The prayers for the foundation of a chapel, which will be read with the blessing of the Church hierarchy, is still to take place, but due to oncoming winter the construction is going quickly, and the walls have begun to be filled.
The fountains of Peterhof are one of Russia's most famous tourist attractions, drawing millions of visitors every year. Fountains were intrinsic to Peter the Great's original plans for Peterhof - it was the impossibility of engineering sufficiently powerful jets of water that prompted him to move his attentions from the Strelna site to Peterhof - and subsequent generations competed with their predecessors to add grander and ever more ingenious water features to the parkland surrounding the Grand Palace.
The most famous ensemble of fountains, the Grand Cascade, which runs from the northern facade of the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal, comprises 64 different fountains, and over 200 bronze statues, bas-reliefs, and other decorations. At the centre stands Rastrelli's spectacular statue of Samson wrestling the jaws of a lion. The vista of the Grand Cascade with the Grand Palace behind it, the first sight to great visitors who arrive in Peterhof by sea, is truly breathtaking. The Grotto behind the Grand Cascade, which was once used for small parties, contains the enormous pipes, originally wooden, that feed the fountains.
Elsewhere in the park, the range and diversity of fountains is astounding, from further monumental ensembles like the Chess Cascade and the Pyramid Fountain, to the ever-popular Joke Fountains, including one which sprays unwary passers-by who step on a particular paving stone.
The official opening of the fountains at Peterhof, which usually takes place at the end of May, is an all-day festival, with classical music, fireworks and other performances, as each section of the park's fountains is turned on one by one.
This 30 minute video (in English) will take you on a guided tour of the fountains, how they were built, their operation and maintenance, and the efforts to preserve one of Russia's most beautiful symbols of the Romanov legacy.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 April, 2013
The Farm Palace, located in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof will host a series of events this month to mark the 195th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Alexander II.
The life of the "Tsar-Liberator" is closely connected with that of Peterhof. It was here, during the warm summer months that he spent much of his childhood and youth. He later took up residence in the Farm Palace with his new wife, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovina (nee Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine) and their children.
The Farm Palace opened to the public in 2010 after undergoing restoration. Today, it is the only major museum dedicated to the memory of Alexander II and retains many personal items associated with his life and times.
The rooms on the second floor of the Farm Palace will be open to visitors this summer
Events at the Farm Palace will take place from April 17-27 and include tours, lectures, and the opportunity to view the newly restored rooms on the second floor of the palace, which will open to the public this summer.
On a more personal note, I had the opportunity of visiting the Farm Palace last year. I was the only visitor and had the entire palace to myself. The restoration of the interiors is superb! Each room is filled with furniture, art work, portraits, photographs, and many other personal items once belonging to Alexander II and his family. The recreation of the historical interiors is so unique that one expects the Emperor to enter the room at any time. The gardens are an explosion of colour, and the surrounding park make it a must on any one's agenda when visiting St. Petersburg.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 April, 2013
Elena Kalnitskaya, General Director of the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve has announced that the museum is now discussing the future of the Lower Palace (or Lower Dacha) located in the Alexandria Park on the shore of the Gulf of Finland.
The Lower Palace was the home of Tsar Nicholas II and his family while in residence at Peterhof. After the Revolution, the palace became a museum until 1936. It was later used as a holiday home for the more privileged members of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). During the Second World War the palace was badly damaged. During the 1960s it became a popular spot with monarchists and a decision was made by the local Soviet to blow the building up.
Kalnitskaya said that the museum is currently considering a number of options. Among them is the conservation of the ruins, or even a complete reconstruction of the palace. She made the announcement during an interview with topspb.tv in St. Petersburg.
During the interview she noted that her father, who was born in 1915, told her about the days when it was a museum, "filled with lots of toys" that once belonged to the Tsar's children.
The subject of reconstructing the Lower Palace was raised several years back, however, the project was shelved due to lack of funding. According to museum staff, the storage vaults at Peterhof house a large repository of documents, plans, photographs, and items from the former palace that would allow them to rebuild the structure and open it as a museum dedicated to the private world of the last Tsar and his family.
Kalnitskaya noted that she favours the conservation of the ruins as "a monument to human barbarism of the 20th century." All options will be reviewed by a special committee before a final decision is made.
The ruins of the Lower Palace are a short walk from the Cottage Palace in the Alexandria Park, however, accessibility is now greatly restricted due to a large fence that was erected in recent years.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 February, 2013
On January 27th 1944 the Siege of Leningrad was finally lifted. The siege which lasted 872 days is considered one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history and overwhelmingly the most costly in terms of casualties.
It was also during this period that the former Imperial palaces located in the suburban areas of the city suffered near annihilation at the hands of the Nazis.
