The Winter Palace in Saint-Petersburg

Saint-Petersburg:
Аddress: Palace Embankment, 32, Sankt-Petersburg, Russia, 190000.
GPS coordinates: Latitude: 59.940396 | Longitude: 30.313796.
How to reach: metro station "Admiralteyskaya" or "Nevsky prospect".
Working time: from 10:30 to 18:00 (ticket office open until 17:00), Monday - day off.
The cost varies depending on the visited exhibitions (combined ticket of 600 roubles).

The Winter Palace is an amazing huge building. Its look charms and it seems that the palace hides many secrets. Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square the Winter Palace fascinates thousands of visitors which come there every year.

Historical stages of the construction of the Winter Palace

The history of the Winter Palace is multifaceted and long. Lots of rulers of the state changed over the centuries of the Palace existence. The building of the palace was completely rebuilt several times. Let’s plunge into its history.
The first building ("Winter House") was built for Peter I in 1708. The construction was built on a land, located on the Milicionnaya Street near the Neva River. Of course, its appearance was different from its look nowadays. The first Winter Palace was a modest building of two main floors under a slate roof. His porch and roof were like an unusual decoration. In 1712 governor of St. Petersburg presented Bridal Chamber to Peter. 
The second palace was built by the order of Peter I in 1716. It was built on the intersection of the Neva River and Zimnedomniy channel. After a few years the king's family moved here. It was the place that Peter the Great died in 1725.
After his death, it was decided to complete construction of the palace and to build a third one. Anna Ivanovna was not satisfied with the size of the building. She thought that it was too small for a royal family to live. Anna approved the restructuring project presented by a talented architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. It was considered to buy a few neighboring territories to build The Palace. All things were done very quickly; houses of famous people were bought and torn down, the construction of the royal palace started. In 1735 Anna Ivanovna moved to her permanent residence in the new 4-storey building. The building was really large. There were 70 state rooms, more than a hundred bedrooms, each with dissimilar interiors, and even the theater and some galleries. Moreover, there were many rooms for staff and security. Facades of buildings had a great view of the city: the Neva, the Admiralty building, the main Palace Square. A little later some place for staff was added.
After the death of Anna Ivanovna, Elizaveta Petrovna was the one who lead the building of the Palace. In 1752 the construction of the new adjacent buildings was began. And again a few houses of wealthy people were bought and torn down. 
Construction was carried out under the guidance of Rastrelli.  He considered to built other buildings patterned  on the similar design as the palace was. At the end of 1752 the new idea to make the palace bigger appeared. 
The architect found out that it was easier to build a new palace in a different place than fulfill the wish of Elizabeth.  Perhaps, this idea was not logical, but it had an explanation. One day Elizabeth looked at the palace and saw that it looked like a chicken coop. Its appearance was damaged by numerous outbuildings. The main purpose of the palace was to demonstrate the power of the state. According to this fact, the new project was taken. It was considered to throw down an old building and built a new palace. 
In 1755 the temporary palace was made. It was required for royal family living during the period of construction works near the banks of the Neva. It appeared at the intersection of Nevsky Prospekt and the Moika River. After 7 years, it was dismantled.
The modern palace which situated on the banks of the Neva River is the fifth Winter Palace. Its construction began in 1754. Its size is very impressive. Its area was more than 60 thousand square meters. More than fifteen hundred rooms and halls were there. During its construction several rulers changed in Russia. It was begun with Elizabeth, was continued under Peter III, and was completed under Catherine II.
The Palace was sanctified in 1762. It became the main place to stay for the imperial court in Easter week.
The new Empress Catherine fired Rastrelli and recruited the new chief, architect Betsky. He chose the interior for the palace. 
In 1837 there was a major fire that could destroy the unique things which placed there. It was so difficult to extinguish the fire and save a royal property. The renovation took about 2 years.
Up until 1904 the main purpose of the palace was to be a winter residence of the first persons of the state. Nicholas II changed this; he used the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. In 1914 most of the royal things and belongings were transported to Moscow. Only a gallery was untouched. Around the same period the palace housed the military hospital. During the October Revolution it became the station of rebel troops.
In 1920 the Winter Palace and the Hermitage State Museum were named as the Revolution museum. In 1941 the basement of the building was equipped with bomb shelters. The basement was full of hidden museum treasures from the entire Leningrad region. The damaged rooms were on renovation for a long time, but the best part of the palace was opened for public in 1944.
Nowadays the Winter Palace is one of the best museums in the world. It houses extensive collections of major and rare art works. There are more than 3 million there.

