The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum and Heritage Site
The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum and Heritage Site is a superb monument of world-ranking architecture and landscape design dating from the 18th to early 20th centuries.
The compositional centre of the ensemble is the Catherine Palace, a splendid example of Russian Baroque. Visitors are enraptured by the sumptuous décor of the Great Hall and the Golden Enfilade of state rooms that includes the world-famous Amber Room now returned to life.
More than a hundred historical monuments are scattered across the Catherine, Alexander and Babolovo Parks that have a joint area of over 500 hectares: there are magnificent palaces and pavilions, bridges and marble monuments, and also exotic structures imitating Gothic, Turkish and Chinese architecture.
The founding date of Tsarskoe Selo is considered to be 24 June 1710, when a small estate was presented by Peter the Great to his future wife Catherine, later Empress Catherine I.
Tsarskoe Selo was an imperial summer residence for over two centuries. The tastes of the crowned owners and the talents of some prominent European and Russian architects determined the development of the ensemble.
Its heydays are believed to be the times of Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter’s daughter, and Catherine II. The 18th century was when the Catherine Palace (then the Great Palace of Tsarskoe Selo) appeared in its accomplished form. The regular garden was extended by a spacious landscape park. Also built were the Alexander Palace and the New Garden, later included into the Alexander Park.
During 1904–1917, the Alexander Palace was the permanent residence for the family of Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II until their departure into exile to Yekaterinburg.
Nationalized after the Revolution and turned into museums in 1918, the Catherine Palace opened for visiting on June 9 and the Alexander Palace on June 23 that year.
The palaces, parks and collections of Tsarskoe Selo suffered badly during WWII. The restoration and reconstruction work that began in 1957 can without exaggeration be described as unprecedented in world practice. Over the years, many of the restored halls and pavilions opened for visiting and large-scale restoration of the parks was carried out.
For the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg in 2003, the Amber Room was unveiled after nearly 25 years of reconstruction.
Restoration of Tsarskoe Selo is still in progress today.
The pavilions restored in recent years include the Turkish Bath in 2009, the Hermitage, Concert Hall, Creaking Summer-House and Cast-Iron Gazebo in 2010, the Lower Bathhouse in 2011, the White Tower in 2012, the Agate Rooms in 2013, the Arsenal in 2016 and the Chapelle in 2018. The Martial Chamber of Tsarskoe Selo was restored in 2014 to house “Russia in the Great War”, modern Russia’s first and only museum of WWI.
An important part of the Museum’s strategy is to restore the interiors of the Catherine Palace destroyed during WWII, such as the Arabesque Hall finished in 2010 and the Lyons Hall and the Palace Chapel in 2018.