Pavlovsk, the most recent of the Imperial summer palaces near St. Petersburg, stands in exceptionally picturesque grounds 30 km south of the city, a few miles beyond the town of Pushkin. It was founded in 1777, at the time when Empress Catherine the Great presented 600 hectares of land along the Slavyanka River to her son Paul and his wife Maria Fedorovna. Soon afterwards, in 1782 architect Cameron was commissioned to build the Grand Palace. At the same time the park was outlined and a number of smaller pavilions and bridges were erected. In 1796, when Paul I came to power, Pavlovsk was transformed to the Imperial residence. Cameron was replaced by Vincenzo Brenna, who extended the palace and rebuilt the pavilions and summer houses in the park. After Paul’s death in 1801 the palace belonged to his wife Maria Fedorovna who outlived her husband by 27 years and made numerous modifications to the palace and park. With the completion of Russia’s first railway line in 1837, Pavlovsk became a popular resort. A railway station with a large concert hall, Vauxhall, was built here by architect Stakenschneider.
The architectural center of the Pavlovsk ensemble is the Pavlovsk Palace designed in the spirit of the Russian Classicism. Around the palace there is an enormous Pavlovsk Park covering an area of more than 600 hectares. The Pavlovsk Park, one of the largest in Europe, is one of the pearls of the world landscape art. The park consists of seven sections each defined by the exquisite uniqueness of layout.
The splendid palace section combines landscaped areas with formal ones. The route begins at the Great Palace. The Statue of Paul I which you can see on the parade ground was erected in 1872.
To the east of the palace stretches the Triple Lime Alley, the compositional axis of the Palace section, which leads to the formal Aviary area of the park with flower beds, a rose garden and a maze. The main piece of architecture in this area is the Aviary, designed by Charles Cameron in 1872. In the 18th century song-birds were kept in the left-hand gallery and the right-hand one was used for dancing, luncheons and dinners.
On the other side of the Triple Lime Alley is the Dairy Pavilion. This pavilion with its thatched roof was built in the form of a Swiss chalet with an overhanging gable resting on wooden posts. It contained a cow-shed for six cows and a storage section for milk and dairy products. But the chalet also had less functional parts, for example, the room with a domed ceiling painted by Francesco Camporezi, gilt furniture, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, and silk curtains at the windows where the Emperor and his family sometimes rested.
Not far from the Dairy Pavilion is yet another building by Cameron, the Parents’ Memorial. In the center on a pedestal of grey marble there is a pyramid and a medallion with profiles of Duke Frederick of Wuerttemberg and his wife, the Duchess Frederica Sophia Dorothea, who were the parents of Maria Fedorovna. On the pediment there is a simple inscription that reads: «To my parents». This beautiful composition was the work of the sculptor Ivan Martos in 1807.
Continuing along the bank of the Slavyanka, you come to the part known as Old Silvia, which was laid in 1793 by Brenna. The central part is called the Twelve Paths. Entering the stone gates you come to a square around which there are 12 bronze statues which were cast at the St. Petersburg Arts Academy from ancient originals. In the center of the circle stands Apollo, god of the sun and protector of the muses.
Further on you will see the semicircular Amphitheater, on a high promontory above the Slavyanka, where theatrical productions were staged. From here you can see a broad panorama of picturesque bridges and pavilions, cascades and clumps of trees, glades and meadows.
From the amphitheater, on the far side of the river you can see a distinctive pavilion. It consists of a round stone tower surmounted by a conical straw roof. It is called the Pil-Tower and was built in 1795. Pietro Gonzago has painted this tower to resemble picturesque ruins. Inside, however, the pavilion was fairly opulent.
Behind the Pil-Tower stretches one of the most romantic sections of the park, the Red Valley. Pietro Gonzago used the natural relief here to create the ideal type of landscape park: the bridges of rough stone, foaming waterfalls, winding paths following the river bends, clumps of trees and single trees with strange shapes form the most delightful landscapes.
To the right of the Pil-Tower you can see the Ruin Cascade and behind it is the New Silvia section with the World’s End Column of pink marble and the Mausoleum of Paul I. This part of the park was completed in 1800 by Brenna who concentrated mainly on creating a variety of forest landscapes.
Let us now go down one of the staircases from the Amphitheater and walk along the riverside path on the left to yet another part of Pavlovsk Park, the Slavyanka Valley. Our first stop will be the Visconti Bridge. It was built by Paolo Visconti in 1808 from a design by Andrey Voronikhin, and is faced with limestone. The vases on the piers and other decorations are also of limestone.
Continuing past Round Lake we can see the Great Cascade built by Charles Cameron on the opposite bank. A little further along the bank is Cameron’s first building in Pavlovsk Park, the Temple of Friendship which is the compositional focal point of this section. The temple is round in shape and surrounded with a Doric colonnade. The upper section of the walls is ornamented with circular bas-reliefs on the themes of love and friendship. The inside consists of a large hall with niches and a lantern in the dome.
The Italian Staircase stands on a slope down to the river and links the Palace section with Slavyanka Valley. The sixty-four steps are divided into four flights. There are wrought-iron lions on the lower flights and marble lions on the upper ones. In front of the staircase is a platform with ornamental vases and a balustrade.
Going past the Black and Humpbacked Bridges over the Slavyanka, we come to the Centaur Bridge designed by Charles Cameron. In 1805 Andrey Voronikhin placed the marble statues of four centaurs, the work of an Italian sculptor, at the four corners of the bridge. The bridge spans the Slavyanka at a point where the river is narrow and together with the Cold Bath and the Palace forms a most picturesque composition.
The Cold Bath was also designed by Cameron. It takes the form of a small rotunda with an adjoining rectangular section adorned with a pediment and two niches on either side of the entrance. The walls of the pavilion have no ornament on the outside. Inside, however, both the walls and the dome were covered with paintings. In the center of the circular chamber was a swimming pool. The rectangular section was used as a dressing room.
From the Cold Baths there is a good view of yet another classical piece of park architecture, the Apollo’s Colonnade. In the center is the statue of the Belvedere Apollo. The colonnade adorns the left bank of the river in the Slavyanka Valley section, forming yet another picturesque corner of the park.
Southwest of the Great Palace, separated from the rest of the park by a high iron railing, Cameron laid out the Private Garden in a formal Dutch style, with flowerbeds that explode with color in summertime. At the far end of the garden, by the main road, is the Greek-style Three Graces Pavilion designed by Charles Cameron in 1800. The pavilion consists of a covered terrace with 16 white Ionic columns. On the pediments there are bas-reliefs of Apollo with his lyre and other accouterments of the arts and Minerva, the goddess of wisdom with symbols of strength and glory. In 1803 a sculpture by Paolo Triscorni was placed in the center of the pavilion. It represented the figures of the three Graces – Euphrosyne, Thalia and Aglaia and was made of a single block of marble. The three graces are depicted supporting a vase which is decorated with ornamentation and masks.