The golden yellow Great Palace (Bolshoi Dvorets) stands on a high bluff overlooking the river and dominates the surrounding park. The stone palace was built between 1782 and 1786 as the summer residence of Paul, son of Catherine the Great, and his wife, Maria Fyodorovna, in imitation of a Roman villa. The architect Vincenzo Brenna enlarged the palace between 1796 and 1799 with the addition of a second story to the galleries and side pavilions. Despite a devastating fire in 1803 and further reconstruction by Andrei Voronikhin in the early 19th century, Cameron's basic design survives. The building is crowned with a green dome supported by 64 small white columns. In front of the palace stands a statue of the snub-nosed Paul I, a copy of the statue at Gatchina, Paul's other summer residence.
The splendid interiors, with their parquet floors, marble pillars, and gilt ceilings, were created by some of Russia's most outstanding architects, including Quarenghi, who designed the interiors of five rooms on the first floor, and Carlo Rossi, who was responsible for the library, built in 1824. The state apartments on the first floor include the pink-and-blue Ballroom; the formal Dining Hall, where the full dinner service for special occasions is set out; and the lovely Corner Room, with walls of lilac marble and doors of Karelian birch. On the first floor, on the way from the central part of the palace to the southern section, are the Maria Fyodorovna Empress Rooms (Komnaty Imperatritsy Marii Fyodorovny), six rooms that were designed for Maria Fyodorovna after the death of Paul I. The most impressive of these is the Small Lamp Study (Kabinet Fonarik), a light-green room that overlooks the Tsar's Little Garden. The empress's library and other belongings are on display here.
Among the lavishly decorated state rooms on the second floor is the famous Greek Hall, with a layout like that of an ancient temple. Its rich green Corinthian columns stand out against the white of the faux-marble walls. The hall, which also served as a small ballroom, linked the state chambers of Paul I to those of his wife. The last room on his side is the Hall of War. Maria's Hall of Peace was designed to correspond to it. The gilt stucco wall moldings of her suite are decorated with flowers, baskets of fruit, musical instruments, and other symbols of peace. Beyond Maria's apartments is the light-filled Picture Gallery, with floor-length windows and an eclectic collection of paintings. From the gallery, via a small, pink, marble waiting room, you reach the palace's largest chamber, Throne Hall. It once held the throne of Paul I, which was removed for a victory party after Napoléon's defeat and somehow never returned.
Like the palace, the design of the park was shared by the leading architects of the day—Brenna, Cameron, Voronikhin, and Rossi. The park differs greatly from park designs of other Imperial palaces, where the strict rules of geometrical design were followed; at Pavlovsk nature was left much less controlled.
The combined length of the park's paths and lanes is said to equal the distance between St. Petersburg and Moscow (656 km/407 miles). If you walk down the slope just behind the palace to the Tsar's Little Garden (Sobstvenny Sadik), you can see the Three Graces Pavilion, created by Cameron. The 16-column pavilion encloses a statue of Joy, Flowering, and Brilliance. Directly behind the palace, a stone staircase, decorated with lions, will take you to the Slavyanka Canal. On the canal's other side, down to the left, is the graceful Apollo Colonnade, built in 1783. Its feeling of ruin isn't just due to time: it was struck by lightning in 1817 and never restored. If you bear right at the end of the stairs, you come to the Temple of Friendship, meant to betoken the friendship between Empress Maria and her mother-in-law, Catherine the Great. Beyond it is a monument from Maria to her own parents; the center urn's medallion bears their likenesses. Of the other noteworthy pavilions and memorials dotting the park, the farthest one up the bank is the Mausoleum of Paul I, set apart on a remote and overgrown hillside toward the center of the park. Maria had the mausoleum built for her husband after he was murdered in a palace coup. Paul was never interred here, however, and though Maria is portrayed as inconsolable in a statue here, historical evidence indicates that she was well aware of the plot to kill her husband.
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