The Golden Gates to the Catherine Palace Return in Full Splendour


© The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum

The 18th-century Golden Gates to the Catherine Palace have been unveiled after eight-month restoration.

The central gates of the palace courtyard were designed by Savva Ivanovich Chevakinsky (1713-1780) and Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli (1700-1771) and constructed between 1748-56. Severely damaged in World War Two and rebuilt in the 1960s, the gates have undergone their first major restoration in more than 50 years.

The restoration was organized by the Russian Ministry of Culture’s North West Administration for Construction, Reconstruction and Restoration under the federal target program Culture of Russia (2012–2018) and completed by the Slaviansky Project Group.


© The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum


© The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum

The restorers had to deal with 3,500 decorative elements and over 12,000 rivets on the wrought-iron openwork with gilded embellishments. The attachable details had to be removed, numbered and cleaned. After removing old gilt with a special tool, some of the 18th-century elements were found preserved. As well as later ones from the 1960s, those elements were straightened and their missing parts remade. Elements that did not survive were recreated by art blacksmiths.   

The most difficult was the process of coating the embellishments with the thinnest (0.1 micron) sheets of gold leaf using 19th-century technology and a special varnish Mordan. The overall gilding required more than 300 sixty-sheet gold leaf books containing 4 grams of gold each. The double-headed eagle on the gates was the largest element which required 6 gold leaf books.

Also restored were the gates’ brickwork, fence basements, stucco work decorations and natural stone details.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. 17 April 2019

Will the Alexander Palace Open in 2019?


The left (eastern) wing of the Alexander Palace

There are rising doubts that the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo will open in 2019, as was previously planned. According to the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova: “It all depends on the timing of the allocation of funds from the federal budget. The palace-museum is waiting for the 300 million rubles required for the completion of the first stage of restoration work.”

The Alexander Palace has been closed to visitors since 2015. It was originally planned to complete the first part of the work in the beloved residence of the last Russian emperor by July 2018 – timed to the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Imperial Family. The opening date of a partial reopening of the palace to visitors was then postponed to the end of 2019. 

Now, according to Olga Taratynova, these plans are in doubt. “If the money arrives within the next month, then by the end of the year we will open the first eight rooms of the left (eastern) wing of the palace to visitors,” she said. “If the funds are delayed, the opening of the restored and reconstructed apartments will take place in the first quarter of 2020. And in the same year we hope to open 7 additional rooms. Thus, the restoration of the entire left wing of the palace will be complete.” 

Of particular interest to visitors will be the Tsar’s Moorish-style Bathroom. The main feature is a giant heated swimming tub with a capacity of 1000 buckets of water – where the Tsar, and Tsesarevich Alexei liked to swim. “This was all lost, but now the restorers, have completely recreated the interior, based on pieces of ceramics from the walls, and photos from the palace-museum archives,” added Olga Taratynova. On the second floor of the palace, where the children’s rooms were located, the museum plans to hold temporary exhibition facilities. 

“We really want to make everyone happy for the new year. But in any case, the recovery process is underway and has already progressed significantly. So if not at the end of December, then in the first quarter of 2020, the Alexander Palace will open its doors,” says the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Museum.

Click HERE to read 5 additional articles on the restoration of the Alexander Palace

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 April 2019

Russian President Visits Restored Catherine Palace Chapel

On 11th April, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Catherine Palace’s Church of the Resurrection and praised the quality of its restoration work, which became possible thanks to financial support from Gazprom.

The president was accompanied by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, and the permanent members of Russia’s Security Council.

The VIP guests of the Museum had a tour of the Chapel led by Director Olga Taratynova, who showed them the revived masterpiece of eighteenth century architecture designed by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli.

The Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Tsarskoye Selo was founded in August 1746. The palace chapel was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Rastrelli, (1700-1771)construction lasted 10 years. It was consecrated in the presence of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna and impressed her contemporaries by it’s unique beauty and splendour.

Specialists of the Amber Workshop of Tsarskoye Selo, who spent four years restoring the Palace Chapel, followed the Museum’s requirements of maximal conservation of extant details and minimal re-creation of lost ones.

