Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg


The Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg today is a branch of the Hermitage and one of those museums that never cease to amaze the public. The very figure of the owner of the huge house - the first governor of the city, companion of Peter I and the admiral of the Russian fleet - still causes a lot of controversy. Historians agree on one thing - Alexander Danilovich was an extraordinary aristocrat and commander, and the palace halls will best tell about his bright life.

The first Thursday of every month is an open day, it applies only to the permanent exhibition, there are no benefits for temporary and commercial imported exhibitions.


Initially, the winter residence of Peter the Great was supposed to be on the future University Embankment of Vasilyevsky Island, but the first Russian emperor did not like everyday luxury, which is why he gave a place for the construction of a mansion to his main favorite. His Serene Highness Prince Menshikov, unlike the sovereign, did not shy away from wealth and immediately ordered a project for a huge building in a style that art critics would later call Peter's baroque.

The intricate drawings were produced by the best architects of the time, including Giovanni Fontana and Gottfried Schedel. According to the original idea, the Neva banks were to be decorated with a classic Italian villa, the task of which is to combine work and residential buildings. As a result, they decided to stop at mixing the Renaissance columns with later, baroque and ornate facade decorations, which was done by the hands of hundreds of builders.

Work on the construction of the palace lasted from 1710 to 1714. During this time, the main buildings and outbuildings were ready, inside they laid out geometric "English" gardens and even built several greenhouses for growing overseas fruits. By 1721, the residence had the status of the Ambassadorial Palace of the Assemblies, and also a real treasury, where the high society of St. Petersburg came to look at the collections of paintings, coins and sculptures.

The "golden age" lasted exactly until the moment of Menshikov's disgrace after the death of Peter. Palace coups to the family of the governor and, in fact, the regent under the young heir, brought exile to Siberia, and all property was confiscated in favor of the treasury. In the mansion, they ordered to organize a military school, where the future Generalissimo Suvorov would later unlearn, the inner gardens were destroyed and turned into a parade ground, and luxury goods were delivered to the authorities.

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Since 1880, the museum of the First Cadet Corps worked here, and after the October Revolution, it was decided to return the educational functions to the building, since 1924 the Leningrad Military-Political School, which existed for almost 30 years, moved here. During the years of the blockade, the facade was badly damaged, but the internal premises miraculously survived, which greatly facilitated the task for further reconstruction of the entire architectural and park ensemble.

In fact, the restoration does not stop today, but officially it began in 1966. After 15 years, the building was included in the Hermitage funds, which made it possible to complete many years of work and return the palace chambers to their original appearance, albeit not as magnificent and pretentious as in the 18th century. By the anniversary of St. Petersburg in 2003, historical justice triumphed - a bust of the first owner was placed in front of the central gate, indicating all the regalia.

Exposition of the Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg

Today, the exhibition area presents us with the palace complex as it was originally conceived - with a central gallery, ceremonial halls, study rooms and private rooms of family members. The first room where guests get on the sightseeing tour is the guest chamber. The walls are decorated with tapestries with antique themes, and in the center there is a massive table for drinks and soft carved armchairs with expensive velvet.

Further, visitors will be invited to go to the second floor, where the main part of the exposition is located. Here, the chambers of Menshikov's wife have been partially restored - ornate wall panels, parquet flooring and a lot of porcelain dishes - this is how aristocrats preferred to decorate their rooms. Near one of the walls there is a perfectly preserved dressing table with the family coat of arms and portraits of two daughters, Alexandra and Maria, who died at a young age.

From the women's half of the floor, doors lead to the western reception area, which is commonly called the Chinese office. It's all about the wallpaper - it is made in a traditional Asian style and shows scenes from the exotic life of the country. There is also a small picture hall with various portraits of Menshikov himself and other contemporaries of the Peter the Great era. The windows of the room overlook the Neva, and in terms of illumination it is considered the best place in the house.

After touching art - again the story continues in the central gallery, which occupies almost the entire floor. It was here that the famous Assemblies took place, where the sovereign met with the ambassadors of other powers and signed fateful decrees. In the days of the cadet corps, there was a house church, and in one of the porticos with columns, the features of the altar are still guessed. In the days of Soviet atheism, the gallery was converted into a lecture class.

