Palace Park in Gatchina

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Palace Park in Gatchina
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Palace Park in Gatchina

This romantic garden is a combination of several parts and therefore two different landscape designs are found here: French and English. Palace Park was created in the second half of the 18th century. Palace and Park ensemble was commenced by Antonio Rinaldi, when Gatchina belonged to count Orloff. When this estate was presented to Grand Duke Paul, architect Vincenzo Brenna started working together with Zakharov and L’vov. Lanscape design was implemented by gardeners from Britain J. Bush and Sparrow brothers.

Orloff's Garden

In 1770s Catherine the Great and Count Orloff, her favorite, took great interest in modern English landscape design. Just about this time Catherine was busy planning her gardens in Tsarskoye Selo, and she wished to see the same fashionable landscape garden in Gatchina. Orloff invited experienced English gardeners to develop the new fashionable landscape, repeating the ways of nature and looking as if the human hand has never touched it. For quite some time Catherine herself supervised the garden works. Several park pavilions were built: Octagonal Well, Echo Grotto, Eagle column, Chesma Column.

Octagonal well, probably designed by Antonio Rinaldi, is the granite arrangement of the natural spring. Drinking water was taken from here.

Echo Grotto looks like the natural cave; it is faced with gigantic lumps of sandstone. It is the way out of the underground passage, going beneath the palace walls and terminating at the shore of Silver Lake. The legend tells that Orloff ordered to dig out that secret passage, being afraid for his life when he fell out of Empress’ favor.

Chesma column is standing by the white lake. It looks similar to the same kind of column in Tsarskoye Selo. Chesma battle was the most important naval victory during the Russo-Turkish wars of 1770s – 1780s. The battle was won by Alexey Orloff – the favorite’s younger brother.

Orloff in russian stands for the “eagle”. The Eagle column in Gatchina was supposed to be established first in Tsarskoye Selo. Eventually Empress Catherine II ordered it to be placed in Gatchina. This was her recognition of the services the Orloff brothers did for the Russian Empire.

Paul’s Garden

Gatchina was presented to Paul in 1783. His mother Catherine the Great almost exiled her son into this faraway residence. Paul turned out to be the good landlord for Gatchina estate and town, and paid a lot of attention to the garden. The Gardening works were implemented at the new scale and many new structures were built. V. Brenna, Paul’s favorite Italian architect, was in charge of the landscape works. Venus pavilion, Admiralty gates, Eagle pavilion, Bench, Carp Bridge, Sylvian gates were built. The small Private Gardens, adjacent to the Palace, and Syl’via Garden were laid out in French regular style. Architect L’vov done the Amphitheater especially for the medieval-style tournaments in the garden. This was the kind of court entertainment. A. Zakharov planned the Aviary and Farm in Sy’lvia Garden, Humpback and Brick bridges and cold bath. Since Paul, being the Grand Duke, also had the title of General-Admiral, the Admiralty building was done in Palace Park. It was made of wood and boats were kept there. The wooden Admiralty did not survive up to nowadays.

Before 1917

All the Romanovs who ruled after Paul I did nothing more in the garden. Only the minor changes were made, for instance, the Dutch gardens were planted with lilac bushes. Necessary restoration works were done, but as a whole Palace Park remained the same.

After 1917

Gatchina Palace and Park were nationalized after 1917 revolution in Russia. Park was turned into the usual public garden, free of charge. In 1941 the area was captured by the Nazis and badly damaged. The restoration continues since 1970s.

Pattern of the park

Area size of the park is 350 acres. It is located in the very center of Gatchina town. The Palace is situated in the south-west corner of the park. ¼ of the entire park land is taken by the two beautiful lakes, White lake and Silver Lake. There are also little canals and ponds everywhere. Water features make this park very picturesque. The big park is comprised from several smaller parts.

English Garden

Takes up the space on the shores of the White and Sliver Lakes. Left-side part of this park is right next to the palace walls. There are a few plots of land here which were completely redesigned under Paul in French regular style.

Private Garden

The most formal part of the landscape in Gatchina. This French regular garden looks like the continuation of the state rooms in the palace. Only the few chosen associates could enter this place together with the royal couple. Statue of Flora, the goddess of spring and flowers is standing in the middle of this garden. Ten far-reaching alleys start from the center. The Private garden is decorated with the Italian marble statues, all bought by Paul and Maria during their European voyage in early 1780s.

Lower and Upper Botanical gardens

The space close to the palace with the size about 10 acres was planned especially for Maria, the wife of Paul. She loved horticulture and botanics. Maria spent hours in her garden, planting flowers and arranging flowerbeds. There is a natural cliff going across the land here, so there is Upper and Lower Private garden because of that. Two artificial ponds were made in these gardens. The greenhouse for the delicate plants was done. Medical plants, sweet herbs and pretty flowers were gracing the seed-plots. Cherries, apple-trees and oak trees were framing the alleys.

Birchwood Hut

Yet another love message, implemented in architecture. Maria ordered to build it as the nice surprise for her husband. Outside the structure looks like the peasant log cabin, but when one enters, interior worthy of the royalty can be seen.

Island of Love

Here we see the true message of marital love. Paul ordered to build it for Maria. The artificial island with the pavilion dedicated to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, keeps the memory about their early happiness together. The ceiling painting inside the pavilion is also the love message: Triumph of Venus. During the trip to France they stayed at Chantilly, the lands of Prince of Conde. There Paul and Maria were shown Venus pavilion on the Love island. This sentimental little house, plain outside but lavishly decorated inside, impressed them very much. Paul wanted his architect Brenna to replicate pavilion belonging to Prince of Conde and create it in Gatchina park.

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