Review: The Catherine Palace

After St. Petersburg was founded in 1703, Petergof was made the out-of-town residence of Peter the Great. It was located on coast of the Gulf of Finland. Petergof was built in 1710, however, in the course of the next two centuries the successors of Peter the Great preferred to spend the summer not at Petergof but at Tsarskoye Selo, which became the real cere-monial residence of Russian emperors.

The first small palace with «16 front rooms» was constructed for the wife of Peter the Great Katherine in Tsarskoye Selo as far back as 1710 (about the same time as Petergof), but the magnificent Rococo (or baroque) palace of today was built only several decades later. In 1756 Elizabeth I commissioned this palace to the famous architect Rastrelli. Apart from the Catherine Palace, he also designed the Winter Palace (the Hermitage), the Smolny Convent, and the Stroganov Palace in St. Petersburg, as well as made a great contribution to the com-pletion of Petergof Palace.

Catherine Palace was 325 meters long. On one side, near the Resurrection Church (which is part of the palace), it abuts on Tsarkoselskiy lycée where gifted children studied including the famous Russian poet Pushkin. It was just after him that Tsarskoye Selo was renamed Pushkin in the Soviet period.

As the palace was being completed and finished in the reign of Catherine II, it was called the Catherine Palace. Rastrelli as often rebuilt the palace trying to carry its beauty to perfec-tion, that Catherine used to compare him with Penelope who «broke in the morning what she had done yesterday». The interiors of the palace were sumptuously decorated in gold, while its exteriors were mainly blue and white. Because of the abundance of gold the enfilade of state rooms were even called the «Golden Enfilade».

You should visit the Catherine Palace. There you can see the huge Great Gallery (850 m2), Picture Gallery, Throne Chamber, and Golden Enfilade, although the Amber Chamber or Room is considered to be the primary attraction of the palace. It is before the Throne Cham-ber, and foreign ambassadors and statesmen waited there for an audience with the empress.

All walls of the Amber Chamber were decorated with amber panels. They were covered with intricate ornaments and figures made of different kinds of amber. Most part of these amber panels were given to Peter the Great by the Prussian king Friedrich, but some of them were made by Russian craftsmen. At the time of World War II all panels of the Amber Cham-ber were moved to Königsberg and disappeared there without a trace. The Amber Chamber that you can see today at the palace was restored at our days and opened for public in 2003.

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