Seeing Tsars – Catherine’s Palace, Russia

St. Petersburg is unlike any other city I’ve ever seen. The only commonality to some other beautiful and historic cities is that one could take a lifetime to discover and absorb it all. I had only four days, just enough to wish I could go back again and again.

Today, I’m concentrating on Catherine’s Palace, located 15 miles from St. Petersburg in the palace complex called Tsarskoe Selo, which means “Tsars Village” in Russian. The village consists of Catherine Palace and Park and Alexander Palace and Park. Catherine Palace was built in the early eighteenth century and was the summer residence of Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine (I) and was subsequently expanded and redecorated by their daughter Elizabeth and, later, Catherine the Great (II). Alexander Palace and Park were built later by Catherine II and were most famously used by the last Tsar, Nicholas II and his family, who were imprisoned there and later sent to Siberia and executed in 1918. World War II destroyed much of the palace complex, but, thankfully, it has been completely restored to its former magnificence.

(Note: Click on photos to enlarge)

Main Architects Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli and Charles Cameron exceeded their genius by using an abundance of Baroque gilded carvings, multi-wood parquetry and mirrors below spectacular ceiling murals by such artists as Antonio Peresinotti, Pietro and Francesco Gradizzi and Ivan Belsky, to create such masterpieces as the world has never known. Each room was more amazing than the last.

Within the shells of the rooms were gilded furnishings, statuary, paintings, hand painted silk wall coverings, priceless carpets, ivory chess sets, porcelain table decorations, etc. Even the stoves to heat the rooms in the frigid Russian winters were works of art with hand painted tiles composing the surface. Whole rooms had themes devoted to semi-precious stones like malichite, agate and rare marble.

One room in particular, famous the world over, is the Amber Room, dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” As a tourist, I was not allowed to take photos in this room, but it’s worth checking out the Internet sites’ accounts of the Amber Room with its fifty-five square meters and six tons of amber. Imagine an enormous wall of pieces of amber put together like a jigsaw puzzle and on top of that, wainscoting and mirror frames and cartouches, all composed of layers of Baltic Sea amber with carvings in different hues of amber embellishment. Mix this with gilded wood carvings and more carved and gilded mirrors and I’m certain you would say this room was absolutely breathtaking! If you are interested in seeing a video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_YTD7N8LS0

Catherine Palace was the summer palace as stated at the beginning of this post. There was also a Winter Palace, the Yusupov Palace, once owned by one of the wealthiest families in Russia and where Rasputin was murdered, both located in St. Petersburg. Additionally, all four tour days were filled with museums, art galleries, gardens and churches within the city called the Venice of the North.

During this trip, I often found my mouth pretty-much stuck in the O position and my neck suffering from whiplash while I tried to take it all in; floors, ceilings, walls, even views through windows to parks, fountains and gardens beyond. To be able to witness this opulence and artistry was truly an experience of a lifetime.

16 Comments

Filed under Art, blogging, Coco Ihle, internet, musings, photographs, Travel

16 responses to “Seeing Tsars – Catherine’s Palace, Russia

  1. Pat Gordon

    Hi Coco,
    Thank you very much for reliving this beautiful trip for me. I enjoyed reading your blog very much and will save it so I can reread it many times again. You are an excellent author.

    Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the videos. I took several pictures of the interiors of the palaces and museums.

    All the best to a very talented woman, Pat G. (Grand Circle Lines Fellow Traveler)

    • Thank you so much, Pat. Yes, didn’t we have a grand time?! I couldn’t help thinking how inadequate my words were in describing such a beautiful palace. It’s just so much more exciting to see it in actuality, isn’t it?! I’ve written a couple other posts on our Russia trip that you can find on this site under my name, if you’re interested.
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Hi Coco! I thouroughly enjoyed your Blog. Your description of the palaces and rooms was wonderful. Loved being able to enlarge the pictures and see the video also! Can’t wait for next month’s blog as you bring us all along on your trip. Your style of writing is meticulous!

  3. Joan Trometter

    Sis,
    Your pictures and descriptions are magnificent! Also, the last person who left a comment was totally right on in your style of writing is meticulous!
    Love, Joanie

  4. Your photos are stunning. Such oppulence!

    I once researched the amber room (don’t remember why) and the photos were amazing. It’s incredible that you were actually in that room.

  5. Linda pappas

    Thanks Coco for the wonderful revisit with you. Posted on Facebook for more to see! Love your blog! Miss ya, Linda

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