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Although named after Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, the Catherine Palace in Pushkin outside St. Petersburg is usually associated with the second Catherine, Catherine the Great. Born Sophia, a Prussian princess, her marriage to the heir to the Russian throne was arranged early. She was 10 when she first met Peter of Holstein-Gottrup. She found him repulsive. At sixteen she became his wife. Seventeen years later, in 1762, he was crowned Peter III on the death of his mother, the Empress Elizabeth. He reigned for only six months before being toppled in a coup d’etat organized by Catherine and her followers. A few days later he was strangled by the brother of Catherine’s then lover, Grigory Orlov, and Catherine proclaimed herself Empress, ruler of all Russia.
The palace, surrounded by a huge park, was a summer retreat for the tzars. We get a tantalizing glimpse through the ornate gilded gates, but are hardly prepared for the over-the-top facade and the immensity of the structure. 220 pounds of gold decorate the exterior. IMG_1468
The palace was destroyed before the Nazi’s retreated, leaving only a shell. The Great Hall.
Careful descriptions and drawings were made before the war, and artists and craftspeople were able to reconstruct its glory. And it IS glorious. Have a look at a few of its hundreds of rooms. Here’s a video of the reconstructed Great Hall – 1000 gilded square meters.IMG_1476