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
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