1752 – 1756. Architect: Bartolomeo Rastrelli
Located in Tsarskoe Selo, about fifteen miles south of St. Petersburg, the Catherine Palace was the official summer residence of the Romanovs. The palace was named after Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, who had a country estate in the area; however, it owes its fame to Catherine’s daughter Elizabeth who had an immense baroque palace built for her in Tsarskoe Selo. The ostentatious palace did not please Elizabeth’s successor Catherine II (the Great), who invited the architect Charles Cameron to redesign some of the palace interiors and add several neoclassical structures to the palace.
Among the most notable are the Cameron Gallery and the cozy Agate Rooms where the Empress had her apartments. The important court functions were held in the larger palace. Here, in the Cavaliers’ Dining Room, Catherine held formal receptions for the Knights of the four major chivalric Orders of the Russian Empire dedicated to St. Andrew, St. Vladimir, St. George and St. Alexander. Their dinners were served on the famous porcelain services hand-painted with the Orders’ insignia.
Catherine’s grandson Alexander I lived in the Catherine palace after his coronation. However, his successors on the Russian throne seldom lived in the Palace, each of them having a preferred alternative location for a summer residence. Surrounding the Imperial palace, the town of Tsarskoe Selo was a fashionable suburb featuring well-appointed dachas(summer homes) owned by members of St. Petersburg’s high society.