By Alex ‘Florstein’ Fedorov – Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg


Catherine Palace also known as the Great Palace of Tsarskoye Selo is one of the places that need to be on your to-do list while visiting St. Petersburg in Russia.

The Palace is a testament to the late Baroque style. It displays two different architectural designs of the period it was constructed. This exquisite palace was used as a summer residence by Russian Emperors.

It was named after Catherine the Great who had a long and successful reign over Russia. She was self-confident, an erudite, independent and ruled the military.    

The interiors of this palace are intricately designed a clear depiction of the Russian Emperors that lived here. One of the rooms that are a must-see while here is the Amber Room.

There is a lot more about the Catherine Palace and We have put them together in the top 10 facts about it. Check them out below.

1. It was built as a summer residence for the Russian Tsars

By W. Bulach – Wikimedia

Catherine’s Place was built in 1773 as a summer residence for the empress.

The designer was Johann-Friedrich Braunstein, other designers that worked on the expansion of the palace were Andrei Kvasov and Mikhail Zemtsov.

According to the Empress’ wishes, 100 kilograms of gold was used to decorate the exterior of the palace.

2. Catherine Palace started small

In 1717, Peter the Great commissioned Johann-Friedrich Braunstein, a German architect, to build a summer residence for her wife, Catherine I.

When it was completed, the building was a two-story palace. Years later in 1733, Empress Elizabeth expanded the palace further.

She got to work with two baroque architects, Andrey Vasilievich Kvasov and Mikhail Grigorievich Zemtsov.

Unsatisfied with the outcome, Elizabeth commissioned another architect to redo the cramped palace.  

Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli was Empress Elizabeth’s court architect. He demolished the expanded area and used a baroque design.

He started the construction in 1752 and finished four years later.

3. The Catherine Palace is now a museum

By Pierre André Leclercq – Wikimedia

The display of the Catherine Palace museum is home to history dating back to 300 years ago.

One of the most outstanding features of the palace is its exterior. It shows the skilful mastery of the architects who built it as well as decorate it in the 18th and 19th century.

The most decorated room is the Amber room.

Great work was also done when the palace was restored to a pristine state after it was destroyed during World War II.

A total of 58 halls in the palace were destroyed and only 32 were restored. The palace is now a historical centre with a park.

4. Empress Catherine was not pleased with the endless work on the Palace

Catherine was a frugal emperor and was not amused by the demolition and reconstruction of the palace.

She thought that it was a waste of state funds on a private project. The palace had been demolished over six times. About 1.6 million rubles were spent on the palace.

Despite this, Catherine spent her own money on the construction of the palace.     

5. The Amber Room is the most beautiful in the Palace

By W. Bulach – Wikimedia

The highlight of the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg is the Amber Room.

This room was designed by Rastrelli. He used amber mosaic panels that were meant for use at the Konigsberg Castle.

The mosaics were a gift to Peter the Great from Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia. The room was further decorated with gilded carving, mirrors and mosaics of Ural and Caucasus gemstones.

Several classical interiors in the room were the creation of architect Charles Cameron. He was commissioned by Empress Catherine II, her heir Grand Duke Paul and his spouse Maria.

6. Nazi German Army destroyed the Amber Room in Catherine Palace

During World War II, the Amber room was among the rooms that were looted by the Nazi Germany army. Some of the amber panels were recovered and kept in Konigsberg Castle.

Other valuable pieces were never recovered after they were moved to a safe place.

Renovation of the Amber room was done in 1982 and was completed in 2003. It cost $12 million to complete.

Restoration work was done by Baranov, Kedrinskiy, and Tumanov. They managed to fully restore 32 rooms out of 59.

7. Two architectural designs are represented by the Palace

By Alex ‘Florstein’ Fedorov – Wikimedia

The Baroque architecture that was the initial design of the palace gave way to Neoclassical architecture.

This transition was incorporated by Yuri Velten who designed the southern façade of the palace.

Several other designers worked on the palace. Charles Cameron decorated the Chinese room with a new staircase.

He further decorated the Lyons Room using French-yellow silk on the walls and Lake Baikal Lapis lazuli on the door and stove panels.

Another room that Charles worked on is the Arabesque Room that incorporated Greek and Roman motifs.

8. The Portrait Hall is another attraction at Catherine Palace

The Portrait Hall in the palace is another major attraction that measures about 100 meters.

This hall has several paintings of Empress Catherine I, Empress Elizabeth and Natalya Alexeyevna.

It was one of the formal rooms of Emperor Alexander I and the walls here are draped in Chinese silk.

The veneered floors of the hall are made of expensive wood. This room was designed between 1752 and 1756. It was part of the Emperor’s private suite.

Other interiors in the palace are the waiter’s room that has Chippendale card-tables, Carrara marble chimneys and silk wallpapers.

9. There is a room with fake windows in the Palace

By I, Sailko – Wikimedia

The Courtiers-in-Attendance Dining Room was designed by Rastrelli in the mid-18th century.

It is a small room lit by four windows that look out into the formal courtyard.

The architect placed false windows with mirrors and mirrored glass on the opposite wall, making the hall more spacious and brighter.

This room is decorated in the typical Rococo style. It is filled with gilded wall carvings, complex doors, and ornamental stylized flowers.

The ceiling mural is based on the Greek myth of the sun god Helios and the goddess of the dawn, Eos.

It was painted by a well-known student of the Russian School from the mid-18th century.

10. The Great Hall was used for formal events

By W. Bulach – Wikimedia

The Great Hall, also known as the Light Gallery, was a formal apartment in the Russian baroque style.

This room was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli between 1752 and 1756. It was intended for more important receptions such as balls, formal dinners, and masquerades.

In the evening, 696 lamps were lit on a dozen chandeliers located near the mirrors. The hall’s sculptural and gilded carvings and ornamentation were created according to sketches by Rastrelli and models by Johann Franz Dunker.