Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg


Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Finished in all its present-day lavishness in 1756, this Rococo palace functioned as the Russian monarch’s summer home until the monarchy was deposed in 1917. During World War II, the German army destroyed much of the palace’s gilded interior and left only its hollow bones. Renovations were finished in 2003 and the palace is now a great tourist destination as well a venue for elite concerts and gatherings.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine Palace is often mistakenly called Catherine the Great Palace. The true name comes from Catherine I, who had originally received a small 2-storey palace as a gift from her spouse Peter the Great. It later became a grand baroque summer palace and one of the descendant owners was Catherine the Great (Empress Catherine II) who turned the palace into the most grandiose summer residence in St. Petersburg and all of Russia.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine Palace’s reconstruction took 4 years. In 1756 the architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli presented the brand-new 325-meter-long palace to Empress Elizabeth. A French diplomat noted at the time, the palace was still missing one detail: ‘a glass case for extra protection’. More than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of gold were used to gild the sophisticated stucco facade and numerous statues erected on Catherine Palace roof. It was even rumored that the palace’s roof was constructed entirely of gold. On a bright sunny day the palace appeared to sparkle. An English traveler once called it ‘the most complete triumph of barbarous taste’.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Until WWII Catherine Palace boasted its legendary Amber Room. The original amber panels were made in 1713 for Frederick William I’s “tobacco club“ in The Berlin Palace and 3 years later was presented to Russian czar Peter the Great. The amber panels were not installed until Peter’s daughter Elizabeth commissioned Rastrelli to design The Amber Room for her Catherine Palace.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

After Elizabeth’s death many changes were made in the interior design. Empress Catherine the Great regarded the “whipped cream” palace architecture old-fashioned and accused her predecessor of reckless extravagance. Gilded parts were painted yellow, some old interiors were remodeled in Classicism, the palace area enlarged with the added Bath House and Cameron Gallery.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Upon Catherine’s death in 1796, the palace was abandoned in favor of Pavlovsk Palace, residence of Emperor Paul. Catherine Palace was later used only for official receptions.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Catherine Palace and Park were taken over by the state and nationalized. The Palace became an art history museum while the Park became an area of rest and recreation for the public.

In 1937, the town of Czarskoye Selo, was renamed Pushkin to honor the famous Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin who had graduated from the Imperial Lyceum right next to Catherine Palace.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St.Petersburg

In 1941 the palace was taken over by Nazi forces, ransacked and used as army barracks. When Nazis finally retreated in January 1944, the palace was blown up and burnt. The Amber room was taken to Germany and all trace of it disappeared. After many years of futile seeking, the Soviet government ordered its reconstruction. In 2003 it was publicly opened by President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

As of today 29 of the 52 palace rooms have been restored.

 

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