The Museum of the
Grottoes of the Grand Cascade
Beneath the Upper terrace of the Grand Cascade in Peterhof there is a highly interesting exhibition. After you’ve enjoyed the view on the park and the fountains, we invite you to go inside. “Grotta” means “the little cave” in Italian. In Ancient Rome such grottoes were a cool refuge under the blazing summer sun. It hardly ever gets so hot in St Petersburg, but Peter the great wanted to have grotto under the cascade in Peterhof following the European fashion. The Grand Cascade in Peterhof is the triumphant visual monument to the Russian victory over Sweden during the war of 1700-1721. The Grottoes are like a little bit of fun amidst this solemn regal water symphony and gild statues of gods and heroes. Peterhof Grottoes is the only museum in Russia showing these incredible architectural edifices.
Upper and Lower Grottoes
There are two grottoes inside the cascade. Upper grotto is smaller in size. Both grottoes were constructed by Nikkolo Miketti, the works went on from 1721 till 1723. The walls are faced with the very unusual material – tufa. Due to its “ancient” look the grotto resembles some antique cave. The stone is very porous and needs a lot of renovation because of humidity and strong winds from the gulf. There are several masks on the walls; the fountain jets are flowing from their wide open mouths into the large sea-shells.
One flight downstairs and on the way to the lower grotto there is an exhibition explaining the technology behind the fountains. You can see the uniform of the fountain masters, tools of their craft and the fragments of the old pipes. Fountain system in Peterhof is unique since it is operating due to the natural force of gravity and mechanical force of electricity is not used at all. There is the walk beneath the fountains of the Grand cascade, and you can see the actual fountain tubes. One more flight down and you will find yourself in the Lower Grotto.
It is larger and more elaborately decorated. This grotto was considered to be like the gala hall of the palace, for receptions and celebrations. The interior is decorated with four marble busts, symbolizing four seasons of the year. Here we can also see the gilded statues of antique deities: Baccus, Faun, Venus, cupid and Psyche. All of these metal statues are galvanoplastic copies from Greek and roman originals.
Features of the Grottoes of the Grand Cascade
Inside the Grottoes of the Grand Cascade Peter was hosting receptions and besides demonstrating the beauty of the fountains to these finely dressed ladies and gentlemen, Peter liked to poke fun at them. There was a table set out with the bowl of fresh fruits. When the courtiers wanted to take a fruit the water jets immediately began to sprinkle right into their faces! This was the first trick fountain in the grotto. The next one was the water curtain, which was waiting for the guests when they tried to leave the grotto. Everybody was getting wet but ladies and cavaliers did not complain: this was the joke of Peter himself. Today you can experience these practical water tricks again.
Going out of the Lower Grotto once again you experience the stunning view of the cascade and Samson fountain. Right in front of the exit from the grotto you can see the fountain named “The basket”. It is one of many fountains in Peterhof which was devised by Peter the Great.