Myths and legends

In which palace is the Amber Room located?

The Catherine Palace, also known as the Great Tsarskoye Selo, is the former residence of the imperial family and one of the largest palace mansions in the suburban area of ​​St. Petersburg. Located in the city of Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo). The Catherine Palace is inextricably linked with Russian history and the country life of nobles of the 2017th-300th centuries. XNUMX marked XNUMX years since the laying of the first stone in the foundation of the historical structure.

History of the foundation of the Catherine Palace

The estate was designed as a summer residence for the wife of Peter I, Catherine. Construction continued for 7 years and in 1724 the grand opening took place. Initially, the queen’s new mansions were very modest and did not stand out in any way from a number of other similar architectural structures. In its “modest” form, the mansion stood for about 20 years, until Peter’s daughter, Elizabeth, ascended the throne. The Empress actively took up the reconstruction of the palace, entrusting the task to famous Russian architects. Replacing each other, the architects tried to bring the royal chambers to the image that Elizabeth wanted to see. Nevertheless, the result of the work did not particularly satisfy the empress, who still considered the building modest and outdated. Then, in 1752, she invited the famous foreign master Bartolomeo Rastrelli to carry out the reconstruction. The work of an Italian, who gravitated toward luxury and gold elements, came at just the right time. Encouraged by the empress, Rastrelli brought the scale of palace construction to serious proportions for those times. More than one hundred kilograms of gold alone were spent on the decor and decoration of external facades. For four years, Rastrelli rebuilt the royal chambers in the late Baroque style and cultivated the landscape area around them. The money spent by Elizabeth, which supported the architect’s original ideas, bore fruit. On the day of the presentation of the new residence, those invited were simply stunned by the grandeur and luxury of the new palace. The guests saw a mansion more than 300 meters long, shining with heavenly blue walls and gold trim details. The palace was surrounded by a luxurious park with an ideal landscape layout. After Elizabeth’s death, her more thrifty daughter-in-law tried to fulfill her predecessor’s will and gild the park sculptures. Having learned about the cost of the project, Ekaterina curtailed the finishing work almost at the very beginning of the process. All the years of her reign and stay on the estate, Catherine II tried to adapt the luxurious territories of the palace and park ensemble to real life. Remembering her mother-in-law’s extravagance, she tried to simplify the external surroundings of Bolshoi Tsarskoye Selo.

Halls and rooms of the Catherine Palace

The multi-meter Catherine Palace has a large number of halls, each of which was decorated in an individual style and intended for certain events and celebrations. Rastrelli arranged the ceremonial rooms in an enfilade manner along the entire length of the palace. At that time, there were no enfilades of such length anywhere in Russia. Some of the most famous rooms and premises: But there is another hall about which there are legends. The Amber Room in the Catherine Palace is the most famous room. It is famous not only for the luxury of its decoration, but also for its mysterious disappearance.

the Amber Room

The Amber Room was originally built in Germany, and its author was the German architect Schlüter. The room, completely decorated with amber, was designed for the royal palace of Germany. There were plenty of amber deposits in the German lands, and the collection of the German kings included not only nuggets, but also finished products, among which were several mirrors in amber frames. But neither in the palace, nor in Charlottenburg Castle, where a similar office was built, did the “amber” idea take root. The works were curtailed, and the interiors were dismantled and taken away for storage.

The beginning of the Russian path

It is unknown how long the designer pieces made of luxurious stone would have had to languish out of work if Tsar Peter had not found out about the amber exclusive. The Emperor became eager to obtain amazing interiors for the buildings of St. Petersburg, and soon the Prussian king presented Peter with the Amber Room as an international present. Two dozen carts were transporting the gift to St. Petersburg from Germany. Upon arrival, it turned out that many parts were missing and the process was stalled. During his lifetime, Peter never managed to see the cabinet assembled. It was kept on a country estate until his daughter Elizabeth remembered about the amber donated by the Germans. The Empress decided to decorate one of the rooms of the Winter Palace with amber decor, which is what Bartolomeo Rastrelli did. The missing details were replaced in the interior with other elements, and the room began to serve as a place for festive receptions. Later, the Amber Room was moved to the Great Tsarskoye Selo Palace, where it was reconstructed and supplemented with exhibits for several more decades. The result of many years of work was not in vain. The Amber Room in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo was called the “eighth wonder of the world.” The combination of dark and light amber made it possible to achieve a three-dimensional sound for the decor. The central tier of the Amber Room consisted of eight panels, half of which contained colored paintings of Florentine mosaics. Each of them had its own name. The room was decorated with handmade chests of drawers, an amber table, and mirrored pilasters. Warm, sunny amber, combined with artificial lighting, amazing carvings and gilding, made an indelible impression.

