Thursday's Child: Catherine Palace, Russia

Thursday, September 6, 2012

This month I’ll be writing about four incredible works of architecture that we’ve seen, and I’ll start with Russia’s impressive Catherine Palace.


We visited the Catherine Palace, a short drive from St. Petersburg, in August 2011.  This palace had a modest beginning when it was first built by Catherine I.  Her daughter, Empress Elizabeth, thought it was much too simple.  In the mid-eighteenth century, she essentially had it torn down, then rebuilt by a series of four architects.  An enormous sum of both state money and her own resources were used in its creation.

The result was a staggering array of extravagance that stunned both her countrymen and the foreign politicians who visited.  The exterior was coated with over 100 kg of gold and the building is 325 meters (nearly 1000 feet) long; inside, every room was decorated in a manner that matched the exterior’s opulence.

The saddest part of the history of this glorious building occurred during the Second World War.  After the terrible siege of Leningrad, retreating Germans annihilated the interior of the palace.  Fortunately, prior to the war many of its contents had been noted and archived.  When restoration work began about thirty years ago, restorers relied on these archives to achieve as accurate a result as possible.  Currently, about half of the rooms have been redecorated to their former beauty.

The Catherine Palace is one of the most popular sights in St. Petersburg, for good reason.  The regal exterior with its golden domes is a good indication that the interior will be equally breathtaking.  Although we weren’t permitted to take photos in the one-of-a-kind Amber Room, we could in many of the other rooms.  

The Great Hall is almost 1000 square meters in size (nearly 10,000 square feet) and spans from one side of the building to the other.  That means a lovely view is possible from both sides of the room, and a maximum of light flows in.

The Cavalier’s dining room was used for small balls and gatherings.  Notice the mirrored walls: it was considered to be too small, so they used mirrors, windows and lighting to make the room seem bigger!

26 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Wow! It's gorgeous. Seeing places like that gets your mind buzzing with ideas for settings in stories. Thanks for sharing about the history of it too.

Robert Morphy said...

I'm so envious of your travels, Beth. Thanks for sharing.

Carol said...

Breathtaking! The architecture, the opulence, that is beautiful. That is such an amazing trip.

Belinda said...

Stunning! I have never been to St. Petersburg, but so want to go, especially now!

amy (fearless homemaker) said...

How gorgeous! Russia is one place I haven't visited yet - my brother has (+ he lives in India now, so worldly!), so I'd love to visit some day. Lovely pictures!

yummychunklet said...

Wow. Fantastic photos.

Jemi Fraser said...

It almost doesn't look real - more like a movie set! What incredible attention to detail :)

Medeia Sharif said...

Gorgeous pictures and such a rich history.

Gloria said...

aaah Beth what really lovely pictures:))

Food Gal said...

Breathtaking. Who can ever get tired of looking at those incredible, shining onion domes? Lucky you to have visited them in person.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've been there, but we didn't go on the inside. I was there back when the city was Leningrad. It was right after the country became democratic.

Gorgeous photos!

Sue said...

Wow, that is SOME palace!

Neesie said...

I've loved visiting Russia with you Beth.
My husband has been but I've never haven't. It looks amazing.
Your photographs are brilliant ~ thanks for sharing x

Joanne said...

A real life palace! How gorgeous!

Miriam said...

What a beautiful place!!!
Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

bakewithjill.com said...

Russia is high on my list of places to visit. I would love to see this in person!

Lizzy Do said...

Wow, how impressive! I'll have to ask my parents if they saw this on any of their trips to Russia. Enjoy your weekend, my friend~

La Table De Nana said...

Your photos are just beautiful..My friend's son..Canadian..met his Italian wife in Russia:)
Your books look wonderful..

Katerina said...

This is very impressive Beth! A truly magnificent palace. Have a great weekend!

Pacheco Patty said...

Wow, this is on my list of places to visit, thanks for sharing your pictures;-)
Have a wonderful weekend;-)

Janet Johnson said...

What a beautiful building! And I love learning the history. Hopefully I'll get to see it in person some day. :)

Barbara said...

That is gorgeous, Beth. I've never been to Russia...would love to go.

nancy at good food matters said...

astonishing! it is doubtful that I will ever visit Russia, so I am thrilled to see your pictures, and read some of the history.

Kitchen Riffs said...

I've been there! It's gorgeous. St. Petersburg is such an interesting city, and there's so much to see there.

Valerie said...

Wow! I can't believe I missed this post!
Gorgeous fails to describe these photos...I feel as though I'm looking at something straight out of a fairy tale.

CJ - Food Stories said...

My heavens, this is gorgeous ... Beautiful & moving images :-)

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