Lomonosov (Oranienbaum Review
Lomonosov (Oranienbaum,This was the property of Alexander Menshikov (circa 1672-1729), the first governor of St. Petersburg and Peter the Great's favorite, who, following Peter's example, in 1710 began building his own luxurious summer residence on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Before construction was complete, however, Peter died and Menshikov was stripped of his formidable political power and exiled, leaving his summer estate half finished. The palace reverted to the crown and was given to Peter III, the ill-fated husband of Catherine the Great. Most of the buildings on the grounds were erected during his six-month reign, in 1762, or completed later by Catherine.
This property was given the German name Oranienbaum after the orangery attached to its palace. A few years after the liberation of Leningrad, Oranienbaum was renamed for the 18th-century scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, who had conducted a number of experiments at his nearby estate. Lomonosov was the only imperial residence to have survived World War II entirely intact. Unfortunately, it's been run-down for some time, and the major sights are now closed for restoration work. They are to reopen in stages, starting with summer 2011.
Menshikov's Great Palace (Bolshoi Menshikovskii Dvorets), the original palace on the property, is also Lomonosov's biggest. It stands on a terrace overlooking the sea. Built between 1710 and 1725, it was designed by the same architects who built Menshikov's grand mansion on St. Petersburg's Vasilievsky Island, Giovanni Fontana and Gottfried Schaedel. The palace hosts annually changing exhibits on everything from the Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg to Japanese artwork. Although the bulk of the palace is closed for restoration, some rooms of the Great Palace are scheduled to reopen their doors in the summer of 2011. Nearby is Peterstadt Dvorets, the modest palace that Peter III used. This two-story stone mansion was built between 1756 and 1762 by Arnoldo Rinaldi. Its interior is decorated with handsome lacquered wood paintings. That it seems small, gloomy, and isolated is perhaps appropriate, as it was here, in 1762, that the tsar was arrested, then taken to Ropsha and murdered in the wake of the coup that placed his wife, Catherine the Great, on the throne. The building that most proclaims the estate's Imperial beginnings, however, is unquestionably Catherine's Chinese Palace (Kitaisky Dvorets), also designed by Rinaldi. Intended as one of her private summer residences, it is quite an affair—rococo inside, baroque outside. Lavishly decorated, it has ceiling paintings created by Venetian artists, inlaid-wood floors, and elaborate stucco walls. At this writing it is closed for restoration but will reopen some of its rooms in the summer of 2011. The small house outside served as the kitchen. Down the slope to the east of the Great Palace is the curious Katalnaya Gorka. All that remains of the slide, which was originally several stories high, is the pavilion that served as the starting point of the ride, where guests of the empress could catch their breath before tobogganing down again. Painted soft blue with white trim, the fanciful, dazzling pavilion looks like a frosted birthday cake; it was, however, closed for extensive (and indefinite) renovations at this writing. Also on the premises, near the pond, is a small amusement park offering carnival rides. When taking a commuter train here, be careful to exit at Oranienbaum-I (not II).
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