Restoring the Golden Gate of the Catherine Palace

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After almost 58 years, the famous Golden Gate, located opposite the central entrance to the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, is currently undergoing a much needed restoration.

Originally designed and assembled in the 18th century by the architect Francesco Rastrelli, the gate has not been restored since the 1960s. In the decades since, the condition of the gate itself has deteriorated badly, losing its original black colour, the gilding on the plant ornaments and copper petals, as well as the double-headed eagles, have all been affected by harsh weather conditions.

In late August, experts began to dismantle the figured details. Most of them have already been restored: the ornaments are laid out in the workshop of the contractor “Slavic Project” in Tsarskoye Selo. In total, experts will repair about 3,500 thousand ornaments and the gate itself. 

“First of all, we clean the ornaments, removing the dirt, grease, dust and other substances that have accumulated on them,” said Rozalia Shaihova, deputy head of the restoration department of the Directorate for Construction, Reconstruction and Restoration of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation (KGIOP).  “We grind some elements, align them where necessary, and restore any lost pieces of  the ornaments. Then we prepare a special substrate for the coating, and finally gilt gold leaf”, she added.

The task of the restorers is not easy. On the one hand, you need to preserve the original historical appearance of the ornament, that is, you simply cannot clean the coating, restore the lost pieces and re-cover all this with gilding. On the other hand, among the ornaments there are many details which require the special attention of specialists. Therefore, all work is done under the strict guidance of KGIOP. 

It should be noted that there are also ornaments in the lattice of the gate, which cannot be dismantled. They will have to be restored together with the gate. “The gate and ornaments with which we are working now, in fact, were created in the 1960s. The gate was restored by specialists according to Rastrelli’s sketches, and other historical documents” – said Rozalia Shaihova. – “Among these elements, it can be said for sure that the double-headed eagle (see photo below) on the top of the gate is the original. Whether there are any genuine ornaments made by Rastrelli among the ornaments will become clear after the restorers have examined them more closely.” 

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It is interesting to note, before the beginning of the first restoration in the 1960s, the gate was partially hidden from prying eyes. Experts attribute this to the beginning of the Second World War, because at that time many monuments and objects of cultural heritage were either buried or hidden, some even covered with wooden boxes. Now, of course, the gates are not hidden, so they often become “victims” of vandals. And this is another reason why the gates and ornaments need urgent restoration. Once the restoration has been completed, experts will reassemble the gate, thanks to a special cartogram, which depicts the entire artistic composition with numbers that are attached to each individual ornament. 

Restoration work is scheduled for completion by the end of the year, and is expected to be on display in December. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 2 October 2018