The Mariinsky Palace

This palace is often called ‘the centre of Russian statehood’. The history of the building confirms the justness of these words. Initially it was just a wedding present to a woman called Maria and it’s where the palace title originates from.

The Mariinsky Palace was built by architect Andrei Stackenshneider in 1839-1844 for the daughter of Emperor Nicholas, the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna. It was the Emperor’s present for Maria’s marriage to the Duke Maximilian Leichtenberg.
The Mariinsky Palace had played an important role in the architectural arrangement of the St. Isaac’s Square by closing it from the south. The Square itself was reconstructed in order to underline this role of the palace. As a matter of fact, the part of the square before the palace is the Blue Bridge that connects the Moika River’s banks. The bridge was enlarged to 99 meters wide and became the widest bridge in St. Petersburg.

The palace plan is an asymmetric one: its right wing is shorter than the left one and is built at an obtuse angle to the main building. The main façade is arranged in the classicism style with the addition of other architectural styles. The central risalit is accented by a powerful high arcade of a lower floor with Corinthian pillars. A broad balcony with six large vases is situated above the arcade.

The inner layout of the palace is an unusual one. The entrance hall, the front staircase and the reception hall were finished with dark-crimson marble pilasters. Two mutually intersecting suites of rooms were located on the second floor; the intersection point was a two-deck rotunda illuminated by the overhead light coming through a glass dome. Behind the rotunda the so-called Square Room was situated. The room has a choir area and gives into the vast Winter Garden with rare tropical plants. A fountain with 8 meters high water jet was place in the centre of the garden. To the rotunda’s left the concert and dancing hall was arranged with windows overlooking the palace courtyard.

The construction of the palace building progressed with a rapid pace. The young couple moved in the palace in 1845. The Duke Maximilian passed away in 1852 and Maria Nikolayevna had lived in the palace until her death in 1876. The Mariinsky Palace was inherited by her children, Eugene and George Leichtenberg who sold it for debts.
Starting from 1885 the palace building hosted the State Counsel and the Committee of Ministers of the Russian Empire as well as the Military Ministry office.

On 7 May 1901 the ceremonial meeting of the State Counsel that celebrated its 100th anniversary was held at the rotunda of the Mariinsky Palace. During World War I the palace was used as a military hospital. The complete restoration of palace interiors was performed only in 1960s-1970s. Today the palace is the home for the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg.
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