The palaces and residences at Tsarskoye Selo (the Catherine and Alexander Palaces); and Yalta (Livadia Palace), were among the most important residences of a succession of Russia's sovereigns and their August families.
This series of four documentaries explores the residences most favoured by four of the last five emperors: Alexander I, Nicholas I, Alexander II, and Alexander III. They were produced in 2008 by T.L. Tour and directed by Andrei Semak.
Each film explores the history of each palace, the further developments made to the Imperial residences that each of the reigning Russian monarch made to it.
Each film runs about 26 minutes with narration in Russian only.
No.1 - Alexander I at Tsarskoye Selo
No. 2 - Alexander II at Livadia
No. 3 - Alexander III in the Crimea
No. 4 - Nicholas I in the Crimea
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 January, 2013
Over the years I have often been asked about the fate of the Chesmenskiy - or Chesme - Palace in St. Petersburg. I am happy to report that the palace has survived, but the facade and interiors have been greatly altered over the past century.
Located in the south of St. Petersburg, just off Moskovskiy Prospekt, the Chesmenskiy Palace was built in the reign of Catherine the Great as a waypost for the Imperial court on the road to Tsarskoye Selo. The palace was designed by the court architect Yuri Felten and, like his design for the neighbouring Chesme Church, it shows the influence of the early gothic revival in England, and particularly Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill villa in Twickenham.
A triangular building with three corner towers around a central turret, the palace was completed in 1777 and named in honour of a major naval victory at Chesme Bay (1770) during the Russo-Turkish War. The Round Hall in the central turret was used by the Empress to present the Order of St. George, the highest military honour of Russia, to commanders including Field-Marshals Kutuzov and Suvorov.
The palace retained its role until the 1830s, when it was turned into an almshouse for veterans wounded in the Napoleonic Wars. Not only were the battlements of the central turret removed, but architecturally unremarkable four-storey wings were added to each of the three corners of the palace to provide more space for accommodation.
Since the Second World War, the Chesmenskiy Palace has been home to part of the State University of Aerospace Instrumentation (formerly the Leningrad Institute of Aircraft Instrument-making).
The famous Chesme or Green-frog Dinner Service displayed in the Hermitage was commissioned especially for the palace by Catherine the Great from the Wedgwood potteries in Staffordshire, England.
The Chesmenskiy Palace is not open to the public.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 10 November, 2012
The St. Petersburg Palace of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich is situated at Moika embankment, 122A. The palace was built in 1882-1885 according to the design of architect M. E. Messmacher. It is included in the federal list of Historical and Cultural Landmarks of the Russian Federation in St. Petersburg (by order of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 527 dd. July 10, 2001). Over the last several decades, the building stood vacant. In October 2005, the Russian Government transferred the building to the St. Petersburg Music House.
In 2006 the Constantine Foundation took part in the restoration of the palace, which is considered to be a masterpiece of eclectic architecture, embodying elements of various styles.
The sunken bathing pool, the walls decorated with beautiful ceramic tiles
The extensive restoration included the preservation of the palace's elegant facade, the picturesque silhouette of its towers, the beautiful windows and doors, and its rich finishes and interiors.
The palace is now a venue for classical music, including international competitions and festivals. Guided tours (in Russian) are available by prior arrangement to groups of no more than 20 persons. Photographing the historical interiors is strictly forbidden by the administration.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 September, 2012
Photo Credit: tverlife.ru
The restoration of the Imperial Traveling Palace at Tver has begun with the symbolic ceremony of the transfer of the keys to the 18th-century monument over to the builders and restorers. Residents of Tver and the entire Tver Region have been waiting for this day for 20 years.
The palace was constructed in the Classical style with some elements of Baroque. It was intended as a resting place for members of the Russian Imperial family as they travelled from St. Petersburg to Moscow. It also served as a residence for the Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna (1788-1819) and her spouse, Duke George of Oldenburg (1784-1812), who served as governor of the region up until his death in 1812 due to typhoid fever.
The historic interiors and décor will be restored in the former Romanov palace over the next three years. These will be based on surviving sketches, photos and inventories of the pre-war period. The palace garden and surrounding landscape will also be restored.
Restoration costs will amout to three billion rubles; most of the amount - 1.8 billion – has been allocated by the World Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The rest of the money will be provided from the budgets of Tver and the Tver Region.
© Russia Info-Center. 05 September, 2012
The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly have announced plans to restore the former church in the city's Mariinsky Palace.
During the Tsarist period it was very common for members of the Russian Imperial family and members of the aristocracy to have a home church, where they could hold services and pray in private.
The Mariinsky Palace was built between 1839-1844 by the Russian architect Andrei Stackenschneider for the Grand Duchess Maria Nicholayevna, daughter of the Emperor Nicholas I. The chapel of St. Nicholas was established in the palace in the middle of the 19th century. After the Revolution, the church was closed and the iconstasis destroyed.
The recreation of the iconostasis will involve master craftsmen in stone and wood carvings, as well as the painting and reproduction of the icons and other paintings. The estimate cost is 28.7 million rubles.
From 1884, the palace returned to Imperial hands. Up until 1917, it housed the State Council of Imperial Russia. Today, the Mariinsky Palace houses the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 10 March, 2012
In the mid-19th century Emperor Alexander III had a hunting lodge built at the Imperial hunting reserve at Bialowieza in Poland. Between 1889 and 1893 a palace was built for the Imperial family, which consisted of 134 rooms spread over two floors.
In 1894, a hunt was organized for the Emperor, but it was to be his last. Emperor Alexander III died on 1 November [O.S. 20 October] 1894 at Livadia in the Crimea.
Few reminders survive of the former Imperial estate; however, in an effort to restore the history of Bialowieza, the Belorussian government decided to restore the original grandeur of the roads leading into Bialowieza by returning the former Imperial crests bearing the monogram of Emperor Alexander III that once decorated the bridges.
The former royal road now connects the Belarusian and Polish parts of Bialowieza Forest. Visitors in search of the Romanov legacy can still visit two of the oldest surviving buildings at Bialowieza: St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and the Swiss House. Sadly, the palace itself was destroyed in 1944; while the ruins of the palace were demolished in 1961-63.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia.
The Mariyinsky Palace is situated on a hilly bank overlooking the Dneiper River in Kiev.
Construction on the palace began in 1744 at the request of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great. It was built by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli in the Baroque style. The palace was completed in 1752, but Elizabeth did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of the great architects labors.
Catherine the Great was the first August resident, who stayed here in 1787. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the palace became the official residence of the Governor-Generals. it was generally used for ceremonial and festive events.
In the early 19th century a fire destroyed nearly half of the palace. It was not until 1870 that the Emperor Alexander II ordered a reconstruction of the palace by architect Konstantin Mayevsky, based on original drawings and watercolours. The palace was then named in honour of the reigning empress and wife of Alexander II, Maria Alexandrovna.
The palace has two stories and large wings which form a large yard. The palace ensemble included gardens, greenhouses and a confectionary. Many extravagent balls were held in the palace when nobles came to visit.
During the reign of the last emperor, Nicholas II, the palace was used by his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. It was here that many members of her family, including grand dukes and grand duchesses came to visit her.
After the Russian Revolution, the palace was used as a school and museum. During World War II, the Maryinsky Palace was badly damaged. The palace was restored in the 1940s as well as the 1980s. Today the Maryinsky Palace is an official residence of the President of Ukraine.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 February, 2012
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