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Unknown Gatchina

Among many splendid former Romanovs’ residences in environs of St Petersburg, Gatchina definitely stands out as a unique and different one. It looks more like a European medieval fortress than as a royal palace. ​It was not conceited as an imperial residence but destined to become one from the end of the 18th century.

Gatchina is located to the south of St Petersburg ; 42 km from the city center, and 25 km from the famous Tsarskoe Selo. The first mentions about Gatchina trace back to the 15th century, at that time it was known as a village of «Hotchino». Later on the territory was gained by Swedes and came back to the Russian Empire in time of Peter the Great. ​

The first owner of these lands became Peter’s sister Natalia, but after her death in a couple of deals it was commissioned by the crown. In 1765 Catherine II presented the estate to her favourite Gregory Orlov, who started the construction of a hunter’s palace with a regular English park nearby. The architect Antonio Rinaldi succeeded to create a building that became an essential part of Gatchina landscape. Two wings connected by the central gallery were laid with local limestone. The whole building resembled a modest and accurate European fortress, not a baroque palace. ​

Gregory Orlov died in 2 years after the construction had been finished and Catherine gifted the estate to her son Paul. In his time Gatchina obtained a city status and went through extensive developments. Vincenzo Brenna, the court architect of Paul I, reconstructed the main Palace and created the ensemble of the whole city.

 

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