Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia


Exterior of Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

Even though Catherine Palace is named after Catherine the First, who was the wife of emperor Peter the Great, not many people know that the palace did not actually look as grandiose as it does today during her two-year reign. Back then it was a two-floor building of modest size without any excessive decorations or gold details. But when Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Catherine the Great, came to power, she settled on Tsarskoe Selo, the village where the palace was located, as her summer residence and ordered a complete remodel of the building. The project was lead by architect Bartholomeo Rastrelli who was tasked to create a palace so grand that it eclipses the famous Versailles in France.

The remodel was finally finished in 1756 and the resulting palace had a circumference of almost 1000 yards. The exterior of the palace features white and blue facades decorated with numerous pilasters, atlantes statues and caryatids all created by a sculptor named Johann Dunker. More than 200 pounds of pure gold was used on exterior decorations of the palace during Elizabeth’s reign, a decision that was hugely disapproved of by Catherine the Great when she learned about the amount of money that was spent on the palace. 

Interior decorations of Catherine Palace in Russia

The most beautiful rooms of the Catherine Palace designed by architect Rastrelli comprise what is called the Golden Enfilade. This part of the building is the focus of the guided tour offered at Catherine Palace. When you take the tour you will first enter the palace via the grand State Staircase, which is actually a later addition to the building, it was built in 1860. Next, the tour proceeds to the Hall of Light, which is formally known as the Great Hall. The Hall has the same width as the Palace, so there are windows to the gardens on both sides, letting in tons of light into the room and allowing gold-plated decorations on the walls to look breathtaking. The tour also goes through the White Dining Room, the Picture Gallery and the Portrait Hall, where you will be able to see magnificent portraits of Empress Elizabeth and Catherine the Great.  

The Amber room in Catherine Palace

The tour will then lead you to the reconstructed Amber Room, this room alone is the reason many tourists visit the Palace. Originally, the Amber Room was designed by architect Rastrelli in 1770 from amber mosaic panels created by artisans from Florence and Russia. The entire room was decorated with amber, gilded carving and gemstones. The total weight of amber used to decorate the room was more than 1000 pounds! But unfortunately, that original masterpiece was lost forever when German soldiers took over St. Petersburg in 1941. They took the room apart and shipped the amber decorations to Konigsberg where contents of the Amber room later disappeared in chaos of the war never to be recovered again. 

The current Amber Room was recreated over 20 years from 1982 to 2003. The project cost over 12 million dollars and the result is truly magnificent. 

Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia
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