Gatchina - the Versailles of Paul I
The other - Upper - Dutch Garden is laid out on a terrace above the Lower Garden. The gardens are connected by three flights of stone steps. Another flight of steps leads from the Upper Garden to the small semicircular stone landing-stage of the Carp Pond. At the end of the 18th century the many alleyways of the garden were planted with evergreen bushes grown in the Forest Orangery.
Steps leading from the Upper to the Lower Garden
Steps leading from the Upper Garden to the Carp Pond
Next to the Dutch Gardens is the Lime-tree Garden. The gardens are divided by a dry ditch, beside which stands a row of dark fir-trees. The Lime-tree Garden is also laid out in formal fashion.
In the 1970s a great deal of restoration work was performed on the Palace gardens: they were recreated according to their original historical plans.
Gatchina Park. The Lower and Upper Dutch Gardens
The statue of Mars
The terraces for the Palace gardens were created by piling up the earth excavated during the digging of the Carp Pond. In shape the pond resembles a glass bottle with a long neck. Once again it was from the park at Chantilly that the idea came of creating a similar pond in Gatchina. Unlike its French counterpart, the Gatchina pond reproduces only one part of the Grand Canal designed by Le N?tre for Louis II de Bourbon, surnamed Le Grand Cond?. The second part, though it appears on the 18th-century plans for the park, remained unrealised.
In Paul’s time silver carp were reared in the pond for the royal table. The carp were summoned to be fed by the sound of a bell, and could be fished out as they were needed.
Plan of Gatchina Park and of the town of Gatchina - 1790s
A view of Connetable Square from the Stone Bridge
Forming part of the same ensemble as the Carp Pond and the Palace gardens is the Conn?table Square, which was conceived as part of a ceremonial road leading to the Palace. Again, the name and form of the square were taken by Paul from the chateau at Chantilly. The appellation of “connetables” - high military commanders of France – was borne by the Montmorency family, one of the first owners of the chateau. At different times equestrian statues of two of the Montmorency connetables were erected on the square in front of the chateau. In the centre of its counterpart in Gatchina, instead of an equestrian statue, there was erected a 32-metre-high obelisk of local dark limestone: “It is taller than all the most famous obelisks, including the celebrated obelisk of Rome.” The work was carried out by the talented master Kirian Plastinin: “This structure is all the more remarkable in that it was built by an ordinary Russian serf from Arkhangelsk province, Kirian Plastinin of the village of Yaichinitsa, for 10,000 roubles assignat.” In the 18th century the obelisk served as a giant sundial: its shadow would fall on markings made on the stone parapet of the square, indicating the time. With the passing of time it became one of the symbols of the town of Gatchina.
A view of the Black Lake
The Priory Palace
The White Lake is connected by a channel to the Black Lake, on the banks of which, nestling among hills, stands the Priory Palace, in appearance like a small castle. The dark waters of the lake reflect the snow-white walls, lacking all decoration, the terrace with its stone base, the high, four-cornered, tile-coloured roof with its gilded spheres, and the elegant stone tower with its spire and weather-vane.
The Priory Palace was built by N. A. Lvov in 1797-99 on the orders of Paul I, as a country residence for the head of the Knights of Malta – the “Protector”, later “Grand Master” – who at this time was the Emperor himself. Later the Priory was used as a pleasure palace, for entertainments and receptions.
The palace represents a unique example of “rammed earth” construction. The walls of the Priory Palace are built of earth, compressed in a special way. For two centuries the palace has stood, surviving the trials of war, years of neglect, showing the strength and reliability of the rammed-earth technology enthusiastically promoted by Lvov, a talented and innovative architect. Following the restoration carried out over the past ten years, the palace has been opened to the public as a museum, dedicated to the history of the palace, and also housing various exhibitions.
The Priory Palace
Plan of the Priory Palace
Before the building of the Priory Palace there were plans to construct on its site a grandiose multi-level cascade with a pavilion above it, which would serve as a “belvedere” for observing the park from a height.
The Park bears the same name as the palace – “Priory Park”. It was created in landscape style. As with the Palace Park, a lake – the Black Lake – occupies a central place in its composition. The formation of the Priory Park was completed at the beginning of the 19th century.
Photographs: G. Puntusova