On this day in 1756, one of the most splendid Baroque palaces in history – the palace of Russian Empress Catherine near St. Petersburg – was completed.
This palace can still be seen ten miles south of that city, which was the imperial capital in Catherine’s time. At that time, there was a trend of building luxurious summer residences outside the major cities, so that the royal families could stay in the city during the colder part of the year, and closer to nature in warm weather.
The Catherine Palace was built in the town of Tsarskoye Selo (meaning “Tsar’s Village”). During the time of the USSR, the place was renamed Detskoye Selo (“Children’s Village”) and today it is called Pushkin, commemorating the famous poet Alexander Pushkin.
Tsarskoye Selo could be reached from St. Petersburg relatively quickly by coach. The Catherine Palace is 325 meters long and about 100 kilograms of gold were used to gild the ornaments. Later Russian emperors used the palace as a summer residence, while in St. Petersburg they had their famous Winter Palace.
One of the greatest treasures within the palace was the so-called Amber Room. At one time the room was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and it was crafted with amber, gold and mirrors.
When the Germans occupied the Leningrad surroundings during World War II, the Amber Room was disassembled and sent to the Third Reich. It is believed to be one of the most valuable individual treasures that Nazi Germany looted. The Amber Room was never found and its disappearance is one of the greatest mysteries in history.