The Chapel of the Catherine Palace will open to visitors on 13 April 2019.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 April 2019

Reconstruction of Tsarskoye Selo Monuments Destroyed During WWII will Take 25 years


Restoring the Golden Gate and fence of the Catherine Palace

The complete restoration of the architectural monuments of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve (GMZ) destroyed during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the main residence of the Russian emperors and empresses near St. Petersburg, will take at least another quarter of a century. This assessment was made last week by Deputy Director for Research and Education Iraida Bott, during a press conference marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Pushkin from Nazi occupation.

“I think that it will take least 25 years,” said Bott, when asked the question of how long it will take to recreate all the monuments of the museum-reserve that were damaged in wartime. Most of them were destroyed in the first year of occupation, which lasted a total of four years.

Recreation of the Catherine Palace

Two-thirds of the main monument of the museum-reserve – the Catherine Palace – have now been restored, its restoration has been going on for more than six decades, since 1957. Among the most significant objects that have been recreated in recent years is the Golden Enfilade. “it will soon be completely restored, and in March of this year we will open the Church of the Resurrection of Christ – the last interior created by the famous architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771). The Imperial Chapel was consecrated on 30th July 1756, and thus the entire Golden Enfilade will be brought back to life,” explained Bott.

One of the greatest achievements during the reconstruction of the monuments lost during the Great Patriotic War is the reconstruction of the Amber Room. The unique interior, presented to Tsar Peter I by the Prussian king Friedrich-Wilhelm I, disappeared without a trace during the war years; its fate remaining a mystery to this day. Work on the recreation of the “eighth wonder of the world” lasted twenty-four years and on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the foundation of St Petersburg the restored legendary Amber Room received its first visitors. 

“The greatest sadness and the greatest hope of my generation is to see the state rooms and private quarters of the Empress Catherine II restored. It is hard to imagine when these rooms will be realized,” said Bott. In the meantime, there are plans to recreate the rooms of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.

Later this year, noted Bott, one of the most grand palace halls of the 18th century – the Lyon Hall will be opened. “This is the ceremonial hall, located next to the Arabesque Hall, which was also created in Catherine’s times, and underwent significant changes in the middle of the 19th century. We will restore it to its pre-war look,” she added.


The Alexander Palace was closed for restoration in August 2015

Alexander Palace and the lost exhibits

“Besides the Catherine Palace, we still have the Alexander Palace and a large number of pavilions to restore and recreate in the Alexander Park, all of which require a lot of work,” said Bott. In recent years, the Martial Chamber, the Arsenal and Chapelle pavilions were opened to visitors. In 2019, the first eight rooms of the Alexander Palace are scheduled to be opened.

The museum is working hard to return the lost exhibits to the collection.

“Before the war, our entire museum collection was catalogued, so we have the exact numbers — about 110 thousand pieces. Of course, not all of them could be evacuated, only the finest items were evacuated – about 19 thousand items. Today we have in our collection more than 50 thousand items: these include items that we acquired at auctions, and those that we received from donors and sponsors. Descendants of soldiers and civilians who stole items as a souvenir from the palaces during the war years have returned more than a hundred items,” said Bott.

It is interesting to note that when the Alexander Palace was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1951, a total of 5,615 items that were still among the evacuated items in the Central Repository of Museum Stocks from the Suburban Palace-Museums, were transferred to the Pavlovsk Palace State Museum. Of these, nearly 200 pieces were from the Alexander Palace ceremonial halls. These included 39 pieces of porcelain, 41 paintings, 73 decorative bronze pieces, and 28 pieces of furniture. Let us hope that as a gesture of goodwill, that the Pavlovsk Palace-Museum administration will do the right thing, and return all of these items back to the Alexander Palace – PG

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 January 2019

1.2 Billion Rubles Allocated for Restoration of the Alexander Palace


A recent photo of the facade of the Alexander Palace

On 18th January, an announcement was made that more than 1.2 billion rubles ($18 million USD) will be allocated for the restoration of the Alexander Palace and the Imperial Farm at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve in 2019

The Government of the Russian Federation has finalized a draft decree which will allocate the necessary funding to complete the restoration of the Alexander Palace, ensuring that it will be open to visitors in 2020. In a previous news article, I noted that a partial reopening of the palace would take place in late 2019.

