The Royal Palace of Riofrío is one of the residences of Spain's royal family. Situated in the municipality of San Ildefonso, in the province of Segovia, central Spain, the building is set in a wooded deer-park.
Queen Elisabeth Farnese was widowed in 1746, her husband King Philip V being succeeded by Ferdinand VI, her step-son. As such, to ensure that Elisabeth would remain away from the court, King Ferdinand VI agreed to the construction of a palace at Riofrío for her own disposal. During the reign of her step-son, the queen resided at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso.
The palace was designed in the Italian style, echoing Elisabeth's birth in the Duchy of Parma, northern Italy. It was designed with a central square and was given three stories high, designed by architect Virgilio Rabaglio, himself Swiss from Gandria near Lugano. Rabaglio was responsible for the exterior decoration Sexmini Pedro, making it one of the most influential Italian palaces of all time.
The dowager queen had wanted her son, then King Carlo VIII of Naples to succeed the Spanish throne. However, before the works were completed, King Ferdinand VI died childless in August 1759 and was thus succeeded by King Carlo VIII, who was recognised as King Carlos III of Spain. Elisabeth was created regent till her sons arrival in Spain and subsequently resided at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, dying there in 1766 having never lived at Riofrío. Elisabeth had succeeded in placing four of her children on thrones and intended to give the property to her youngest son, Infante Luis, Count of Chinchón, however he did not use it.
Having been abandoned, it was completed as a hunting lodge and was only used when royalty hunted in the nearby forests. Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony resided there to avoid the courts disapproval of her childless marriage to King Ferdinand VII. The palace was also used by King Francis, consort of Queen Isabel II to avoid his wife and used later still by King Alfonso XII, who resided there while mourning his beloved wife Queen Maria de las Mercedes. Points of interest within the palace include the patio addition, grand staircase, chapel along with its collection of paintings, tapestries and furniture. It is surrounded by a vast forest of 625 hectares, home to deer among other animals. Today Riofrío is the home of a museum dedicated to the history of hunting.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.