Palace Church at Peterhof
Reopens After Restoration

The palace church at Peterhof is once again open to the public after an extensive restoration that lasted more than a decade

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The Church of Saints Peter and Paul, located in the Grand Palace at Peterhof, will open its doors to the public on July 15th after an extensive restoration that lasted more than a decade. The opening ceremony marks the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul for which the church is named.

The Grand Palace at Peterhof was badly damaged during World War II, but reconstruction of the palace began almost immediately after the end of the war. The facade of the church - a beautiful example of Russian Baroque - took place in the 1950s and was based on the original drawings of Rastrelli. In 2003, work began on the five cupolas, which included the regilding of the onion-shaped domes typical of Russian churches. Restoration of the church interiors also began in 2003, however, restorers led by Jacob Shterenberg had a difficult task ahead of them. In 1917, the church was looted by the Bolsheviks, icons and other religious artifacts were removed and ultimately disappeared. The one saving grace was a 19th century watercolour painted by Eduard Gau found in the archives with the image of the iconostasis. It was from this watercolour that restorers were able to reconstruct the iconostasis.

The newly reconstructed interiors of the church are highlighted by a magnificent carved gilded iconostasis, stucco decorations and paintings, icons of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as unique pieces of church plate and vestments.

The church was built between 1747-51 by the Italian architect Bartoloemo Rastrelli. The Empress Elizabeth herself laid the first stone on May 30, 1747. The paintings were made by craftsmen under the guidance of the court painter Elizabeth Ivan Vishnyakova. During the reign of the Romanov dynasty, it was the court church where the weddings and baptisms of members of the Russian Imperial family took place. This included the christening of the Tsarevich Alexei Nikolayevich, the only son of Emperor Nicholas II in 1904.

The consecration of the church was carried out by Bishop Merkel of Peterhof on July 12th, along with the blessing of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill. In future, a special service will be held annually on the anniversary of the opening of the church. On July 15th, the newly restored church will formally welcome visitors to Peterhof for the first time.

According to Tatiana Vergun, Deputy General Director of the Peterhof State Museum, "the completion of the church now brings the reconstruction and restoration of the Grand Palace to a close."

The following video gives a small sample of the magnificent restoration of this church and its beautiful interiors.

Source: телеканал Культура. Language: Russian. Duration: 59 seconds. 13 July, 2011

A partial view of the magnificent iconostasis

The consecration ceremony was performed by the Bishop Merkel of Peterhof

A little visitor tries to take in the recreation of a page of her country's history

Recreation of the baptismal shirt of Emperor Alexander II

The restoration of the church interiors is based mainly from a watercolour by Eduard Hau, 1850

Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
13 July, 2011