Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Peterhof: The Russian Versailles

by | August 21, 2012 | 16 comments

Here in Texas, we are deep in the dog days of summer. Most days the temperature soars over 100 degrees, the grass is brown, and the water in the swimming pools is same temperature as a hot bath. I’m originally from the north, so I’m always ready for the fall weather to move in (usually by the first of July). There is one place I was lucky enough to visit that is almost always cool and refreshing.

Nearly everyone knows about Versailles in France, but have you ever heard of Peterhof, the Russian Versailles? Peterhof was founded by Peter the Great in the early 1700s. Peter visited Versailles while in France and was so impressed he envisioned his own palace and fountain complex, but on a much grander scale.

Russia was involved in the Northern War with Sweden from 1700 to 1721, and in 1709 there was a decisive battle near Poltava in the Ukraine which was a brilliant victory for the Russians and the turning point of the war. To commemorate the victory, Peter dedicated the Peterhof complex to the victory over Karl XII of Sweden. Many talented architects worked on Peterhof, creating a magnificent ensemble that includes several palaces and three parks.


The Great Cascade

The main attraction in Peterhof is its beautiful Lower Park with 150 fountains and four cascades. The Great Cascade is situated in front of the Great Imperial Palace, which was the summer imperial residence for 200 years – from 1714 until the October Revolution.

The Great Cascade was planned by Peter the Great. It consists of several fountains, the central and most luxurious of which is  the Samson fountain.  Samson symbolizes Russia defeating Sweden – the lion. The Great Cascade is decorated with gilded statues of ancient Greek and Roman gods and heroes, which all are allegories of different events of the Northern War.


The Marine Canal

The Marine Canal, one of the oldest features of Peterhof, begins in the harbor on the Gulf of Finland and ends at the base of the Great Cascade. The canal is the official approach to Peterhof. During the spring and autumn, and even during rainy summers, it was much more difficult to reach Peterhof along the muddy roads from St. Petersburg than by sea. Even today, the fastest way to get to Peterhof is to take the hydrofoil from the Neva River in St. Petersburg.





Triton Fountain

The Triton fountain sits in the center of the Conservatory Garden. It depicts Triton forcing apart the jaws of a sea monster. During World War II, the Nazi’s destroyed the fountain and reportedly shipped the sculpture to Germany. Efforts to locate it were unsuccessful, so in 1956, sculptor Alexei Gurzhy reconstructed the original fountain from a drawing in an 18th century album.





Samson Fountain

The Samson Fountain is the largest fountain in the Lower Park. It stands at the center of a bowl in front of the Great Cascade. The sculpture weighed more than five tons, so the Russians were unable to save it from the German invasion in 1941. It was taken by the Nazis and according to several accounts, was melted down for military purposes. In 1947, Leningrad sculptor Vassily Simonov recreated Samson from pre-war drawing and photographs.





Adam Fountain

The Adam and Eve fountains are identical fountains built in the Lower Park. The statues were copies of the well-known works by Antonio Rizzi which still adorn the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and were commissioned from the sculptor Giovanni Bonazza in 1717 by Peter the Great. In the early days of the Nazi invasion, the Adam and Eve statues were buried in the Lower Park and descaped destruction. The fountains were restored to working order in 1948 and today they are all that remains of the original sculptures from the time of Peter the Great.



It is an unforgettable pleasure to wander among trees, flowers, bushes, palaces, bridges, fountains and pavilions of Peterhof on a beautiful summer day. The cool breeze from the Gulf of Finland keeps the temperture perfect, and you just might come across something unexpected, just as we did.


Cutest hedgehog ever

Ally Broadfield writes historical romance set in Imperial Russia and Regency England. She’d love to see you at her website or facebook page.










  1. Mary Roya

    Russia has a lot of history. Did they recreate the hall of mirror? Beautiful.

    • Ally Broadfield

      They did not, but the ballroom looks a lot like a smaller version of the Hall of Mirrors. The entire place is gorgeous. Thanks for stopping by, Mary.

  2. Angelyn

    These beautiful monuments are a fitting backdrop to the modernization of Russia carried out by Peter the Great. I’m glad they’ve been restored. Thanks for another marvelous post, Ally!

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks for coming by, Angelyn. It’s amazing how they were able to recreate the palaces and treasures lost during the war.

  3. Paisley Kirkpatrick

    How cute – when we were in Scotland I threw myself in front of a tour bus to save a groundhog. The driver just shook his head and grinned at me as I escorted the little guy to safety like a crossing guard.

    The fountains are beautiful. I love the sound of water flowing like that. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Paisley, I would have done the same thing. I stop all the time to move turtles out of the road. I get a lot of strange looks from the Texans. Thanks for visiting.

  4. Ella Quinn

    Those a lovely pictures. The hedgehog is very cute. Great post.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks, Ella. There were quite a few hedgehogs there, but I didn’t want to overdue it with the pictures.

  5. Kirsten

    Gorgeous pictures, Ally! And with all the heat this summer those fountains look wonderful. The hedgehog is way too cute!!


  6. Ally Broadfield

    Thanks for stopping in,Kirsten. The fountains are amazing.

  7. Barbara Bettis

    How beautiful, Ally. Thanks for sharing the tremendous photos. I couln’t believe that hedgehog. How precious.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks for coming by, Barbara. The hedgehog was adorable.

  8. Lana Williams

    Very cool, Ally! Thanks for the great info and lovely pics!

    • Ally Broadfield

      You’re welcome, Lana. Thanks for stooping in.

  9. Sharla Rae

    Great blog and I love the photos too! I’d never heard of these places. Thanks.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks for coming by, Sharla. St. Petersburg is full of gorgeous palaces that are relatively unknown to the Western world.


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