30 kilometers away from St. Petersburg, on the Baltic Sea coast, rises
Petrodvorets (the Russian for Peter’s palace) – one of the most exquisite
creations of the human mind and hand. The location of the park was chosen
by Peter I who wanted to better supervise the construction of Kronstadt,
his new military port on the Baltic Sea. The selected terrain was perfect,
chiefly because it offered a high platform, sloping down steeply to the
coast and this way affording an extensive view of the Gulf of Finland.
ensemble of parks, palaces, cascades and fountains of Petrodvorets (also
referred to as Peterhof) is of timeless historical and artistic significance.
Petrodvorets is one of the most celebrated monuments of the Russian art
of gardening. It is also a grandiose memorial to the heroism of the Russians
who defeated the Swedish army in a decisive battle and acquired a key outlet
on the Baltic Sea.
construction of Petrodvorets began in 1709 after authentic drafts by Peter
I himself but the more significant installations (such as grottos, cascades
and canals) were built only after the victory of the Russian navy in 1714.
In 1721, the Hermitage Pavilion, the Marly Palace and the Orangerie were
finished. By the year 1725, the palace-and-garden ensemble of Petrodvorets
already comprised two parks – Upper and Lower, five stone buildings, more
than twenty wooden galleries and pavilions, three cascades, sixteen fountains,
ten large water reservoirs and innumerable statues of gold-plated bronze
and marble. It is interesting to note that the ideas for the ensemble and
its composition belonged to Peter I. There are records of preserved written
orders, notes and drafts which indicate that Peter the Great gave specific
suggestions about Petrodvorets’ appearance and decoration, explaining in
detail what he wanted to see. Popular architects, among whom are Brounstein,
Leblont, Zamtsov, Eropkin and Miketthi, and reputable sculptors did their
best and worked on the emperor’s ideas. In 1733-1740, after a period of
stagnation, the construction was renewed again under the supervision of
the sculptor Bartolomeo Rastrelli whose work gave final touches to Petrodvorets,
the magnificence of which has preserved its shine to the present day.
suffered significant damages during the siege of St Petersburg (1941-1944),
when the Germans invaded Russia. Almost all of the architectural monuments
were destroyed, with the Lower Park and the Cascade being most damaged.
Thanks to talented architects, the work on restoration was successful and
the park revived.
focus our attention on the park design. The territory of Petrodvorets can
be divided into four major sections: the Upper Park, the Grand Palace with
the Grand Cascade, the Monplaisir Palace and the Marly Palace. Each of
these sections has an individual architectural design and artistic formation.
Upper Park serves as a main entrance to the Grand Palace. Its central part
is taken by a broad parterre, which commands a fascinating view of the
palace’s façade. The parterre is flanked on both sides by rows of
trees behind which are symmetrically located boscages. It is also decorated
with statues by Venice sculptors from the 18th century. The main axis of
the Upper Park composition is delineated by three fountains: the Neptune
Fountain in the center and two round fountains at the ends. Two square
pools are built on both sides of the palace. Actually, the palace serves
not only as the focal point of the whole ensemble but also as the link
between the Upper and Lower Parks.
front of the Grand Palace and in the Lower Park is located the Grand Cascade
[pictured on the left] which apart from its decorative purpose, plays the
important role of a supporting wall that “holds” the palace from sliding
down the slope. With its architectural motifs and gilt decoration, the
Grand Cascade presents the best of Russian Baroque. The central part of
the Grand Cascade comprises five massive arches, with seven-stair-cascades
on both sides. Gold-plated statues of sirens and naiads, continuously poured
with water from the fountains, are used for decoration. The water from
the cascade goes to the large basin which contains one of the most significant
sculptures of the 18th century – the Samson Fountain (also called “Samson
Tearing the Lion’s Mouth” because of what it features), which you can see
to the right. The Grand Cascade is connected with the Samson canal, adorned
by other smaller fountains on both sides, and through the canal it reaches
the Finnish Gulf. The Samson canal was itself built in 1721 and allowed
small vessels to reach the palace. The construction of such a large-scale
work as the Grand Cascade required a lot of qualified workers. It is known
that it took Makarov, the supervisor of the project, one year and 56 assistant-workers
to complete the Cascade only.
alleys lead us to the Monplaisir Palace and the Hermitage Pavilion. Several
water installations nearby the Hermitage Pavilion catch the eye: the tree-fountain
(artificial bronze tree the branches of which spurt water), the sun-fountain
(its sun rays being formed by water jets) and the joke-fountains which
surprise the visitors by sprinkling them with water. On the western part
of the park is located the Marly Palace, built after a French model of
a royal residence.
is undoubtedly one of greatest achievements in the art of gardening. With
its 140+ fountains, it has gained a world-famous reputation of being the
“city of fountains.”