Palace (Peter's Court in German) or Petrodvorets (Peter's Palace in Russian)
is one of the largest and most visited sites in the Leningrad Oblast in
Russia. Sometimes called the "Russian Versailes" it was recognised as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History of Peterhof Palace
Peterhof Palace is often called "the Russian Versaille" due to its magnitude and splendor. The construction of Monplaisir
("my pleasure" in French) complex began in 1714 on the orders of Emperor
Peter I the Great. Shores of the Baltic Sea including Peterhof were acquired
from the Swedish Empire during the Great Northern War that still ravaged
when Saint Petersburg and surrounding palaces began its construction.
Peter's daughter Elisabeth constructed the Grand Palace, extended area of
the park and erected a famous system of fountains, including spectacular
Grand Cascade. It was largely abandoned by Emperor Catherina the Great who
moved her official residence to Pushkin. Emperor Nicholas I moved his
residence here again, but he didn't like the size of the Royal palace.
Instead he ordered erection of a small palace, Cottage Palace in 1826 on the
grounds of Peterhof. During German occupation the estate was badly damaged
by the German forces, but it was quickly restored in 1947.
Grand Cascade of Peterhof- Petrodvorets is an enormous
complex of fountains in the center of the royal palace. It is an
outstanding example of Baroque architecture and one of the most famous
fountains in the World. Initially it was erected under orders of Peter I
the Great with the main Palace. Its construction began in May 1716 and
on July 13, 1721 first trial run of water was held in the presence of
the Russian emperor himself. But the work on cascade sculptures and
decorations continued. In the Center of the Grand Cascade of Peterhof is
a Lower or Large grotto. Two cascading stairs with seven steps surround
the area around the grotto. Stairs are decorated with gilded arms,
sculptures and reliefs. The lowest fountain in the complex is a fountain
known as a Samson Fountain after its central sculpture of Samson.
In 1735 Grand Cascade of Peterhof- Petrodvorets complex
got its famous sculpture of Samson that rips the jaw of lion. It was a
reference to famous Battle of Poltava between Russian armies under
leadership (and direct participation) of Peter the Great and Charles XII
of Sweden. It occurred on 27 June of 1709. Russian Orthodox Church
celebrated memory of the Biblical Old Testament hero Samson. Lion in the
sculpture represents Swedish Empire those royal coat of arms contained
lion as its symbol. The idea of the sculpture belonged to architect B.
Rastrelli, while the base was designed by architect M. Zemcov. In 1802
lead sculpture designed by Mikhail Kozlovsky was replaced by a bronze
copy. During German occupation during World War II the statue of Samson
was stolen along with other artefacts from Peterhof. Some evidence
suggest that they were used simply as a scrap metal for military
purposes. After a war an exact copy of Samson was made. It was completed
in 1947 and opened just two years after the end of World War II.
Fountain Samson is also the most powerful in the whole complex of the
Grand Cascade. The height of its water jet column reaches a height of 21
Open: June- Sept: 10:30am- 5pm
Catherine Wing: May- Sept 10:30am- 5pm
Oct- April: Sat- Sun 10:30am- 5pm
Palace of Monplaisir or "my pleasure" in French is the original
residence of Peter the Great that started this magnificent palace complex. This
small residence sits on the eastern side of the Lower Park. It was designed by
the tsar Peter himself. If you get here by boat this is the first thing you will
see. Tsar usually got here by boat from a ship since the waters here are fairly
shallow. It was constructed in 1714- 23 and became the preferred residence of an
emperor. Here he gathered his closest friends and here he brought his personal
art collection of the 17th century art. Catherine I, his wife usually cooked in
the palace kitchen.
Peter's daughter Elizabeth added the Catherine Wing when future
Catherine II married her son Peter III. The marriage was loveless and Catherine
overthrew her unloved husband in the coup headed by the Orlov's brothers. It was
here that Catherine found out about success of this operation.
Peter the Great Interrogating the Tsarevich
Peter the Great had only son Alexei. Young man was well educated
and possessed a sharp mind. He however despised autocratic rule of his father
and disagreed with some of the policies that he felt damaged Russian traditional
way of life. He married a simple Russian woman and even escaped to Europe.
Brought back from to Saint Petersburg son tried to restore relationship with his
father. It didn't work. Accused of treason and attempts to overthrow a ruling
emperor Alexei was executed on the orders of his father Peter the Great. This
famous painting made in 1871 by Russian artists N. N. Ge depicts interrogation
of a young prince in the Palace Monplaisir. We don't know for sure if it
happened here, but the interior of palace is certainly that of favorite Peter's
residence. Today you can see this work of art in Moscow in Tretyakov Gallery.
May- Sept: 10:30am- 5pm
Oct- Apr: 10:30am- 5pm
Marly Palace sits in the Western part of the Lower Park. It was
constructed under supervision of Architect Johann Braunstein on the orders of
Peter the Great after he visited the French Palace of Louis XIV in Marly- Le-
Roi. The French original was destroyed during years of the French Revolution,
but its Baroque copy still well preserved. This quiet residence is surrounded by
a rectangular pond on one side and a crescent shaped on the other side. Marly
Palace was largely abandoned as a living residence after the death of the great
emperor. It became a museum of Peter's art collection, furniture and many other
items that belonged to him. In the 19th century palace was reconstructed. Its
structural weaknesses were fixed.
May- Sept: 10:30am- 6pm
Great Orangery or Grand Orangery is situated
in the Lower Park of the Peterhof Palace Royal complex. It
was constructed between spring 1722 and late 1725 and was
intended to grow exotic plants. Additionally it was reserved
as a storage space for tropical plants that grew in pots and
were spread out throughout a park in summer warmer months.
It was likely designed by Italian architect Niccolo Michetti.
Its construction was supervised by Johann Friedrich
Braunstein and Michael G. Zemcov.
and tranquil parks of Peterhof didn't escape the horrors of the World War II.
Petrodvorets as it is occasionally called saw one of the failed operations that
became known as a Peterhof Landings. Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg) was
encircled by German forces on the South and Finish armies on the North. An
attempt to break through the blockade was designed by famous marshal G.K. Zhukov
and V.F. Tributc. Their plan was simple. Throw sailors behind enemy lines and
see what happens. On October 5th 510 soldiers landed in the Lower Park of
Peterhof and Aleksandriya. They used small gun boats that towed boats behind
them. In addition ships like Koral and gun batteries in Kronshtadt supported the
landings. They were no air cover or anti- tank guns. Amazingly the unit held off
their position for two days. Only one sailor was picked up by a Soviet gun boat.
He reported that everyone was dead and they ran out of ammunition. Later
captured pictures made by Germans showed Lower Park of Peterhof covered by
bodies of dead Soviet sailors of the Baltic Fleet. Soviet propaganda chose to
forget about badly planned operation of Marsha of Victory as Zhukov was called.
This changed after the collapse of Soviet Union. A small memorial commemorates
this tragic event.