The Winter Palace was constructed between 1754 and 1762 and served the purpose of winter residence for the Russian Tsars – this is the reason for which the edifice bears this name.
The architect behind the project was Bartolomeo Rastrelli who designed the edifice in a Baroque style. The vividly colored palace (in green and white) has a total of 1.786 doors and 1.945 windows, 1.500 chambers and 117 staircases, so you can only imagine the immensity of the Winter Palace.
The Winter Palace has a quadrilateral structure, measuring 30 m in height and 250 m in length (the main façade). The exterior is still reflexive of the palace which was originally constructed, but the interior design has suffered modifications – nowadays different styles can be noticed within the chambers. Because of this, Budberg defined the edifice as a “19th-century palace inspired by a model in Rococo style.”
The edifice was the property of the Russian monarchs until 1917, when the population sieged the Winter Palace during the Russian Revolution. At this point, the edifice became the site for the Russian Temporary Government. But the palace once more changes hands as the Bolshevik forces begin their assault on the edifice, this action marking the beginning of the Socialist Revolution which took place in October, 1917.
Nowadays, the palace is part of the Hermitage Museum Complex which contains one of the largest collections of art from all over the world.
The palace underwent several renovation works throughout time. In fact, the edifice which presents itself in front of our eyes at present, is the forth “version” of the original Winter Palace. In the later part of the 1730s, a fire of massive proportions took hold of the construction causing severe damages.
The Russian Tsar immediately gave order for the edifice to be “resurrected”, but the work was not complete until 1837, as constant transformations were inflicted. The palace was mean to accurately represent the strength and authority of Imperial Russia and it is precisely because of this that the palace has been designed at an epic scale.
Another event of high importance occurred in 1905 when a mass of protesters headed towards the Winter Palace with one purpose in mind – to shed the blood of the royal family. But the monarchs were no longer using the palace as dwelling, seeking retreat in a safer place where they could not fall to the angry hands of the demonstrators. But nevertheless, history recorded a bloodbath in that day – an event which has ever since been known as the Bloody Sunday Massacre.
The exterior of the Winter Palace consists of artistically crafted statues and stuccos which adorn the façades. The public had always been allowed to visit the main façades; it was the lateral ones which were not visible to the eye. These were veiled by massive stone walls and contained a beautiful garden in between them.
The main reception ballroom is the Nicholas Hall, named after Tsar Nicholas II. The interior design is distinguishable thought the tall windows which are separated one from the other by means of pillars. In fact, the palace has a multitude of porches, these being the only architectural designs that interfere with the otherwise symmetrical décor of the tall windows.
One thing that has changed constantly throughout time is the color in which the edifice was painted. The dual coloration mentioned previously (white and green) was conveyed during the improvement work conducted after WWII. The edifice was painted in green, while white was used to bring out the sculptural pieces and other objects of décor. Previously, the Winter Palace was painted in a paler shade of red.
As it has been said, the interior design combines a mixture of styles, manly Baroque and Neoclassical, with a hint of Rococo (as much as it was preserved during the constant renovations). There are only two elements in the entire place which have been preserved in their original form: the Jordan Staircase and the Grand Church.
The alterations conducted can be explained through the fact that Empress Catherine the Great (also known as Catherine II) was always following the latest trends and wanted to dwell in a modern palace which was accurately depicting the newest and most fashionable architectural styles. It is because of this that traces of Western Europe have managed to find their way to Sankt Petersburg.
Whether or not these modifications were to the detriment of the palace is debatable as each work has contributed to a certain extend to the rename conveyed at present to the Winter Palace. The “monument” palace has reached this status precisely due to the architectural and decorative transformations underwent by the edifice under different Russian monarchs.