The palaces and parks of Lomonosov, formerly Oranienbaum, are gems of 18th-century Russian culture and art. Nationalized in 1918, they were reorganized into a museum in 1922. During the past war, despite nazi encirclement, gallant defenders heroically resisted every attempt to take the town. Though the buildings remained tor the most part intact, the exteriors and interior decor suffered heavily, as too did the surrounding parklands. The collections had luckily been evacuated in the early months of the war. In 1946 the Chinese Palace was restored and opened to the public, Peter the Third's Palace in 1953 and the Katalnaya Gorka Pavilion in 1959.
Completed towards the close of the 18th century, the present ensemble was initiated when the architects D. Fontana and G. Schadel built its nucleus, the Great Palace-a unique Petrovian edifice-for Prince Men-shikov who likewise commissioned the Lower Gardens to be laid out. The architect A. Rinaldi planned the Upper Park and its palaces which were built between 1750s and 1780s. First to be erected were the Palace of Peter III, a handsome building of elegant austere form, and the gates to the poteshnaya (toy) fortress of Peterstadt. Put up by Russian craftsmen, the fortress was starshaped in pattern with ramparts as radiating arms, the whole surrounded by a deep moat crossed by several drawbridges. Peter the Third's Palace, the Entrance Gates and the remains of the fort's ramparts and moat are still extant.
Today the ground-floor premises of Peter the Third's Palace, previously
the servants' quarters, house an exhibition tracing the history of Lomo-nosov's palaces and parks. The lovely first-floor rooms are decorated with carved woodwork, friezes, silk hangings and some unique lacquers, by the serf craftsman Vlasov, resembling works of Chinese workmen.
Known in the 18th century as the Sobstvennaya (mine own) Estate, the central part of the Upper Park with its Chinese Palace and the Katalnaya Gorka Pavilion, was built by the architect A. Rinaldi for the Empress Catherine II. A blend of palace and pavilion, the Chinese Palace-conventionally termed thus rather for the elegance of its four interior decorations and its fine collections of applied arts-is an exclusively summer house whose somewhat austere exterior is in deliberate contrast to its handsome interior. The amazingly refined decor of its seventeen small rooms has been achieved by the use of such diverse media as bugle beads, wood, imitation marble, smalto, paint and brocade. One should also note the unique parquetry, the handiwork of Russian master-craftsmen. Built concurrently with the Palace was the Katalnaya Gorka (toboggan hill), a most impressive architectural ensemble for the time, consisting of pavilion, toboggan chutes and colonnaded galleries to enclose these chutes, which on the pavilion's southern side occupied the currently existing meadow. The galleries and chutes were dismantled in the mid-19th century, but the fine interior decor of the still extant pavilion ranks it among Russian architectural gems of the second half of the 18th century. Its large glass doors and terrace furnish a beautiful panoramic view of the park's lovely walks, pond and the Gulf of Finland. The park itself is an excellent piece of landscaping, a consummate blend of architecture and natural environs most tastefully adapted to the typical scenery of Northern Russia.