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The outstanding representative of Peter the Great epoch: Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg

If you dream to touch the heyday of Imperial Russia, to see how rich families lived, to look at the wonders and works of great masters, then Menshikov Palace is what you need! The unique estate on Vasilievsky Island shows old interiors and unique finishes, the rarest materials of domestic and foreign production and exhibits that simply have no analogues!

The location of Menshikov Palace and how to reach it

The palace of knyaz Menshikov is located on the University Embankment of St. Petersburg in the house № 15. The closest to the museum is the Vasileostrovskaya metro station - you can walk along the Sixth Line and turn left on the embankment towards the Rumyantsevsky Garden. The road will take about 15 minutes, but along the way you can see the unique architecture of the island and many historical monuments.

If you do not want to walk, then at the exit of the metro you can take buses No. 6 or 24 and drive exactly three stops - you will have to walk 200 meters to the palace. You can also get on the river bus - it stops on the promenade a little less than 300 meters from the palace.

The museum is open every day except Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays - until 5 p.m.. The ticket office closes one and a half hour before the end of the museum’s working day.

The history of Menshikov Palace creation: from the 18th century to the present days

In 1710 Knyaz Menshikov, Governor General of St. Petersburg, began the construction of the estate on Vasilievsky Island granted to him by Peter the Great. In the same year, a wooden Ambassadorial Palace was built, but the construction and decoration of the stone palace took more than 10 years. Main part of the project was designed and executed by the Italian architect Fontana, but after his departure from the city in 1713, the architect Schedel took up the expansion of construction and decoration.

In 1714, Knyaz Menshikov and his family moved to a three-story palace with his private chambers, the rooms of his wife Daria Mikhailovna and her sister Varvara, rooms for servants, halls for business and social receptions. In addition, at one time the chambers of Peter the Second, who lived in the palace as the future son-in-law of Knyaz Menshikov, were located in the western wing. The courtyard and the lobby of the palace were a real art gallery - painting, sculpture and elegant artistic decoration amazed the imagination with richness and sophistication. The apartments in the palace were richly decorated with ceramics and walnut wood. Meanwhile, the construction of the castle continued - by 1727 the foundation of the eastern wing was laid, which, unfortunately, was completed only forty years later.

In the same 1727, knyaz was exiled, and all his property was confiscated in favor of the state. Over the years, the palace began to lose its splendor and greatness. The Resurrection Church was dilapidated and demolished, and in the fifties a riding arena was built in its place. The sprawling park was partially cut down and it was often used as a training ground. Even the wooden Ambassadorial Palace, which housed the cultural center of St. Petersburg, was destroyed.

As for the stone residence of Menshikov, it quickly turned into an administrative building, in which at first the offices of various departments met, and then the palace was given to the needs of the Shlyakhetsky cadet corps. In 1769, the eastern building was built, in which the Council of military educational institutions was located, which was also founded until 1924. Then the restoration of the palace was started.

In 1966-1981, large-scale restoration work began at the suggestion of Hesse, and the palace building itself was transferred to the custody of the Hermitage. At the end of the restoration, a museum exposition dedicated to the Petrine era of Russia was opened in the palace.

