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The three-storey blue building with white semi-columns, stretching out along the Palace Embankment, is called the House of Gagarin.
Its story is directly related to Anna Lopukhina, the last favorite of the Emperor Pavel the First.
The Emperor noticed 21-year old lady at one of the balls in Moscow, fell in love at once and proposed her father, Senator Peter Lopukhin, to move to Petersburg with all of his family. Otherwise, all of them would fall under disgrace and had to travel a long way to Siberia. In Petersburg, Lopukhin assumed a position of the Attorney General, the Prince’s title and a mansion on the Palace Embankment. As to Anna herself, she became a Maid of Honor for the Empress.
However, the status of the Emperor’s favorite did not hinder Anna from getting married on Pavel Gagarin. The newly married couple received a generous gift. The Emperor expanded the possessions of Lopukhins merging with a neighboring landlot and assigned the architect Giacomo Quarenghi to integrate the buildings standing there into a single big house. The construction was going on almost a year, but everybody was finally happy. Anna with her husband received a real palace on the Embankment, and Pavel – a cozy lover’s home, where he came over to take breaks from his state matters. The architect was not forgotten as well – the Emperor awarded him with the Medal of St.John of Jerusalem.
Do you see a wide balcony on façade of the building? Quarenghi strongly recommended the hosts to come out on it in the evening to enjoy the sunset. People said different things about attitude of Gagarin towards his wife. Did he love Anna so that he turned a blind eye to her affair with the Emperor, or, he just loved money? We can only guess.
Anna passed away of the consumption in four years after assassination of Pavel. In 1814, Prince Gagarin retired and locked himself in his big house on Palace Embankment. He absolutely stopped taking care of his appearance, and turned rooms of his house into a shelter for homeless animals. The sick and wounded dogs were lying down on Lion silk stuffed sofas and clanked with bowls on mosaic parquet like hosts.
Gagarin assigned one of the rooms for birds, which were flying within it and leaving droppings on expensive Gobelin tapestries. And, on balcony, where the Prince enjoyed sunsets with his wife a while ago, he fed jackdaws and doves, which flew to him from neighboring roofs.
No less surprise was evoked by the Prince’s second marriage after 26 years of lonesome life. At this time, he chose a Ballet Dancer Maria Spiridonova. Their daughter Natalia, married last name of Zherebtsova, became the only heir of the House on the Embankment. Very practical lady, she remodeled it and turned it into a common rental house.
During the centuries of Empire St. Petersburg was a grand city with ceremonial buildings, rich and pompous palaces. Even today St. Petersburg can boast a huge number of palaces, including some of the grandest residences not just in Russia, but in the whole of Europe.
Our audio guide will take you to the most famous palaces and Grand residences of St. Petersburg. We can start with the Tauride Palace and Garden, one of the largest and most historic complexes in Russia. This palace was designed for Grigory Potemkin in a rigorous Palladian style. In the 19th century, the palace was transformed into a residence for minor royalty. It had been used to host balls and exhibitions until 1906, when it was given as a seat of the first Russian parliament, the Imperial State Duma.
You will also hear the history of the Winter Palace, the most prominent palace in Russia. The Winter Palace not only physically dominates Palace Square and the south embankment of the Neva River, but also plays a central political, symbolic, and cultural role in the three-century history of the city. It was declared part of the State Hermitage Museum on 17 October 1917. Now the Winter Palace, the Hermitage and all historical landmarks of St. Petersburg are enlisted by the UNESCO.
Another famous building is Anichkov Palace located next to Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka River. It’s one of the oldest buildings on Nevsky Prospect commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1741. When the palace was completed she presented it to Aleksey Razumovsky, her favourite and unofficial spouse.
Mariinsky Palace, the last neoclassical imperial palace to be constructed in Saint Petersburg, was built between 1839 and 1844 by the court architect Andrei Stackensneider. The palace stands on the south side of St Isaac's Square, just across the 99-metre-wide Blue Bridge from Saint Isaac's Cathedral. The palace was conceived by Emperor Nicholas I as a wedding present to his daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna.
During the tour you will also see the houses and mansions of famous court and military people: The House of Saltykov, The Marble Palace, The Vladimir Palace, The Mikhailovsky Castle, The Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace, The House of Gagarin, etc. Each building has its own history sometimes dramatic.
Take a walk in the Summer Garden. It was founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it, and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles. The Summer Garden is home to marble statues acquired from Europe especially for Russia's new capital, and also to rare flowers and plants, as well as fountains.
The Field of Mars, not far from the Summer Garden, has a long and varied history dating back to the very beginning of the city's history. You will listen to it while walking. To your attention will also be the stories and legends of The First Engineer Bridge, The Salt City, The Building of Senate and Synod, The Isakievsky Cathedral, The Petropavlovsk Fortress.
With audio visual materials you will also get a map that won’t let you lose your way.