Restoration of the Hermitage Pavilion
at Tsarskoe Selo Completed

The newly restored Hermitage Pavilion at Tsarskoe Selo will open to the public in June 2010
NOTE: This video offers pre-WWII film footage of the magnificent interiors.

Source: Vesti News. Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

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The Hermitage Pavilion at Tsarskoe Selo

Empress Elizabeth sought to embellish her favourite residence at Tsarskoe Selo with imaginative buildings in the immense park that surrounded her sumptuous palce. On the central avenue of the park she had the Hermitage Pavilion built in the Baroque style.

In 1748 Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli presented the empress with a model of the pavilion created by the craftsman Nilssen. Rastrelli completed the Hermitage in 1756. The unprepared visitor is amazed to come across this little palace in the “wild grove”, as this part of the park was known in the 18th century.

The interiors were richly decorated and reminded visitors of the halls in the nearby Catherine Palace. The large windows gave access to the balconies, thus linking the interiors with the park. From the central hall of the pavilion four corridors led to four intimate cabinets whose walls were covered with lightly gilded carved rocaille-style ornaments.

The central hall of the Hermitage was the object of particular fascination for visitors. It contained a table large enough to seat up to 35 guests. What was unique about the dining room table was that it was equipped with special mechanisms allowing the guests to dine without the presence of servants. In the lower basement, 18 servants would prepare the table, hoist it to the floor above where waiting guests would sit down to dinner.

A diner only needed only to write the name of the dish he desired on a slate and pull the bell next to it. A short time later the chosen dish would appear at the table.

Once the meal was over, the table was lowered into the floor, the chairs removed, and the dining room opened into a ballroom. Rastrelli was a technical marvel for his time. He also installed a special lift which would transport guests to the second floor of the pavilion.

The Hermitage Pavilion proved to be a favourite place for the Empress and her guests. She particularly liked to show it off to foreign ambassadors and other dignitaries. On 2 July, 1755, the following entry was made in the court journal: “The Turkish ambassador, Defterdar Dervish Mahmud Effendi, and all his suite came to Tsarskoye Selo and spent the night in rooms in the courtyard wings and his evening meal was prepared by the Turks. The next day he was shown the places of amusement there. Gentlemen of the court and members of the embassy took lunch at the big table in the Hermitage, while the officials of high rank ate at one small table.” Others who dined in the Hermitage included “French milords”, “the English ambassador with Count Poniatowski” and senior clergymen.

The last banquet to be given in this hall took place in 1817, on the day Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich (the future Nicholas I) celebrated his wedding.

The Hermitage Pavilion has been closed to the public for decades due to damage sustained during the Second World War. Efforts to restore the pavilion were initiated in the 1950s and prior to the 1980 Olympics. Both of these ended in failure for various reasons. The most current restoration effort began several years ago, and now the Hermitage Pavilion at Tsarskoe Selo will reopen its doors to visitors in June.

The preservation of pre-WWII newsreels (please refer to the video on this page) helped workers in their efforts to restore the pavilion to its original, complete with its Baroque interiors and a unique dining room table that was hoisted by servants from the floor below.

The Hermitage Pavilion is considered one of Rastrelli’s masterpieces and will be one of many new historical gems to see this summer as Tsarskoe Selo celebrates its 300th anniversary. Also new to visitors will be two newly restored rooms in the Catherine Palace and three newly restored rooms in the Alexander Palace. All are scheduled to open to the public on June 24, 2010, to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoe Selo.

by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
Sources: Vesti.ru News, and Tsarskoye Selo: The Imperial Summer Residence (2005) and Tzarskoje Selo: The Guide (1999)
26 April, 2010

Pre-WWII photo of the interior of the Hermitage Pavilion