The mystery of the disappearance

During its existence, restoration work was carried out in the Amber Room several times. Amber is a fragile stone, susceptible to negative external influences, prone to drying out and cracking. That is why during the Second World War, when the Germans approached Leningrad, the amber walls were not dismantled and evacuated. The room was only carefully covered with packaging materials and left in place. When the occupiers entered Pushkin, the first thing they did was dismantle and remove the Amber Room from the Catherine Palace. The valuable trophy was installed in the Königsberg Museum, in the book of which a dedicatory inscription was recorded. But the Germans did not have to rejoice for long – the offensive of the Soviet troops forced them to once again dismantle the world masterpiece. Since then, no one has seen the Amber Room again. She was searched in vain throughout Prussia and surrounding countries. There are a large number of speculations and legends, according to which traces of a valuable relic pop up here and there, but the mystery remains a mystery.

Recreation

Since the late 60s. In the USSR, there was a commission to search for the Amber Room for about twenty years. After many years of unsuccessful searches, the Soviet government ordered to restore the historical value on its own. An amber workshop was opened at the palace, where craftsmen created a precious interior again using existing sketches. In 13 years, the Amber Room was restored by almost half. A pleasant surprise at the turn of the century was that some fragments of the relic were found – part of a Florentine mosaic and an amber chest of drawers. The work was completely completed in 2003. The Amber Room came to life again on the eve of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. An independent or organized excursion to Tsarskoye Selo will give you the opportunity to see the grandeur and luxury of the Amber Room of Pushkin’s Catherine Palace, as well as other halls of the residence. If you are interested in the history of the entire Northern capital, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the section of excursions around St. Petersburg on our website. By purchasing a tour online, you will save your money and ensure a full-fledged tour with a rich program. The Amber Room is one of the most popular and visited objects of the Tsarskoye Selo Museum. It is deservedly called the eighth wonder of the world. The hall with golden panels amazes with the richness of its interior, and its history is like an action-packed film. We talk about the Amber Room of the Catherine Palace in facts and figures.

History of the Amber Room

The idea of ​​​​creating a luxurious state hall from solar stone was born several centuries ago in Prussia. In 1701, Frederick I, literally just becoming king, ordered the construction of the Amber Cabinet in Litzenburg, the castle of his beloved wife Sophia Charlotte. The work was headed by the royal architect-favorite Johann Friedrich Eosander (for a long time another master, Andreas Schlüter, was considered the author of the cabinet, but this version is erroneous). There were no problems with the material: Prussia then included the current Kaliningrad region, rich in amber. Its territory contains 90% of the world’s reserves of this stone! The design of the office in Litzenburg began immediately, but a fatal event prevented the work from being completed: Sophia Charlotte died in 1709. Heartbroken, Frederick I abruptly stopped all work, renamed Litzenburg to Charlottenburg and decided not to change anything there anymore – in memory of his wife. The unfinished Amber Cabinet was ordered to be moved to another royal residence – Oranienburg Palace. But even there the luxurious hall never appeared. The room allocated for it was larger than in Charlotte’s Sophia Castle, so the volume of work increased. They did not have time to finish them – already because of the death of Frederick I himself in 1713. However, the cabinet still found a home: for a short time it became a decoration of the Berlin Castle, the residence of the new king Frederick William I. The heir did not take over his father’s love of luxury, so he used decorative elements only partially, and put much of it in boxes. In 1716, the Amber Cabinet, never assembled in its entirety in Prussia, was presented to Peter I – the emperor had long had his eye on it. It was a beautiful gesture on the part of Friedrich Wilhelm, aimed at strengthening relations with Russia. After being transported to St. Petersburg, the office also did not immediately find a place. For some unknown reason, Peter I never installed amber panels in one of his residences. They lay idle for almost two decades. By the way, amber tends to lose color and transparency over time, but for some reason this did not happen with the cabinet panels. There is a version that the preservation of the stone was positively influenced by the experiments of Prussian craftsmen, who boiled it in linseed oil and honey, and added cognac to the glue. Although initially all this was done only to give the amber different shades. In any case, the details of the cabinet were well preserved until 1743. It was then that Elizaveta Petrovna, daughter of Peter I, ordered them to be partially repaired and placed in the old Winter Palace. However, the allocated hall was large and there was not enough material for cladding. The problem was elegantly solved by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The famous architect diluted the panels with sophisticated mirror pilasters and false panels with imitation solar stone. The Prussian ruler Frederick II also helped with the design, giving Elizabeth another amber frame as a sign of friendship. It was decorated with imperial symbols and scenes with the main military victories of Russia. It was under Elizabeth that the Prussian Amber Cabinet (initially quite compact) began to acquire the features of a large Amber Room. By the way, the luxurious creation did not stay long in the Winter Palace. Already in the mid-1750s, by order of the Empress, the decoration of the room was transported to the Great Tsarskoye Selo (now Catherine) Palace. For safety reasons, they decided not to transport the panels – the massive boxes were carried out of town by hand! The hall in this palace was even larger than in the Winter Palace, so Rastrelli had to cover the voids with canvases on which natural stone was imitated. +1 The Amber Room in different years: 1859 • 1900-1905 • 1917 • 1932 • Photo: Pierre-Ambrose Richebourg, A. K. Erzhemsky, A. Zeesta, Branson DeCou The decoration of the hall was completely completed in 1770 – already during the reign of Catherine II. Furniture appeared here, and the wall canvases were replaced by new natural stone panels made in the palace workshop.

