History of Peterhof

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History of Peterhof
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History of Peterhof

The summer residence on the coast of the Gulf of Finland was founded by Peter the Great. The history of Peterhof is closely associated with the history of Peter’s reforms. The original ensemble of Peterhof was very modest, since it was only a place for the short stay. After foundation of St Petersburg Peter the Great was eager to set up the naval defense of the new city. For this reason in 1704 he was building the fortress named Kronshtadt on the Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland. Gulf of Finland is the part of the Baltic Sea. Peter was travelling to that island for supervision of the construction works very often. The gulf is stormy, so when the weather was bad Peter had to go along the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland for several miles. There, after the storm subsided, he could sail the shortest way towards the island. The small farmstead where Peter was waiting for the foul weather to calm down was the beginning of the future splendid Imperial residence. The first mention about Peterhof was found in the archives of Peter the Great, dating back to September 1705. Peterhof has rather typical history of the name for the early 1700s. The Tsar named his little farmhouse “Peterhof” in Dutch manner. The word stands for “Peter’s yard”.

History of Peterhof: basic information about sights

Peterhof was developed over three centuries as the official imperial residence. There are several facts which make this museum unique: it is the only royal residence in Europe, that is located on the coast; there is simple and efficient fountain system working by hydraulic pressure and not artificial mechanisms; Peterhof is the only summer residence in Russia that legally bears the status of official countryside palace.

During several few years of its existence Peterhof had no beautiful sights. Peter was too busy with the Northern campaign and state reforms to develop any summer places. Only after the crucial Poltava battle in 1709, which was victorious for Russia, Peter finally had time and money to start serious construction works in Peterhof. Peter gave orders to his architects to build “amusing palaces” in Peterhof. They have started to build Monplaisir, Marli and Hermitage: three small –size summer pavilions. A bit later, in 1714 Peter wanted the bigger palace to be constructed – it turned out to become the Grand Peterhof Palace on top of the hill. Two gardens were laid out at the same time: the Upper Garden, which was like the vegetable garden and fruit orchard, and the Lower Garden, which was meant to be for celebrations, festivals and official receptions. Numerous fountains were constructed in the Lower Garden. During the reign of Elisabeth I and Catherine the Great more structures were being developed in the Lower Garden: Catherine Block and Bath Block. The Grand Palace was reconstructed in the middle of the 18th century, two more wings were added. In the 19th century the biggest changes were done under Nicholas I: quite a few new buildings and pavilions for the summer festivities were built. The Romanovs used Peterhof as the official summer residence until 1914. During the Soviet times Peterhof was turned into the museum. The Nazi occupation has done the great damage and decades of restoration were needed to bring museum back to life. Today the sights of Peterhof in Leningrad region are the most visited museums in Russia.

Peterhof Palace

Grand Palace in Peterhof is the first palace on the coast of the sea in Russian history. Emperor Peter I wanted to have the summer home on the seashore, for he loved ships and sailing. Architect Brownstein began the construction works in 1714. F. B. Rastrelli has reconstructed and enlarged the building in 1745-1755. In one of the added wings Catherine the Great used to stay when she arrived to Peterhof. The palace was used primarily as the place for official ceremonies and banquets, and private life of the Romanov went on in the smaller palaces in Peterhof. The Grand Palace is standing on the top of the 16 meters high natural cliff, being the focal point of the entire landscape. It is the most luxurious structure in Petrerhof.

The Upper and Lower Gardens of Peterhof

There are two main gardens in Peterhof: the Upper, which is in front of the palace on top of the cliff, and the Lower, which has spread out at the foot of the Grand Palace and stretches out all the way towards the waters of the Gulf of Finland. Both gardens have French landscape design; both are decorated with statues and fountains. The Upper garden is much smaller in size and serves as the kind of the official entrance into the palace for those guests who arrive by the land. Those who arrive by the sea, get to see the gorgeous Lower Garden first. The fountains there are much more impressive and all the park pavilions are there as well.

The Fountains of Peterhof

The state museum-reserve Peterhof is most famous for its fountains. They are beautifully decorated, and the hydrawlic system that feed the water is unique – all fountains are gravity-flowing. The idea of the fountains in the gardens of Peterhof belonged to Peter the Great. Water was his favorite element, and after his European voyages Peter had his mind set on the project of the fountain garden that could rival Versailles. The fountains began to function in 1723. Peter himself started the water float by taking the shovel and breaking the last dam. The fountain complex was cared for, developed and renovated by all the following rulers of Russia. Fountains in Peterhof are playing from May to October each year, every day from morning till evening. Each fountain is the unique architectural composition. The earliest fountains are dating back to Peter the Great, the latest was built in 1850s. 300 years since Peter the Great the fountain system is as efficient as ever, attracting millions of tourists each year.

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