The architecture of the Winter Palace

The Winter Palace is a bright representation of the traditional Russian Baroque style. This style has an elegant form which is always taken for some kind of solemnity, no matter how you look at it ? right in front of your eyes or in a distance. There was the main aim – to build a great construction which would dominate the central part of the northern St. Petersburg. Rastrelli suggested a project, according it the building would have a rectangular form with an open space inside ? a courtyard.
Each of the four facades played a  huge role. From the Neva embankment wall gives the impression of infinite colonnade with the help of the longitudinal edge portions which are highlighted from the middle. Entrance (which is in the center of the wall) is not especially stand out. Emphasis is placed on the scale of the structure. The opposite, southern facade, looks different. Here the architect highlights the main entrance to the palace ? the arch. The columns, located between three arches, visually increase the height of the arches, so it looks like a bright big majestic building. The facade which located in Admiralteystvo side is slightly recessed, that makes it a link between the two main facades. In Millionnaya street facade forms a large courtyard.
All facades are decorated with gables, vases, and statues. The windows are framed by unique architraves of various shapes. All molding is done right on the place. The distance between the columns is different everywhere. This was done in order to make them natural, more vividly.
There are graceful sculptures and vases everywhere. At first they were made of stone, but then at the turn of XIX-XX centuries they were replaced by metal replicas.
Indoor work has not been completed at the time of completion of constructing. Rastrelli planned a really elegant room decoration so there weren’t artists who were able to do it. For example, there should be 27 unique styled patterns for floor, which, according to the architect's plan, were to decorate 95 rooms and they had to be made from a rare timber, but finding it was not possible. At the end Rastrelli was fired from the post of indoor interior decorator by 
Catherine the Great. The Palace was renovated, but the basic Rastrelli’s idea was saved. There are three floors, basement and mezzanine.  The original floors were wooden; however, in the period of reconstruction after the fire, they were replaced by metal ones. For that time it was nonsense to use the metal in such usage in the construction industry. Roofing is tinned.
The color of the facades has been changed many times, but it has always been a bright ? eye-catching. In 1934, the facades were painted with oil paint, but it caused a damage of stone, so the entire layer was removed. In the postwar years facades turned into emerald color. The other hand is the interior of the palace. It is luxurious, screaming, telling about the power of the Russian state.

Rooms and halls

Unfortunately, most of the original interiors have been lost in 1837 due to the fire. Only Rastrelli’s and Jordan’s half-columns on the ground floor and load-bearing walls of brick survived.

Jordan gallery

At first the gallery was called the main one, because exactly through it all the guests entered the palace. It is famous for the fact that believers walked through it to the pool called Jordanian while Russian Christianity celebration of baptism. The way was laid on the Jordan Staircase to the Neva. Now it does not exist, it was fully burned by in the fire. Today it is replaced by a new different one in the classical style the color, sculptures and statues that adorn it were changed.

Field Marshals hall

This hall is a result of the creative work of Auguste Montferrand. In 1834, after the completion of work on the interior composition, which consisted of niches for portraits, they were filled. Field marshals of different times look at tourists just like they are alive. One of the niches left empty. And so it is now, after 2012 year restoration.

Heraldic hall

The main purpose of this hall is a conducting of important and beautiful ceremonies. The dominant decor is numerous bronze chandeliers with images of symbols of different Russian regions. At the entrance there are two sculptures of ancient warriors. In their hands they hold shields, on which you can see the symbols of Russian provinces.

