The Catherine Palace

The Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo is a Grand building designed in the style of Russian Baroque. It took more than 100 kilograms of pure gold to gild its facade!

The Palace’s Great hall and the Golden enfilade of the ceremonial halls impress visitors with luxurious decorations. Magical interiors and rare objects of arts and crafts convey the spirit of the imperial era of Elizabeth and Catherine II. The exposition of the Palace demonstrates the work of prominent architects and artists of the XVIII and XIX centuries.

The beauty of the Catherine Palace is largely the merit of three Russian empresses – Catherine I, Elizabeth I and Catherine II, who paid careful attention to the royal country residence in Tsarskoye Selo. Nowadays it is difficult to imagine that three hundred years ago, this majestic building was a modest two-story palace that was called The Stone chambers and consisted of only 16 rooms.

The Catherine Palace
The Catherine Palace top view

The Catherine Palace’s construction began in 1717 under the guidance of the architect Johann Braunstein. In 1744, according to the plan of the young architect Andrey Kvasov, the building was enlarged and connected by galleries with adjoined two-storey wings. Subsequently every new Russian ruler has been rebuilding the Catherine Palace in some way.

A radical transformation of the Palace took place during the reign of the Empress Elizabeth I in 1752. During four years the famous architect, master of the Baroque style, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, oversaw renovation of the building and the surrounding park. He defined the main dimensions of the building, the look of facades and internal interiors.

“During four years the famous architect, master of the Baroque style, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, oversaw renovation of the building and the surrounding park.”

It should be mentioned that during the reign of Elizabeth I the court life in Russia has become incredibly extensive and the maintenance of the Royal court and court ceremonies demanded huge amounts of money from the state budget. Rastrelli took into consideration the significance of the royal events and used all of his talents and engineering skills during the construction.

According to Rastrelli’s project, reception rooms were created on the second floor of the building. They were decorated with golden thread and arranged in the same axis making one Golden enfilade. His drawings were also used to create the Great hall (or the Bright gallery), which is the largest hall of the Catherine Palace. It was intended for official receptions and gala dinners, balls and masquerades. The area of the Great hall, which stretches along the entire building, is about 860 sq.meters.

The Catherine Palace
The Catherine Palace
Singer House, the tower
Elisabeth I

The Catherine Palace is not as big as it seems when you look at it from the outside and can be passed with a guided tour during some 40 minutes. But why hurry? You’ll enjoy The Catherine Palace much more if arm yourself with the audio guide and turn on imagination. For example, just imagine how the Empress Elisabeth, who’s wardrobe  included 15 thousand dresses, walked along these halls 300 years ago. And how strictly Catherine the Great (who used to call the Palace “whipped cream” because of its appearance) looked at the graceful curls of the local decor.

Today the Catherine Palace occupies a central place in the Palace-and-Park ensemble of Tsarskoye Selo. Its magnificent halls are visited by thousands of tourists daily with the famous Amber room (which we will surely mention later in our notes) remaining the Palace’s most popular attraction.