As I stand in front of the Winter Palace (also known as the Imperial Palace), I am looking at the historical centre of Saint Petersburg. The monumental cresent-shaped General Staff building faces the Square on the opposite side, with the angel-topped granite column designed by architect Auguste de Montferrand in the center. The Winter Palace was home to the Russian Emperors from 1763 to 1917 and today is one of five buildings that make up the architectural collection of the State Hermitage Museum.
Thanks to our SPB Tours Guide (and Wikipedia!) we learned that the Winter Palace was the official residence of the Russian monarchs from 1732 to 1917. The present (and actually fourth) Winter Palace was constructed adjacent to the site of Peter the Great’s original Winter Palace. Constructed on a monumental scale that was intended to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia, the Winter Palace was built and altered almost continuously between the late 1730s and 1837, when it was severely damaged by fire and then immediately rebuilt. It was designed by many architects, the most famous being Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also designed the Catherine Palace (see blog post dated July 6, 2014).
An elongated rectangle, the Winter Palace is reported to have 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows, 1,500 rooms and 117 staircases. The rebuilding of 1837 left the exterior unchanged, but large parts of the interior were redesigned in a variety of tastes and styles. Following the February Revolution of 1917, the palace was for a short time the seat of the Russian Provisional Government, led by Alexander Kerensky. Later that same year, the palace was stormed by a detachment of Red Army soldiers and sailors—a defining moment in the birth of the Soviet state.