The Military Gallery of 1812

It was created in memory of the victory of the Russian people against Napoleon. The grand opening took place a year after the event. The first persons of the country, the entire military elite, from the generals to the ordinary soldiers, who were the heroes of the war, attended the ceremony of opening. The gallery is a unique place. There are 332 portraits of Russian generals, heroically distinguished themselves in the battles and campaigns of 1812-1814 are on its walls.

Big Throne (St. George's) Hall

Here since 1795 were held all celebrations and ceremonies. Author of the project is Giacomo Kvarnegi. During the restoration works the hall was decorated with Italian white marble by the order of Nicholas I. A marbled relief was established above the throne. St. George cracking down the dragon was pictured there. In Soviet times the throne was removed. In its place there was a unique map which contained the gemstones (45 thousand pieces) with the images of the republics of the Soviet Union. Now the map is in the Muzey Gornogo universiteta museum and the throne seat is again in the hall.

Grand Church of the Winter Palace

It is located in the southeast corner of the palace. At first, in 1761, the church was consecrated in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, and a year later - in the name of the Image of the Savior. The interior of the church was richly decorated with stucco, three-tiered iconostasis, paintings with biblical scenes. At the end of the XIX century the roof was renovated. The belfry, with its ringing bells 5 appeared. Today there is only a little amount of things related to the original decoration of the church.

Picket hall

Space of this hall was originally occupied by two small rooms and a staircase. It held a picket separation (security guard). After the fire the rooms were joined and hall appeared. This place tells the story of Russian army. The military theme is the main thing about its interior. On the walls there are reliefs of military symbolism - medallions, armor, guns. It the end of XX century the hall was closed and used as a warehouse for exhibits. In 2004 it was opened for visitors once again.

Alexander hall

The project of this hall was implemented by A. Bryullov. It was intended to design the interior in memory of the Emperor Alexander I. Today it houses an exposition of western European silver XVII - XVIII. Huge cupboards spoil the impression of the room. At first full-length portrait of the emperor was on the north-side wall. The portrait was framed by a beautiful gold-plated subframe. Also, the background was really beautiful ? pinky color with embroidery double-headed eagle.

Golden living room

This living room was designed for Maria Alexandrovna when she was a princess. Author of the project is A. P. Bryullov. The room was finished only after 20 years by A. Shtakenshneider. The room still has furniture which was specially made for it. Wall panels have lost the quality and brightness. Nowadays reliefs are solid gold, but earlier their color and design was gorgeous. They were located  on the white marble background. The fate of the reforms of the country was decided there by the Emperor Alexander II. 

Boudoir

This is a very unusual room. It is like an elegant snuffbox. Designers  (in different years it was the different people ? AP Bryullov and Harald Bosse), tried to stylize it in rococo by adding luxurious mirrors, reliefs, ornaments, textile items and a unique furniture.

Nicholas hall

The Nicholas hall is very impressive in size. It appeared at the end of the XVII century and replaced three Rastrelli’s halls. It covers an area of over 1,100 square meters. After the death of Nicholas I there was established his big portrait. It was decorated with a large frame with a double-headed eagle. It disappeared in 1930. Unfortunately, nowadays we could not see all the beauty of this place. During the Soviet era it was used for temporary exhibitions. They caused damage to the hall’s appearance. In addition, the hall is often closed to the public. It is impossible to see it from plywood shelves and partitions.

Concert hall

It was built according to Stasov’s project in the period of restoration after the fire. It’s like an art gallery ?walls are decorated with many statues of muses and goddesses of the ancient period. Today there are valuable exhibits of traditional Russian silver, including the famous silver shrine of Alexander Nevsky.
Malachite Room
This room was the favorite one of Nicholas I’s wife. The name speaks for itself. The interior is decorated with natural malachite. After the fire there was a rebuilding. The columns have been shifted from the center of the room closer to the walls, so now it seems more spacious. Nicholas I greeted his guests exactly from this place.  The Provisional Government was in session here in 1917.

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