ForewordGatchina’s past is closely bound up with the construction of the palace and its parks, which stand as a memorial to Russian culture of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The main structure of the whole ensemble is the former Imperial palace, designed by the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi, whose plans embodied the principles of early Russian classicism. There is also another, smaller, palace – the Priory palace, designed by the Russian architect Nikolai Lvov and constructed (uniquely for Russia) of rammed earth. This palace was intended to house the administration of the Knights of Malta (the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem).
The Gatchina parks are among the world’s finest landscaped parks. They occupy an area of approximately 700 hectares. Among those who took part in their creation were the architects A. Rinaldi, V. Brenna, N. Lvov, A. Zakharov, A. Baikov, N. Dmitriev, L. Shperer, the landscape designers G. Bush, G. Sparow, J. Hackett, the Helmholtz brothers, together with horticulturalists, sculptors and other craftsmen. After 1917 the former Imperial residence became a richly-stocked and popular museum.
During the German occupation of 1941-1944 the palaces and parks suffered extensive damage and looting, but the vast majority of the museum’s artistic treasures were saved. Following the Great Patriotic War the Palace was occupied by organisations of the War Department, and the Palace park was designated a “park of culture and recreation for workers”.
It was not until the end of the 1970s that the park once again received “museum” status, with the restoration of the Pavilion of Venus and the Birch House. At this time, too, the restoration of the former Imperial palace was begun. The first rooms to be restored were opened in 1985, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Soviet people’s victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Today the administration of the ensemble is as follows: the Imperial and Priory palaces and the Palace Park are under the jurisdiction of the Culture Committee of the St. Petersburg city government, while the Priory Park is controlled by the Parks Administration of the city of Gatchina.
Palace ParkV. Fedorova