The Disappearance and Search for the Amber Room

The 200th-century masterpiece spent almost 1940 years in Tsarskoye Selo until the XNUMXs. The Great Patriotic War played a fatal role in the fate of the room. Already in its very first days, all valuables were urgently removed from the Catherine Palace. But they were afraid to dismantle the amber panels – they already required serious restoration and risked not surviving the next transportation. Therefore, the Amber Room was simply mothballed on site, and this decision turned out to be fatal. The fascist German troops who captured the city of Pushkin in a short time opened the conservation, dismantled the room and took it out of the USSR. The dismantling was carried out by members of a special team “Kunstkomission” – their main task was to hunt for artistic treasures. It is believed that they decided to steal the Amber Room in Germany even before the start of the war. And to prepare the plan, a group of art historians was specially sent to Pushkin back in the late 1930s. Through the efforts of the Kunstkomission, the amber panels were repaired and assembled in one of the halls of the Königsberg Castle. The room spent only a few years there: during the Nazi surrender in 1944, it was moved again. But where is not known for certain to this day. Wehrmacht soldiers in the Great Hall of the Catherine Palace • Palace after the occupation Subsequently, specialists from Germany and the USSR actively searched for the lost masterpiece. Among them was A. M. Kuchumov, a prominent Soviet art critic and former keeper of the Amber Room in the Catherine Palace. He discovered more than two hundred thousand works of art, but could not find the sunstone creation. Experts are only guessing where the Amber Room might be located now. For example, one version says that the panels rest on the bottom of the Baltic Sea along with the German ship Karlsruhe that transported them. Another is that the Amber Room was nevertheless found and sent to the United States by Soviet intelligence services to pay off the debt under Lend-Lease (an American credit program aimed at helping military allies).

Recreating the Amber Room

During the reconstruction of the interiors of the Catherine Palace, which was badly damaged by the war, the lost decorative panels were decided to be made anew in the late 1970s. The idea was born thanks to the Kaliningrad Amber Museum, which made one of the panels in 1:5 miniature. The successful result meant that it was possible to try to recreate the lost monument in its original size. Work began in 1983 and was completed only in 2003. Like the original, the new room was assembled from real amber – using about 6 tons of Kaliningrad stone! The workshop was located on the basis of the Catherine Palace – where it was first opened in the 300th century. The interior and furnishings of the hall were restored in great detail. The opening of the Amber Room in Tsarskoye Selo became the highlight of the program at the ceremony celebrating the XNUMXth anniversary of St. Petersburg. The process of restoring the Amber Room And in 2022, the famous interior was digitized. For this purpose, we created a VR model of the Amber Room with drawings of the smallest interior details. After the presentation of the project in the Catherine Palace, the virtual reality helmet was sent on a tour of Russia. Residents of Kaliningrad, Pskov, Voronezh and other cities of the country were able to visit the room remotely. The virtual visit allowed us to examine the decoration of the hall almost closely. This would not have been possible in the Catherine Palace because of the fences.

