Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn – Reval. Kadroru loss.
Postmarked 1927
Publisher: Jaan Winnal

Virtual tour

Google Street View (approximate).

Kadriorg Palace is a Petrine Baroque palace built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great in Tallinn, Estonia. Both the Estonian and the German name for the palace means “Catherine’s valley”. It was built after the Great Northern War for Nicola Michetti’s designs by Gaetano Chiaveri and Mikhail Zemtsov.

After the successful siege of Tallinn during the final phase of the Great Northern War in 1710 czar Peter the Great of Russia bought a small Dutch-style manor house at Lasnamäe for his wife Catherine. The house today is the result of a drastic renovation ordered by Nicholas I of Russia in 1827. However, plans for a larger palace in the area soon developed and construction of a new palace, Kadriorg, was started on 25 July 1718. Peter and Catherine visited the unfinished residence on several occasions, but after the emperor’s death in 1725 Catherine showed no interest in the seaside property. The great hall with Catherine’s initials and profuse stucco decor (attributed to Heinrich von Bergen) survives, while many other interiors have been altered. . . . After the declaration of independence of Estonia in 1919, the palace became state property. For a time, one of the wings housed the studio of sculptor August Weizenberg while the palace was used for art exhibitions. Between 1921 and 1928 the palace housed what would eventually develop into the Art Museum of Estonia.

Kadriog Palace and Park has a long history in Tallinn. It was commissioned by Peter the Great after he successfully brought Estonia under his domain. The Palace was to be a sea-side home for himself and his wife, Catherine I of Russia. Building of the Palace was started in July of 1718. Niccolo Michetti, the Italian architect, designed this beautiful Baroque Palace. Although only two stories tall, it is a very grand building. Unfortunately, Peter died before the building was completed. Catherine lost all interest in the palace after the death of her husband, and never visited it, even after the palace was completed. Parts of the palace were left to fall into disrepair; however, the great hall has been lovingly preserved and restored.

Construction work in the palace was a joint effort of several foreign masters: in addition to the Italian chief architect, parts of the job were carried out by the Roman architect Gaetano Chiaveri, the Venetian stucco master Antonio Quadri, Salomon Zeltrecht from Sweden, the sculptor Heinrich von Bergen from Riga, and many others. Several of those men later worked in Saint Petersburg; the founding of a new Russian capital also provided employment for another Kadriorg Palace architect, Mikhail Zemtsov, who was in charge of construction in Kadriorg after Michetti returned to Italy. Workers were brought in from Russia, and more difficult tasks were fulfilled by soldiers from the Tallinn garrison or by forced labourers. In the town of Tallinn, which was nearly empty of people and had been severely damaged by war, the construction of an unprecedentedly magnificent palace next to the modest local summer manors, seaside rocks and junipers seemed like a miracle.The strong will of a ruler who wanted to break from tradition planted a fragile southern architectural masterpiece in the harsh climate of northern Europe. Unfortunately, the builders did not manage to carry out all of Michetti’s and Peter’s grandiose plans because, after the death of the tsar in 1725, the interest of Russian rulers in the Baltic Sea, its navy, Tallinn and the palace died down for quite a while.
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A new chapter in the history of Kadriorg began in 1827. As in earlier days, changes were linked to the arrival of a ruler. In that year, Emperor Nicholas I visited Tallinn for the first time, and was very disgruntled that he could not stay in the imperial palace built by Peter I, as Kadriorg Palace was in such bad condition that staying there overnight was impossible. After his visit, the emperor gave orders to transfer the palace, which Paul I had entrusted to the civilian governor of Estonia, back to the administration of the Ministry of the Imperial Court, to immediately start renovation work on the building and park, and to provide the palace and its annexes with everything necessary.

The reconstruction of 1827–1831 was in accordance with the changes that had taken place in the lifestyle of the imperial family and the court. Family relations, feelings and a natural way of life were considered more important than exterior magnificence. So that guests could enjoy the healthy sea air more comfortably, an awning with curtains was placed on the balcony, the stairs leading to the Flower Garden were replaced by a semicircular enclosed veranda, and a new staircase was added to the seaside wing. All of the rooms were fitted with fancy furniture, bathrooms were installed, lamps, Persian rugs and works of art were brought to Tallinn, and special porcelain sets and glazed earthenware were ordered from the Kiev-Mezhigorsk faience factory. The purpose of rooms was also altered. The most respectable rooms on the main floor in the seaside wing were furnished as the apartment of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna; above her, on the third floor, the living rooms of the emperor and the crown prince were located; the bedrooms and living rooms of the emperor’s daughters covered both floors of the right wing. The 18th-century ceremonial enfilade of rooms became the summer house of a large family.
Kadriorg Art Museum

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