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FinStoniBurg: One month anniversary!

By mdirkers on June 22, 2016

05-22-16, Catherine's Palace


On the 22nd of the previous month, a time that seems almost alive in recent memory, the Benton Scholars ’19 experienced what may have been one of the most glorious Russian residences one could occupy. This palace is called Peterhof’s Palace, Peterhof meaning “Peter’s Court,” in honor of Czar Peter the Great. Located in the district of Peterhof in the city of St. Petersburg, this palace has been named “the Russian Versailles” for its stunning expression of architectural beauty and detail. Interestingly, in alignment with the nickname, Czar Peter is said to have drawn his inspiration for this palace from the French palace at Versailles. Peter the Great’s daughter became very fond of the palace, and she was the one responsible for expanding the grounds to showcase a series of magnificent statues and exquisite parks. Adorning the palace grounds is the Grand Cascade, a series of gravity-fed water fountains, the tallest of which is the fountain of Samson wrestling the lion. The water from all of these fountains flows out to the canal from the palace and into the Gulf of Finland, where Russian rulers would welcome foreign royalty to Peterhof. Between the waters of the gulf and the palace are the Peterhof Gardens, a potpourri of fountains, statues, hedges, trees, and shrubs. From the sea to the palace grounds, this expansive mansion was undoubtedly a visual wonder to behold!

While all of the architectural splendor of this site was certainly to be admired, what really stood out were the skills required to envision, design, and construct such a magnificent palace. Today, architects can plan and model buildings in a computer program, easily testing and refining their plans in a digital world, thanks to all of the technological innovation within the last fifty years which has moved our world into the digital age. However, these luxuries for construction that we enjoy contemporarily were not in existence approximately three-hundred years ago when this palace, started as nothing more than scratches on parchment, was in its infancy. Imagine having to plan and build such an expansive residence, detailed golden statues, plumbing for fountains, aqueducts for water, and parks with royal landscaping, without any electronic assistance. Yes, this means entirely by paper and by hand, a feat which serves as testimony to the mastery of those who built this wonder. The one who began the palace as marks on parchment birthed a vision for one of the most breathtaking palaces in Russia.

And to think, “This palace was not just a fancy display item; it was someone’s residence—a place where people awoke each morning, conducted national business, enjoyed the fresh air of the parks, dined on fine food, slept in comfort and security, and lived their lives.”