The Peterhof State Museum-Preserve have compiled this virtual album to mark the 69th anniversary of the lifting of the blockade. Vintage photographs from the palace-museum archives show the devastation inflicted upon "Russia's Versailles" and the heroic efforts of the museum workers and local townspeople who did their utmost to save what treasures they could.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 January, 2013
Restoration of the Grand Staircase in the Grand Palace, Peterhof. Photo © Peterhof State Museum Preserve
The Peterhof State Museum Preserve have announced that the Grand Palace will be closed from January 14th to February 20th, 2013 while they carry out restoration work on the palace.
Restoration work will be carried out in several interiors, including the Portrait Hall, Partridge Room, and the Grand Staircase.
Work on the Grand Staircase will include the restoration of the gilded carvings and statues, the replacement of elements of the parquet floors, and general touch ups of the windows and doors.
Photo © Peterhof State Museum Preserve
The Grand Staircase was designed in the Baroque style by Rastrelli between 1751-1755. It included forged openwork lattice, gilded vases and sculptures. The inlaid parquet floors were made from five different kinds of wood. The walls were decorated in a colourful unique style which imitated wood carving. The crowning glory was the magnificent ceiling painting Spring, by the Italian master, Bartolomeo Tarsia.
During World War II, the Grand Palace was almost completely destroyed. Reconstruction of the palace began in 1948. The reconstruction of the Grand Staircase began in 1962, with the finishing touches completed in 1985.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 January, 2013
His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looked in Tsarist times
Situated along the Peterhof Road are a series of former Imperial residences that few people ever have the opportunity to visit. Many have been abandoned by time and neglect, often falling to decay and ruin.
One such residence is His Majesty's Own Dacha, which is situated about 3 km west of the Lower Park at Peterhof.The private dacha and its chapel were built in 1844-50 for the Tsesarevich Alexander Nicholayevich (future Emperor Alexander II) by the Russian architect Andrei Stackenschneider on the site of the former, smaller, dacha of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great.
The private chapel was reached by a footbridge that spanned the tiny green valley that separated it from the dacha.
During its heyday the impressive two-storye Baroque style dacha was one of Stackenschneider's architectural masterpieces. Several watercolours by E. P. Hau and Luigi Premazzi have survived and allow us to appreciate the beautiful interiors of this Imperial residence.
His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looks today
During the Soviet years the dacha was declared a "monument of national importance." During the Second World War, it was shelled, but was later restored. In the 1980s, the building was abandoned and has sat empty ever since.
In 2004, minor restoration work was carried out by a local firm. Work progressed at a very slow pace, however, some repairs on the historic building were carried out.
Earlier this month a decision was made to restore and convert the former Imperial dacha into a wedding palace. The decision has been approved by the local governor, and funds have been allocated for the project. Work is expected to begin shortly, with work to be completed by 2015.
I had the opportunity of visiting the Imperial dacha some years back. I was saddened by its advanced stage of neglect, so news that this historic building is to be restored is indeed good news. I had, however, always hoped that it to would have been transferred to the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve and restored to its former grandeur.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 November, 2012
The former imperial estate of Peterhof is hosting a large-scale two-day event on Sept. 14 and 15, turning its annual closing of the fountains festival into a spectacular visual feast. Twice a year, when the fountains are turned on in May and off in September, Peterhof draws crowds of locals and tourists alike. An estimated 30,000 came to the fountain festivals last year, according to the organizers.
This autumn, the closing of the fountains ceremony is dedicated to the Russian victory in the 1812 Napoleonic wars. More than 600 musicians, artists and performers will join multimedia artists and lighting designers to plunge spectators into the atmosphere of the heroic military campaign, the show’s creators promise.
Titled “Ode to the Fatherland,” the show will take audiences to an Imperial ball, the Battle of Borodino, the fire of Moscow and the gallery of heroes of the 1812 campaign, with the use of 3D-mapping technologies.
The show will be performed against the facade of the Grand Palace at Peterhof.
“For the first time, we have decided to devote our festival to a particular historic event, and this event carries a special significance for every Russian,” said Yelena Kalnitskaya, director of the Peterhof Museum and Estate.
“Our guests will see a reconstruction of the famous Battle of Borodino, with the show serving as a sort of time machine. It is going to be an absolutely thrilling sight that will be crowned by fireworks.”
According to Kalnitskaya, the show took almost a year to prepare. The team behind it included State Chief Herald and Chairman of the Heraldic Council of Russia Georgy Vilinbakhov, the renowned artist Oleg Orlov and lighting designer Gleb Filshtinsky, arguably Russia’s most renowned specialist in his field.
“We are proud to treat local audiences to a world-class show,” Filshtinsky said. “And we are also proud that we did not use a penny from the state budget, especially considering that this is a performance with a distinctly patriotic feel. I would love for “Ode to the Fatherland” to make Russian spectators proud of their native country, and I also hope that such festivities will unite us around genuine values and real victories, rather than vanity or ideological fast food.”
The shows begin at 9 p.m., and tickets cost 500 rubles.
© The St. Petersburg Times. 12 September, 2012
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