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Gatchina Palaces and Castles
May 7, 2016 16:10


Gatchina Palace. History

The construction of Gatchina palace of Grigory Orlov started in 1766. The architect Rinaldi designed a magnificent castle on the hill in front of the Silver Lake. A three-storey main building was decorated with pentahedral high towers on each side. Two galleries retreated to the service wings with closed courtyards: Arsenalny and kitchen square. A collection of Italian paintings, collected by the owner was placed on the upper floors of the palace.  However, Orlov did not live in a new estate for long time. In 1783 the future Emperor Paul I received  the Gatchina as a gift from the mother. The favorite architect of Paul Petrovich, Vincenzo Brenna, reconstructed the Gatchina Palace, turning it from a country house of a rich nobleman into the royal residence. This residence was not only decorated but it was also strengthened. Paul wanted to see the Gatchina as an impregnable citadel. 

After the death of Paul I his widow Maria Feodorovna became the owner of the Gatchina, and after her death Nicholas I became an owner. The palace, badly outdated in terms of the organization of municipal services and comfort, was again rebuilt. Service housing was completely dismantled and re-erected. The heating system, parquet floors and design details was replaced. However, they tried to keep the private rooms of Paul I and ceremonial apartments the same as they were in the XVIII century. The works were supervised by the architect Roman Kuzmin. The palace was not almost used as an imperial residence during that period. In 1881 the royal family moved to Gatchina from the capital.

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The new emperor, a son of Alexander II murdered by the members of the "Narodnaya Volya" ("People's Freedom"), spent the first years of his reign in the fortified palace of Paul I. The palace was renovated and landscaped: there were electricity, telephone, modern heating system, sewerage and running water. During World War II the palace was hit by bombs and shelling, and then it was set on fire by the Nazis. After its release, the palace was a charred ruin with collapsed ceilings and without a roof. Fortunately, the drawings and materials of the last restoration of the mid XIX century, paintings and photographs were preserved. So that recovery was possible. However, after the war the Naval Academy was housed in the Gatchina palace, and then a closed enterprise was placed there. Scientific restoration began only in 1976.

Gatchina Palace. Now

Now there are open memorial rooms of Paul I on the first floor of the palace. The collection of ancient weapons is shown. There is a suite of state rooms of the XVIII century on the second floor. Some of them are decorated by Rinaldi. It is talked about by his "signature" in the pattern stucco wall, the so-called "flower of Rinaldi" in the form of two crossed lilies. Straight from the state rooms one can pass to the underground passage, go down to the basement and get to the Silver Lake. The passage ends by grotto Echo on the shore. This place has unique acoustics: the echo repeats the sounds up to four syllables. 

The central body is crowned by two towers: Clock Tower with clock display and Signal Tower. During the reign of Nicholas II the equipment of optical telegraph was installed on the signal tower. Now it is possible to rise to the tower and see the suburbs from the 34-meter height. The exhibition "Family of Emperor Alexander III in Gatchina” is opened in the right Arsenal Block.

Priory Castle

Priory Castle is an unusual structure of the Gatchina palace complex. It is unique in its shape, method of construction and its purpose. 

The castle, which can be mistaken for styling, is a whim of the architect or the customer, in fact, was intended for the meetings of Knights. The Knights of Malta is officially known as Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, originates from the monks of St. John the Baptist Monastery in Jerusalem, which treated the pilgrims. During the Crusades an order became military. 

The Charter of the Johannites prescribed to the knights two duties: help for the needy people and protection of faith. This world outlook was very close to Paul I, who fascinated by the history of the Hospitallers since his childhood. After the fall of Jerusalem, the Knights settled in Malta, where virtually they created their own state. The French Revolution put an end to it. Napoleon took Malta and the Knights were expelled. 

The Order requested that the Russian Emperor to receive the Knights under the protection and Paul agreed. He created the Polish and Russian Prioties of Order, and then he headed it. At first Prince of Conde became the Grand Prior of the Maltese, who was friend of the emperor for long time, who had immigrated to Russia after an unsuccessful struggle with Napoleon. It is considered that for Priory Castle was built in Gatchina for Conde and, already filled with "reflections" of Prince’s Manor in Chantilly. But in fact, impulsive Paul suddenly lost confidence in Conde. And the Priory Palace, apparently, has no relation to the Prince. 

The castle on the shore of the Black Lake, away from the Gatchina Palace, has the appearance of a medieval castle-monastery, lost among forests and waters. The building is emphasized succinctly and asymmetrically: high tower, two-storey building, single-storey extension, which is called the Chapel, and the kitchen, which resembles the silhouette of Russian hut. White walls, devoid of any decoration, combined with red roofs look particularly expressive on the background of the park greenery. Architect Nicolay Lvov built a Priory castle according to the technology of rammed-earth construction. This technology is based on traditional methods of rammed-earth construction: bricks are made of rammed earth, soaked with lime mortar. At the end of the XVIII century, a book about rammed-earth construction technology was published. It was written by Kuantero, Frenchman. And the topic of "alternative" materials became fancy. Rammed-earth constructions were cheap, and moreover they did not burn, so the ramparts were often earthy.

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Round platform for tournament surrounded by an earthen rampart is a creation of the architect Nikolai Lvov. There is an arena in the center of the amphitheater and there are four passes on the edges: two for riders and two for the spectators. The rampart was made according to the technology of rammed-earth construction, as the Priory Castle built. Therefore the Amphitheatre is calles as Ground fortress or serfs structure. You can climb up the earth wall by one of the eight stairs. Upstairs the pedestals for statues are preserved. The statues themselves have not been erected. The passes for spectators and riders are lined by pudostsky stone. The audience had to sit on the turf benches which tiers down to the arena

The death of Paul prevented the architect to complete the project. Lvov was going to protected the arena by the wall of cut lime trees, to place lamps and sculptures, to close the passages by gates with the imperial monogram. The construction, created on the model of the ancient circus, was intended for chivalry "carousels", old fun with horse exercises and duels. In Russia "carousel" began to be arranged during the reign of Catherine II. 

According to eyewitnesses of contemporaries they made a great impression on young Paul Petrovich and influenced his military entrainments. Ironically, the former owner of Gatchina, handsome Gregory Orlov hated by Paul, was especially different in these competitions. The portraits of brave brothers Orlov in the Roman "carousel" armor were preserved. The amphitheater is located in the back of the Palace Park between the Gatchina Palace and Sylvia.

Read also: Gatchina Parks and Things to Explore

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Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Gatchina Leningrad Region    

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