result looked like an Italian palazzo with facades faced with natural stone, Pudost limestone. The three-storied Central building with flanking pentagonal towers is connected with semicircular galleries to the one-storied service wings, rectangular in plan with inner courtyards. Along with the palace, an English landscape park was laid out, among the first of the kind in Russia.
The brilliant nobleman Grigory Orlov was not destined to live in the new estate as he died in early 1783. The empress Catherine II bought back the estate from the count’s heirs and on August 6 of the same year presented it to her son, the Grand Duke Paul Petrovich. Shortly thereafter Gatchina was to become his favourite residence. The palace was altered somewhat under the architect Vincenzo Brenna. In keeping with the pace of fashions, the state rooms were remodelled, formal gardens, park pavilions, stone gates and bridges emerged. Following the ascension of Paul I to the throne in 1796, Gatchina became the imperial residence that the contemporaries referred to as an impregnable fortress with surrounding ramparts, moats, sentry boxes and barriers. The Emperor Paul I was assassinated in a coup at the Mikhailovsky Castle on March 12, 1801. After his death the Dowager empress Maria Feodorvna came to own the Gatchina estate. On January 21, 1827, she bequeathed the Gatchina estate with the adjacent lands “for permanent ownership” to the Emperor Nicholas I and his line of male hairs.
In the reign of Nicholas I, the Palace underwent a major reconstruction and acquired its present-day look. The Kitchen and Arsenal Wings were dismantled completely and then erected anew as they did not meet modern criteria of comfort. In keeping with the fashion of the time, the Arsenal Wing was designed to accommodate both the private and state rooms for the Imperial family. In the Kitchen Wing, the chapel was completely rebuilt. To keep the memory of Paul I, his private rooms and the 18th-century state apartments in the Central building were carefully preserved, although it did undergo some alterations, namely, heating was replaced, parquet floors repaired, new pieces of furniture, sculptures and drapery were introduced in some of the halls. All the stages of reconstruction were carried out under the direction of the architect R.I.Kuzmin from 1844-1856.
Nicholas I and his son Alexander II seldom visited Gatchina. They came here mostly to attend balls, receptions for crowned heads and important noblemen, or to participate in imperial hunts. The Emperor Alexander II was mortally wounded on the Catherine embankment (now Griboedov canal) on March 1, 1881. He was succeeded by his son, Alexander III, who chose Gatchina as his principal residence. On March 27, the tsar’s family moved to the Gatchina Palace, which remained their beloved home for many years. In May 1917, the Provisional Government issued a decree on the establishment of artistic and historical commissions in the towns of Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo and Gatchina for the purpose of “acquisition, recording and inventorying the movable and immovable property of the former palaces”. One year later, on May 19, 1918, the Gatchina Palace opened to the public. The Palace and its parks suffered significant damage during World War II. Restoration work began as late as 1976. The first 18th-century state rooms were opened to the public in 1985, including the Anteroom, the Marble Dining Room, Paul’s Throne Room and the exhibition installed on the second floor of the Central Building.References:
The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.
In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.
The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.
The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.
The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).
Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.
Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.
The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.