Being situated on the shore of the Black Lake, the Priory palace is reflected in the water. Its white walls are devoid of embellishments; the buildings achieve a special picturesque quality and artistic effect in the way they are juxtaposed. They display an asymmetrical combination of simple architectural forms: the energetic verticality of the narrow, faceted tower with its high hipped roof, then the two-storeyed principal building and, finally, the single-storeyed asymmetrical annexe, the so-called "Capella", with its lancet windows.
The silhouette of the building fits in successfully with the tops of the surrounding trees.
The vast green mass of the park serves as a setting for the palace. Not only has the Priory palace given its name to the park as a whole, but to this day the palace has preserved its dominating role in the landscape. The reflection of the palace in the smooth waters of the Black Lake imparts an almost fairy-tale quality to the panorama. The romantic appearance of this lone palace reflected in the lake's peaceful waters makes for a vista which is seen with peculiar clarity and which remains long in the memory.
In 1895 the architect N.V. Dmitriev published the plans for the Priory and prefaced them with a note by Lvov - a short description of this very building. "The valley in which the earthly Father Superior's building has been placed," he wrote, "lies between two hills at the end of the Black Lake in Gatchina, surrounded on three sides by forest and on the fourth by water. From the south side the way leads by land along the right bank to the gate, from the north side to the landing-stage and the water.
"The fence and the two houses for the accommodation of the gatekeepers were made on a different pattern from the other building.
On the right-hand side of the gate is a beaten-earth cookhouse, built more than halfway up the hill.".
The Priory palace holds a special place among the architectural ensembles of the end of the 18th century. The simple geometric forms of the Priory's principal building, the single-storeyed, five-sided annexe, and the high tower with its pyramidal spire, together with the absence of any kind of decoration on the outer walls, are all reminiscent of buildings created by Old Russian architects.
The Priory can also be considered as a pseudo-Gothic building: in its appearance elements of a Gothic character can be discerned - the tower, crowned with its lofty spire, the pointed roofs, the lancet windows in the single-storeyed part of the building, which has acquired the mane of "Capella" although it has never served any religious purpose.
On the other hand, because of the striving for artistic effect by means of the simplest geometrical forms being placed in opposition to one another, and the working-out of the building's overall appearance in its natural surroundings, the palace is also close to the classicism of Russian architecture at the end of the 18th century.
The height of the building from the level of the lake to the peak of the roof amounts to 4 sazhens, 2 arshins (about 10 metres). The height of the spire is 14.5 sazhens (30.88 metres).
The combination of colours in the palace ensemble is also interesting. The white of the walls combines with the clear red of the roofs and tiles, and with the shining of the five gilded spheres at the ends of the gables and the nine weather-vanes above the chimneys. The wooden gates were decorated with ochre, and the path which skirted the building was strewn with red pulverised brick. It is possible that such a combination of colours was suggested by the red and white cloaks of the knights of the Maltese order.
Picturies: Galina Puntusova