Pavlovsk is the youngest of the grand Imperial estates around St. Petersburg. Named in honour of Tsar Pavel, this fine neo-classical palace and its extensive landscaped gardens are stamped with his taste and even more so with that of his wife, the German-born Maria Feodorovna. Although there was no love lost between Pavel and his mother, Catherine the Great, it was she who originally presented him with the 362 desyatinas - 607 hectares - of land around the Slavyanskaya River. Perhaps it was the impossibility of living with her son at Tsarskoe Selo, combined with the desire to keep him and his family reasonably close, that prompted her to do so, although the official reason was the birth of her grandson, the future Alexander I.
Both the Park and the Palace at Pavlovsk were victims of wanton destruction during the Nazi occupation, and the extraordinary restoration project was not completed until the mid-1950s. Fortunately, there were extensive blueprints available for all aspects of the estate, so what you see now is almost entirely faithful to the original designs.
That the palace achieved such a harmonious facade belies the fact that it was conceived as a much smaller building, with the design expanded and embellished during construction. The task of designing the palace was originally assigned by Catherine the Great to Charles Cameron, the Scottish-born architect who had won the Empress's lasting favour with the work he did at Tsarskoe Selo. Construction began in 1782, but Cameron's modest design and his penchant for the absolute simplicity of Palladianism and the historical purity of Adamesque were not to the liking of Pavel and his wife Maria Feodorovna, and they charged Cameron's assistant, Vincenzo Brenna, with the task of extending the palace and creating a more imposing and regal building. Brenna quickly became Pavel's favourite architect, and went on to design alterations on the palace at Gatchina, and the Mikhailovsky Castle in St. Petersburg. His great achievement, both there and at Pavlovsk, was to combine the future Tsar's eclectic tastes into an organic and harmonious architectural solution.
Inside, the Palace is considerably more ornate, with state rooms designed by some of St. Petersburg's most famous architects, including Quarenghi, Rossi and Voronikhin, the first Russian-born architect to make a significant contribution to one of the Imperial palaces. The palace's interiors are dominated by themes from antiquity, and military motifs designed to please the bellicose Pavel.