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Fountains And Grounds Of Peterhof

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Submitted by Ashley Adcock | RSS Feed | Add Comment | Bookmark Me! print

Peterhof

When a king travels, he'll need somewhere to stay - somewhere nice. One of the most spectacular vacation homes ever built, Peter of (also "Peter's Court ") is the name that collectively applies to the greater complex of gardens, buildings, fountains and galleries, created by Peter the Great in the early 18th century as his summer residence.

This lavish palace is located atop a cliff looking out upon the Baltic Sea. Built to Peter's specifications, somewhat more modestly, 300 years ago, Peterhof was added to over the next 200, eventually becoming the site of the largest network of gravity-fed fountains in the world. Extensively damaged in World War Two by an occupying Nazi force, the magnificent buildings and grounds have since been restored and are visited by thousands of tourists every year. They were designated a World Heritage Site along with the entire city of St. Petersburg.

Peter the Great - Emperor of all the Russia

Peter I of Russia, later made Emperor, was the powerful ruler that commissioned the building of St. Petersburg as his capital and Peter of as his residence. That he would choose a position so close to the sea to spend his time is hardly surprising given his life-long love of the sea and study of Naval power. In fact, it was during his reign that the Royal Russian Navy first came into existence just two years after he ascended to full power. During his reign, Russia gained back control of the Baltic and Black Seas and built their first naval bases, including the Kronshtadt base that his visits to led to his choice of St. Petersburg and Peterhof as his capital.

He ascended to the throne in 1682, when only 10 years old, with his infirm brother Ivan V as one of two co-Tsars ruled by his half-sister and regent Sophia. Preferring to design and build ships to hold mock sea battles with rather than spend his time in court, Peter did not become sole ruler of Russia until his brother and mother both died by 1696. At the age of 24 he set about remaking Russia to his liking, most notably beginning a 200-year long campaign to westernize it. During an extended trip through Europe beginning in 1697 to gain support for overthrowing the Ottoman ruler, he spent several months with East India Company shipbuilders in the Netherlands, learning all he could about ship and lock construction before going home to Moscow to build a Navy.

His lifelong love of the sea made Peter of a natural choice, and he spent many hours in the gardens looking out to sea and supervising the activities at Kronshtadt. He was responsible for constructing many of the major buildings in his lifetime, though many of them were embellished or added by his successors. By the time of his death in 1725, St. Petersburg was established as the capital of what had become the Russian Empire during his reign. Without a living and legitimate male heir, his wife Catherine I became Empress.

Site Selection

There was no St. Petersburg until the Peter created it. Just 3 years after his defeat by the King of Sweden in the Battle of Narva in 1700, the city was founded as a permanent post on the Baltic Sea that he had every intention of taking back and in fact, did just a few years later. What better way to create a great and modern city with grand statuary than by starting one from scratch? Work was begun when local stonemasons were forbidden to build anything else from 1703 onward, so they could concentrate all their efforts on the new city. The tax code was also changed at that time so that taxes were collected from all his subjects and not just the landed nobility.

While the city of St. Petersburg does not have a harbor naturally deep enough to handle ocean-going vessels, the nearby sea floor has a precipitous drop-off that makes the islands south and west of the city a better place to catch a ship to Europe and other points west, which Peter and his successors did regularly.

The site for Peterhof was chosen as early as 1805, during what came to be known as the Great Northern Battle that eventually secured the Baltic sea for Russian use, for it's view of the sea and proximity to the new Kronshtadt fortifications on the island of Kotlin. It allows viewing of both the port and city, including all the ocean-going traffic in and out of the area. Situated atop a cliff, 26 Km (~16 mi.) Southwest of his namesake city, the palaces were meant to be a seasonal vacation spot for the whole court. The gardens look out over the Gulf of Finland, which is an inlet of the larger Baltic Sea that connects the Russian mainland with the Scandinavian countries, Germany and Poland. Fond of things Germanic, the name Peterhof is in fact a German name that was changed for many years under the Soviets to the more Russian-sounding Petrodvoréts (or "Peter's Palace") until reverting back in 1997.

One of the most distinguishing physical characteristics of the site is the 16m (~52 ft.) cliffs that separate the upper and lower gardens are only 100m (~110 yd.) from the shore. Over 200m (~220 yards) long, they are made of sturdy stone the two-story grotto that is covered with brownstone, is not a natural feature, and instead, was created from imported rock. The Lower Gardens dominate the landscape, covering over 102 hectares (~252 acres) of the site, and would become Peter's favorite part of the complex, where he spent much of his time in later years, until his death.

For a unique and distinctive selection of fountains and more information and ideas on garden statuar visit http://www.garden-fountains.com/Categories.bok?category=Garden+Fountains and http://www.garden-fountains.com/Categories.bok?category=Garden+Statuary

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