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The Past Splendor of Gatchina Palace

The town of Gatchina, located approximately forty six kilometers from St. Petersburg, was first documented in 1499 while owned by Novgorod the Great. Unbeknownst to the people of the time, this wonderful town in Russia was destined for greatness. At its centre is the Gatchina Palace. Gatchina Palace became the symbol of royalty in Russia and has remain a vital part of the country’s history, still able to astound and dazzle visitors who walk its grounds today.

The shaping of the Gatchina Palace and its road to imperial significance really starts in 1708, when Peter the Great gave the grounds to Natalia Alekseevna, his sister. Peter the Great later convert the palace into a hospital after Natalia’s death. In 1765 Catherine the Great purchased Gatchina as a gift to General Count Grigory Orlov. And it was during Oslovs’ time at Gatchina that the palace started to take shape in enormous proportions.

All though many architects and designers had worked on Gatchina Palace over the years, with each owner adding their own unique touch, the Count enlisted Antonio Rinaldi to design and build a massive six hundred room castle, together with a horse farm and a zoo, between 1766 and 1788. This impressive structure was quite somber looking from the outside, but no expense was spared on the interior. Intricate frescoes, hand-carved furniture, elaborate chandeliers, marble floors and staggering collections of fine art, sculptures and rare porcelain items adorned the palace. Construction also included the Eagle Column, the triumphal arch, towers and the landscaping of seven kilometers of gardens.

After Orlovs’ death, Catherine bought Gatchina Palace back, and it became the imperial residence of many legendary rulers. During the 1900s, the palace took on many roles, such as an military air field and pilot school, but its most important position came in 1918, when the palace took on the role of museum until 1941, opening its doors and gardens to the public. However, between 1941 and 1945, during the Nazi occupation of Russia, the castle was burnt and plundered of many of its most valuable relics. The three thousand items of Oriental Provenance was a great loss and over the years, museum staff managed to save, reclaim and return approximately fifteen thousand art works during the war and in the following years, but the devastation to Gatchina Place was seen as almost total destruction.

Fortunately, the love and devotion that staff and locals felt for this historical masterpiece led to the slow restoration of the palace, which has been ongoing for over sixty years. Painstaking dedication and patience ensured that the museum could once again open its doors in 1985, with the completion of some of the state rooms and Arsenal Halls. With the assistance of paintings done of the interior of the palace, restorers have a visual to follow. The rest of this attraction is still closed, as renovations and restoration continue. Gatchina Palace is an inspiring attraction that commands respect and admiration from all its visitors. When traveling through St. Petersburg, a visit to the Gatchina Palace is highly recommended.


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