Gatchina lies 45 km from Saint-Petersburg and it’s one of the country’s finest palace and park complexes. The picturesque relief and an abundance of spring lakes have allowed creating here a unique palace and park ensemble in the second half of the 18th century. The unusual palace built in a style of early classicism has ten towers and an underground course. It became a logical center of the ensemble. It was faced with a local natural limestone mined in a town Pudost.
The author of the ensemble is an Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi. The palace was commissioned by Catherine the Great to her favorite Count Grigory Orlov, who was fond of hunting. After Grigory Orlov’s death, Ekaterina the Great presented the farmstead of Gatchina to her son Paul the first. The building was reconstructed and got features of the castle. Several walls hid magnificent interiors created by court architect Vinchento Brenna. After Paul came to power Gatchina palace became an official residence of Russian emperors and Gatchine gained status of a town.
Gatchina palace was built first of all as the country-side castle for royal hunting. Count Grigory Orlov, the first owner of the palace, filled the place with weapons, many of which were unique. The subsequent owners of the palace filled up the collection. In 1823 one of the galleries of the palace started to be referred to as the weapon gallery. Walls were decorated with collection of arms, which were displayed in decorative patterns. The center of the composition constitutes the monogram of Emperor Paul I laid out with pistols. Now the part of the collection is being displayed in the former privet rooms of Emperor Paul. It numbers more than 1,000 items of fire-arms and cold steel of the 16th – 19th centuries many of which are of artistic and historical value and give an idea of the development of the gunsmithery both in European and Asian countries as well.
You can see other royal residences as part of the Pushkin and Peterhof tour.