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The next stop is the blue and white marine office. An unusual shade - not just a tribute to the then fashion, but a sign of incredible wealth - tiles for decoration were brought from Holland, where they cost like jewelry. Next door is the Varvara chambers - the only surviving bedroom with a genuine unreconstructed bed, on which Alexander Danilovich's sister-in-law slept, who often came to stay.

The Walnut Lounge is the jewel of the palace where excursions end. It has been preserved almost in its original form - Persian walnut on the walls and ebony furniture and now looks great. From relics - a chessboard with amber figures and a painted canvas shade - a prototype of modern stretch ceilings, it was created by the French artist Philippe Pilman by special order.

Interesting Facts

Menshikov was seriously interested in engineering, which was reflected in the layout of the palace. The first option did not imply a porch from the “land”, and everyone was met only at the river pier, near which a special loggia for the orchestra was erected. After the death of the emperor, it was rebuilt into a floating structure, which became the first pontoon bridge in St. Petersburg. Now in its place is the roadway of the University embankment.

The palace grounds were guarded by a separate regiment of guardsmen who lived on the ground floor. They had their own weapons room, kitchen and resting rooms. After the placement of the cadet corps, the guardhouse was abolished, completely destroying the original layout. It was not possible to restore it in its original form, but today part of the lobby is given over to the exhibition of the arsenal of that time - sabers, steel cuirasses and muskets.

In one of the utility rooms, a genuine lathe on a spring-block mechanism is exhibited. According to the official legend of the Hermitage, Peter himself liked to work for him, taking a break from state affairs - he cut out small parts of the ship's rigging, as he was once trained in Holland. The myth has no material evidence, but this version should not be questioned - it is so popular among the regulars of the museum.

The surviving columns of the courtyard are not made of marble - inside they are wooden and only painted to imitate stone. This was done in order to somehow save on the colossal construction costs. On the front porch, the colonnade was crowned with sculptures of ancient Greek muses and gods - they were demolished in the 19th century, but now scaled figures are on display in one of the first halls, next to the model of the original building.

Living rooms and offices are still treasures of antiques. So, in the picture room hangs the only portrait of Peter the Great in the image of the god of war Ares. Nearby, modestly placed on a chest of drawers is an organ clock made by a London watchmaker in the 18th century. The unique exhibit came here for safekeeping from the Tauride Palace. It is believed that the musical chronometer was presented to Prince Potemkin by one of the English ambassadors.

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Some of the palace halls are used for temporary and traveling exhibitions. For example, from time to time there is an exhibition of old stoves - from the 17th to the beginning of the 20th century. Of the unusual exhibits that did not fit into the format of the museum, one can note an antique press for coins and seals, which is on display in the souvenir shop.

How to get to the Menshikov Palace in St. Petersburg

The architectural ensemble is within walking distance from the Vasileostrovskaya metro station. Leaving the hall, you need to turn right, walk along Sredny Prospekt and reach the intersection with the Kadetskaya Line, from where - straight ahead, without turning anywhere. Much closer to go from the bus stop "University Embankment", it is located directly opposite the palace, and all that remains is to cross the roadway at a traffic light.

You can also use the taxi ordering service - Yandex, Maxim and Uber have been working in the northern capital for a long time, there is no shortage of cars. It is recommended to order transport in advance - at least a day before the trip, so that there is a chance for a favorable tariff, a promotion or some bonuses. It is not advised to deal with street taxi drivers, even while in the neighboring yard - the prices will be such that it is better to walk than to start bargaining.

To travel by car on your own, you need to know a few important points. First, you need to immediately enter the coordinates of the navigator - 59.939536, 30.295529 - even in the tourist heart of St. Petersburg it is easy to get lost. Secondly, parking on the sidelines around the perimeter of the palace is prohibited, and the nearest paid parking is located almost two kilometers from here - opposite the Academy of Arts. To walk such a distance or not is a moot point.