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The Catherine Park is made up of two parts: the Regular Park – Old Garden – and the Landscape (English) Park. The Old or Dutch Garden is said to have been begun by Peter I himself.

Whatever the truth of that, it was the Dutch master gardeners Jan Roosen and Johann Vocht who laid out the Old Garden in the 1720s on three terraces in front of the imperial palace. At that same time the Mirror Ponds were created on the third terrace and on the stream called Vangaza that flowed down the hill two more ponds: the Upper (Great) Pond and the Mill Pond (later incorporated into the system of Cascade or Lower Ponds).

In the middle of the eighteenth century the garden was enlarged, remodelled and decorated with sculpture by Bartolomeo Francesco  Rastrelli, who designed the Hermitage and Grotto, and also a Coasting Hill. The great pond with a Lusthaus (amusement pavilion) on an island within it was given a hexagonal shape and surrounded by paths. Click to enlargeFinally in the 1770s Vasily Neyelov and his son Ilya constructed in the garden the Admiralty complex, the Hermitage Kitchen, the Upper and Lower Bathhouses. The Longitudinal (Cascade) Canal extended along the boundary of the garden right to the Lower Ponds, incorporating twelve weirs.

At that same time an English landscape park was laid out in the area to the south of the palace around the Great Pond. The work begun under the supervision of Vasily Neyelov and was completed by the English master gardener John Bush. Now part of the new park, the Great Pond was reshaped and turned into a lake; the rectangular lines of the Lower Ponds were also softened. The Crescent Ponds appeared on the third terrace, where they remained right up to the reconstruction of that part of the park in the 1960s. Portrait of Catherine II near the Kagul Obelisk in the parkIt was at this time that the bodies of water, which occupy a fifth of the area of the Catherine Park became an important element in its appearance. The natural slope of the terrain towards the north-east made it possible to link all the bodies of water into a single gravity-driven system and include some small, but boisterous waterfalls.

Catherine II hastened to show enlightened Europe a garden that was not only laid out in the latest style, but also decorated with monuments that extolled the greatness of her reign. In honour of Russian victories against Turkey, for example, in the 1770s and 1780s she had erected the Tower Ruin, the Chesme, Morea and Crimean Columns, the Kagul Obelisk, the Turkish Kiosk and Red or Turkish Cascade.

Catherine ParkThe fine taste of the Empress – enlightener and legislator – was demonstrated by the Cold Bath pavilion with the Agate Rooms, the Cameron Gallery, the Concert Hall and other Classical structures. The construction of the cast-iron Gothic Gate and a large number of metal bridges testified to the high level that Russian industry had attained. In turn the varied design and artistic treatment of the park pavilions and summer houses were a reminder that the garden was made for pleasure and relaxation.

In the early nineteenth century the number of monuments to martial glory increased with the To-my-Dear-Comrades-in-Arms Gate dedicated to the victory over Napoleon and in the middle of the century the Catherine Park ensemble was completed with the Turkish Bath pavilion. Finally, in 1865, on the lawn in front of the south façade of the Zubov Wing the Private Garden was laid out with a marble fountain and a pergola-veranda in the Italian style.