Excursions with Winter Palace
2 Palace Sq.
The Winter Palace, one of the most famous buildings of Saint Petersburg, is an essential part of the world-known Hermitage State Museum. The predecessor of this grandiose architecture monument was a small wooden palace, the winter residence of Tsar Peter I. Just before the wedding of Peter and Catherine I the wooden building was replaced by stone one constructed under the project of well-known architect Trezini. Ten years later Empress Anna Ioannovna decided that the building is too small and plain for the tsar residence. The reconstruction of the palace was entrusted to famous architect B.-F. Rastrelli. In order to extend the building's premises the Empress had to buy out all neighboring estates. Another reconstruction renewed immediately after next Empress, Elisabeth succeeded to the throne. She also entrusted the task to Rastrelli. Just then the Winter Palace that we know appeared at Palace Embankment of the Neva River. This magnificent structure in Baroque style generously decorated with arcs, columns and stucco soon became not only a mighty symbol of the Russian imperial power but also one of most famous Saint Petersburg features. Inhabitants of the city admired greatly this splendid Rastrelli's creation, the highest building in Saint Petersburg for that moment.
The Winter Palace was completed already after Elisabeth's death. Each next monarch added something new to the d?cor and layout of the palace. Under Catherine II the winter garden and the Romanovskaya gallery were arranged there, the ceremonial Georgiyevsky Hall was decorated. Nicolas I ordered to open the Gallery of Year 1812 representing 322 portraits of heroes of the Patriotic War. In 1837 the Winter Palace was almost utterly destroyed by fire. Due to hard labors of architects V. Stasov and A. Bryullov the palace was restored only two years later though its d?cor and layout were changed in some places. Till nowadays only the Malachite salon decorated by Stasov remained unchanged.
After the October revolution the Winter Palace along with other buildings of the Hermitage was declared the State Museum. Once again reconstruction works began: ceremonial halls were adapted for exhibitions, private and servants' premises for museum collections. The Winter Palace suffered much during the World War II and the blockade of Leningrad. Enemy bombs and cannon-shots seriously damaged several halls; the blast wave broke thousands of window-glasses. After the war the Winter Palace was thoroughly restored.
Nowadays this majestic structure remains not only one of the glories of Saint Petersburg but also one of the largest treasuries of world art. The Winter Palace houses thousands of unique items representing art of Russia, Europe and East.