Gatchina Palace

Gatchina, Russia

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.

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Founded: 1766
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Russia

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Andrey Zyuzya (3 years ago)
“When Russian Tzar is fishing, Europe can wait” was said here more than hundred years ago. Lot of stories connected with this place. If you sick and tired from Spb maybe you have a royal blood, go to Gatchina like true Tzars did)
Igor (4 years ago)
The huge palace of Emperor Paul just started to turn into a museum. For a long time there was a naval school. Now museums are much smaller than a quarter of the building, but restoration work is underway. A special impression is left by the private chambers and the office of Emperor Alexander 3. Small rooms and low ceilings contrast sharply with the luxury of the rest of the building.
Karl 1974 (5 years ago)
The Great Gatchina Palace is a palace in Gatchina, Leningrad Oblast, Russia. It was built from 1766 to 1781 by Antonio Rinaldi for Count Grigori Grigoryevich Orlov, who was a favourite of Catherine the Great, in Gatchina, a suburb of the royal capital Saint Petersburg. The Gatchina Palace combines classical architecture and themes of a medieval castle with ornate interiors typical of Russian classicism, located on a hill in central Gatchina next to Lake Serebryany. The Gatchina Palace became one of the favourite residences of the Russian Imperial Family, and during the 19th century was an important site of Russian politics. Since the February Revolution in 1917 it has been a museum and public park, and received UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1990.
S. P. (5 years ago)
Empress gave this palace to her lover who killed her husband, the emperor. When lover died she gave the palace to her son, who hated her and loved his killed Emperor father. Son became the emperor himself and build a brand new palace-castle where he was killed by his men. Do you still need the GoT if you have real history of Russian Empire?
Nelya Zhaleyko (5 years ago)
Very nicely restored new rooms. Audio guide is recommended. Trip down stairs to the passage is fun especially for the children.
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