During a press conference held last Friday, Olga Taratynova, Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, noted that several rooms of the Alexander Palace, where Emperor Nicholas II and his family lived, where planned to open in 2018, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the their murders on 17th July 1918. Unfortunately, their goal was not realized due to lack of funding. The initial estimate for the restoration of the historical interiors of the palace was estimated at 2 billion rubles ($30 million USD), but the federal budget only transferred 827 million rubles ($12 million USD), leaving the museum to look independently for the remaining balance. Ticket and excursion sales by the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve raised 279 million rubles ($4.2 million USD). The Russian Government have promised to allocate 1,027,930,000 rubles (15 million USD) in 2019.


Vintage postcard of the Imperial Farm situated in the Alexander Park, Tsarskoye Selo

The Russian Government have also confirmed that an additional 187 million rubles ($2.8 million USD) have been allocated for the reconstruction of the Imperial Farm in 2019. This cost to complete this project is estimated at 713 million rubles ($10.8 million USD). Over the past few years, the Russian Government have invested 418 million rubles ($6.3 million USD) in the Imperial Farm, while the Central Scientific Research Geological Museum in St. Petersburg, contributed an additional 108 million rubles ($1.6 million USD).

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve also have plans for the reconstruction of the Chinese Theatre and Mount Parnassus, both of which are situated in the Alexander Park.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 January 2019

Conference: ‘Palaces, Mansions & Estates in a Museum Format’


© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The 24th Tsarskoye Selo Academic Conference themed Palaces, Mansions & Estates in a Museum Format was held at the Catherine Palace during 26-28 November 2018. 

An excellent finale to this year’s Four Museums’ Centenary, the conference included over 60 presentations by independent researchers and scientific employees of Tsarskoye Selo, the State Hermitage Museum, Peterhof, the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg’s State University, State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering and the History Institute of the Russian Academy of Science.  


© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The presentations reflected the different fates of the monuments, collections and objects nationalized after 1917. The authors touched upon some legal problems risen during the moving of Russian cultural values ​​in the post-revolutionary years, the development of inventory and storage rules under new conditions, the fate of imperial and grand ducal estates and mansions, as well as some issues of protection and use of the monuments today. They also reminded of people who dedicated their lives to the preservation and revival of historic and artistic monuments.

The conference proceedings are available HERE (Russian).

© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 6 December 2018

Tender Issued for Restoration of the Chinese Theatre in Tsarskoye Selo


The Chinese Theatre is currently in a terrible state of ruin and disrepair

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve have announced a tender for the restoration the Chinese Theater in the Alexander Park. The cost of work is estimated at 4 million rubles. Acceptance of applications will continue until December 12, and on December 17 the results of the tender will be announced.

A tender for the restoration of the theatre was initially announced in March 2014, however, funding for the project was not available at the time.

The restoration of the cultural heritage object will be designed and adapted for modern use. The work in the theater itself will begin, after the area surrounding the building have been cleared of weeds and other plants, which have overgrown and causing damage to the walls of this theatre.

The Chinese Theatre was built in 1778, by the famous architect Antonio Renaldi. Simple white walls were decorated with a luxurious cornice, however, destroyed in the 19th century. The curvature of the roof gave the building an exotic look. Inside, the richly decorated oriental-style interiors were decorated with authentic elements ​​brought from China. 

The building was destroyed by fire during the shelling of 1941, and has yet to be restored.

Click HERE to read my article + photos about the Chinese Theatre, published on 26 March 2014, and now stored in our archives online.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 3 December 2018

Anglo-Russian Hospital: Six Thousand Saved


PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd. 1915–1918, a joint exhibition by Tsarskoe Selo and the Russian Museum of Military Medicine, is open at the Martial Chamber till 27 January 2019.

The exhibition is based on old photographs, nearly 50 copies of which were donated to Tsarskoe Selo by Dr Pauline Monro MBE MD FRCP, a British neurologist with long-standing connections to the medical community in Russia (see below, middle), and Mr Simon Boyd, the grandson of Lady Sybil Grey (see below, right) who set up and temporarily ran the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd (as St Petersburg was renamed in 1914 to make its name Sankt Peterburg sound less German).

The original photographs were gathered by Dr Monro and Mr Boyd from descendants and relatives of those who worked at the Anglo-Russian Hospital during World War One.


PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The Russian Museum of Military Medicine lent to the exhibition such artifacts as soldier hospital clothes, Russian and British surgical kits and patient care accessories.

The establishment of the Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd began from a special committee created in London in August 1915 under the patronage of HM Queen Alexandra. Lady Muriel Paget, a British philanthropist and humanitarian relief worker was appointed Honorary Organizing Secretary. According to the committee’s estimate, an equipped and staffed hospital with 200 beds would require 30,000 pounds sterling a year.  Proposed by the British Foreign Office, the hospital was funded by public subscription and supported by donations from King George V and Mary of Teck, the British Red Cross Society, the Canadian government, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem and other organizations. The British government provided transportation.

An advance party left for Petrograd in October 1915. It was was led by Lady Muriel Paget and her colleague Lady Sybil Grey, the second daughter of Albert Grey, 4th Earl Gray and Governor General of Canada. The two women were the key figures involved in organizing and running the hospital. 


The Dmitri Palace, now known as the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, was formally offered as the ‘base’ hospital in Petrograd. A huge, Neo-Baroque building by the Fontanka River with a distinctive orange facade and opulent interiors lit by brilliant chandeliers, the Palace had hosted lavish parties for Russian high society in the 19th century, and had been home to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich before he was killed by a terrorist bomb. It was the property of Emperor Nicholas II’s cousin Dmitri Pavlovich, one of the few Romanovs to later escape execution after the revolution.

The Palace was then converted into a hospital during November and December 1915. The official opening of the hospital took place on 1 February 1916. The opening ceremony was attended by Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna, Tsarina Alexandra with her elder daughters Tatiana and Olga, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna and the British ambassador to Russia George Buchanan.

The staff was volunteer and included several prominent London surgeons. Two large wards were arranged in the Music Room and two adjacent sitting rooms. Those were adjoined by the patients’ dining room, bathrooms, toilets and a large wound dressing room. The operating, narcosis and sterilization rooms, an X-ray room and a bacteriological laboratory were located on the same floor. There was also a staff room with two surgeons and two orderlies on duty, a dental office, a kitchen, a laundry room and a carpentry workshop.


PHOTO © The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

The hospital’s official blazon consisted of a British imperial lion and a Russian imperial double-headed eagle holding a red cross (see upper left in picture above).

During the 11 months between November 1915 and October 1916 more than six thousand patients received treatment in the Anglo-Russian hospitals (and field camps) in Russia, including at the base hospital in St Petersburg.  It closed in January 1918 as conditions became too difficult following the revolution.

A memorial plaque was hung in the entrance hall of the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace in 1996.

© The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 23 November 2018

Restoring the Golden Gate of the Catherine Palace


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.” 


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

Four Museums Centenary Project Opens in St. Petersburg

As Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof, Pavlovsk and Gatchina celebrate their 100th anniversary as museums in 2018, their Four Museums’ Centenary Project culminates in their joint exhibition running at St Petersburg’s Manege Central Exhibition Hall from 19th September to 8th October 2018.

A museum and theatre project titled To Keep Forever, is conceptually curated by stage director Anderey Moguchy and essentially recites the biographies of the four former imperial residences by the language of modern theatre.

The display starts in a “theatre hall” with a huge golden traveler curtain which does not move but lets the viewer into a “labyrinth of time”. The exhibition’s narrative is based on a diary of a fictional character named “Olga” (voiced by the Russian movie and theatre star Alice Freindlich). Her voice on the audio guide set accompanies the visitor through the whole “travel in time”. Born in Tsarskoye Selo, Olga worked as a guide at Peterhof, then as a curator she evacuated art objects from the Pavlovsk Palace and later restored the Gatchina Palace. Her “diary” is full of real people, such as museum employees and other witnesses of historical events.

Following the narration, the exhibition space is divided into several areas representing different time periods. From the former royal residences the viewer proceeds to a Soviet park of culture and recreation and then, as the war begins, takes part in a large-scale evacuation of the museum collections and follows them along to the victory. The culmination is the palaces’ triumphal revival from the ashes and further paths into the present.

The most important part of the display consists of over 200 artefacts and archival photographs from the four museums’ collections, including 37 art objects, 12 surviving sculpture and décor fragments and photographic materials from Tsarskoye Selo. 

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve. 26 September 2018