Interior of the Amber Room

This room of the Catherine Palace fascinates with the shimmer of golden stone in the light of 565 candles. The basis of the interior is made up of amber panels. There are 16 of them in total: eight in the middle tier and another eight in the lower tier. The four panels of the central tier are additionally decorated with Florentine mosaics, which allegorically depict the basic feelings of man. Three paintings – “Taste”, “Sight” and “Hearing” – were recreated. They are made mostly from Russian minerals: Ural jasper, Altai porphyry, Transbaikal lapis lazuli and some others. And here is the fourth mosaic panel, “Touch and Smell,” original Italian. It was lost during the transportation of the Amber Room to Königsberg and was found only at the end of the XNUMXth century. +2 General form. Photo: website of the State Museum-Reserve “Tsarskoye Selo” • “Taste” • “Vision” • “Hearing” • “Touch and Smell” Between the panels of the middle and lower levels there are mirrored pilasters in gilded frames. The upper part of each pilaster is crowned with graceful female heads, also gilded. A similar decor can be seen on the desudéporte – a relief decorative composition above the door. The upper tier of the room under the ceiling is decorated with imitation amber mosaics and gilded carved wood decor: small figurines of cupids and ornate candelabra with candles.

Mode

Travelers can explore the Amber Room during the opening hours of the Catherine Palace. The exhibition is open from 10:00 to 18:00 (but the entrance closes an hour earlier). Visitors to the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve are accepted almost every day of the week, except one (Tuesdays are a day off). Also, from November to March, the Catherine Palace is closed monthly for sanitary maintenance. This usually happens on the last Monday of every month. Details of the Amber Room. Photo: website of the State Museum-Reserve “Tsarskoe Selo”

How much does it cost to visit the Amber Room?

  • 1000 rubles for adults;
  • 500 rubles for schoolchildren, students (including cadets), pensioners, members of creative unions and museum employees from other institutions.

Children under 14 years of age, as well as WWII participants, heroes of the Russian Federation and the USSR, disabled people, members of large families and some other categories of citizens can visit the palace for free. Also, students of any universities are exempt from purchasing tickets if they come to the museum-reserve on the third Sunday of the month.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online on the website of the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve. As a rule, you need to choose a specific day to visit – reservations are open for a maximum of a week in advance. But there is another option – to issue a ticket with an open date. It costs more (2000 rubles) and allows you to visit the Catherine Palace any day until the end of this year. Such tickets are sold only at the box office; they cannot be purchased remotely.

Also at Tsarskoe Selo there is another unusual service: the Amber Room, along with other rooms of the palace, is offered to be visited after the museum closes. A walk through the deserted halls already costs 8000 rubles per person.

Getting there

From St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo it is approximately 25 kilometers – the palace is located in the city of Pushkin on Sadovaya Street, 7. There are several ways to get here:

  • By bus. Transport departs from two metro stations in St. Petersburg: “Kupchino” (No. 186, 342) and “Moskovskaya” (No. 187, 299).
  • By train. You need to take the train at the Vitebsky railway station or the Kupchino railway station and get off at the Tsarskoye Selo stop. From there you can either walk for about half an hour or take a bus (No. 236, 273, 370, 371, 373, 376, 378, 380, 381, 382 or 385).
  • On your own by car. The journey from the center of St. Petersburg will take one to two hours, depending on the chosen route and the traffic situation. You can leave your car in the paid parking lot for guests of the museum-reserve (Orangereinaya Street, 1). Tariff – 100 rubles per hour of parking.

Helpful information

When visiting the museum-reserve, you can only follow the signs along the fences. It is prohibited to enter behind them. According to the rules, you cannot take photos with a flash on the territory, visit exhibitions without special shoe covers, or talk on a mobile phone. Sports equipment, weapons, food and drinks will also not be allowed into Tsarskoe Selo. Bringing animals with you is also prohibited.

In addition to visiting the Amber Room and other halls of the Catherine Palace, travelers can also enjoy the landscapes of the picturesque Catherine Park with a marble fountain and bosquets – decorative figured plantings. If you wish, here you can book a trip through the park alleys in an electric car, and also go on a gondola ride on the pond in the summer.

You can grab a bite to eat at local restaurants and cafes – there are several of them. At the Volkonsky cafe-confectionery, for example, you can order the Amber Room chocolate cake with wild cloudberries, lingonberries and edible gold. Externally, the delicacy looks like an element of the design of a real room.

Details of the Amber Room. Photo: website of the State Museum-Reserve “Tsarskoe Selo”

Conclusion

The Tsarskoe Selo Museum-Reserve is a significant place in the history of the Russian Empire starting from the first decade of the 18th century. Author’s excursions with experienced guides will help you find out all the most interesting things about the local palaces, pavilions and, of course, the Amber Room. Guides in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region will make your acquaintance with the Tsarskoye Selo ensemble as exciting and non-trivial as possible.

Author: Nikita Pozazanikov

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