Interesting and unusual facts about Menshikov Palace

  • Peter the Great granted territory on Vasilyevsky Island to his favorite Menshikov for the courage shown during the Northern War with Sweden;
  • Unlike the favorite, Peter did not have a ceremonial residence, so he often organized receptions in Menshikov Palace – feasts, balls and weddings were held here;
  • Knyaz Menshikov had his own guards regiment, which carried a guard in the Guardhouse - this room was located near the lobby, and today visitors can see it in the original strict interior;
  • Several kitchens for gentlemen and staff worked in the palace at once - today they are part of the museum complex, along with a cookery, utensils and stoves;
  • The entire infrastructure was located on the territory of the palace - a large wooden Church of the Resurrection, the Ambassadorial Palace, baths, a honey factory, a bakery, a forge and a garden. Unfortunately, only a stone palace has survived to the present day;
  • Very expensive and exclusive materials were used for creating the palace interior, many of them had to be imported from other countries. The decoration used sculpture and stucco, marble, gold, silver, ceramics, walnut and many other precious materials of that time;
  • Some of the palace premises were lined with Dutch tiles, which was so expensive in Holland that it used only for exhibitions;
  • Surprisingly, the reason for Menshikov exile, the best friend of Peter the Great and the war hero, was the accusation of treasury embezzlement;
  • Initially, the central palace building was four-story, but the basement went underground by 2 meters due to 300 years of layering and superstructures;
  • Menshikov Palace is included in the Unified State Register of Cultural Heritage of the Russian Federation.

What you should definitely see in Menshikov Palace

Bust of the palace owner

It was installed in the courtyard in 2002 and reliably depicts Knyaz Menshikov, who became the first and the only owner of the palace.

The palace layout in its original form

On a scale model, the view of the palace in 1714 immediately after construction is reproduced in detail.

Attica sculptures

Unfortunately, these magnificent works have not been preserved in their original form, but you can see their reduced copies cast from metal.

Dutch tile

That fabulously expensive painted tile, which the palace was decorated under Knyaz Menshikov. You can personally see the simple everyday plots and landscapes that were applied to the tiles manually.

Grand Chamber

This hall was used for ceremonial receptions and it surely impresses with its rich interior. For example, the walls of the hall are decorated with seventeenth-century trellis showing paintings from Perseus life, and there is a sculpture of Apollo in the corner of the hall, created in Rome in the second century AD.

Cook room

In this room, dishes were prepared for the palace owners. Here you can see various utensils, tin and copper dishes of Peter's times.

Turnery

In this room there were machines and tools for working wood and metal. Peter the Great liked to work here, and you can see the plates made by the emperor himself.

Cordegard

The personal guards’ regiment of knyaz Menshikov was located here - the honorary guard was kept in rather ascetic chambers. Here you can see samples of furniture and weapons of those years.

Chambers of Daria Mikhailovna

The knyaz wife occupied the western wing of the castle. In the front room, the walls are covered with fabric and decorated with portraits of Menshikov daughters and Peter the Great. The red walls are perfectly combined with carved furniture and a unique wooden chest. The western reception is decorated with Chinese silk wallpaper with traditional hand-painted paintings and oak panels. The last room faces the Neva, and the interior is decorated with paintings and a seventeenth-century secretary with marble painted inserts.

Front Hall

This hall occupies the entire central part of the castle, and this is the place where the receptions and the assemblies of Peter the Great were held. The walls are decorated with gold stucco and original paintings, and at the end of the room there is a unique organ watch made of mahogany by the Englishman William Winrow in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Secretary room

This room is the first one in the east wing enfilade. Particularly valuable in the interior of the room are a carved walnut cabinet, a walnut cabinet-work of the Italian master and armillary sphere of the eighteenth century with compass.

Pre-bedroom

This room served for the Governor General as the Reception Office; here important government affairs were discussed. The walls of the room are decorated with ceramic tiles, and a special charm to the interior is given by an old English clock of the eighteenth century, which was a real curiosity even for very wealthy people in Russia.

Chambers of Varvara Arsenyeva

The private room of Menshikov wife's sister is decorated with tiles and stucco molding. Varvara had problems with her back and was a hunchback.  She did not have her personal family, so she looked after her sister's children and helped in the conduct of family affairs.

Walnut Hall

The most magnificent and impressive hall of the palace is decorated with walnut brought from Persia, and the space between the central windows is occupied by an ebony cabinet made in the 17th century in Flanders. The ceiling lamp was painted on canvas by Philip Pilman, and the four female heads in the corners of the ceiling represent the four daughters of knyaz Menshikov.

 

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