The Cabin of Peter the Great is the oldest building in Saint Petersburg. It is also the first palace of the city! The Cabin of Peter the Great was built at the beginning of the 18th century. And nowadays you can visit this remarkable museum.
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- The Cabin of Peter the Great is a museum that includes:
- The Cabin of Peter the Great — the first house in St Petersburg
- Note about Peter the Great
- What you will see in the Cabin of Peter the Great
- Lions-guardians on the embankment
- Info about the museum
The Cabin of Peter the Great is the oldest building in Saint Petersburg. It was erected in just a few days in May 1703. By the way, Peter the First had chosen the location for his future house by himself.
The Cabin of Peter the Great is a museum that includes:
- The cabin of Peter the Great
- A wherry that was made by the Russian tsar
- An exposition about Saint Petersburg: the land where the city is situated, the first architectural projects, and the life of Peter the Great
- A garden that was planted by the members of the Imperial family
- I would also include there the fence around the museum which is worth seeing too.
The Cabin of Peter the Great — the first house in St Petersburg
I have to remind you that in 1703 Saint Petersburg did not yet exist. In brief, the land along the Neva River was a wildland of swamps and forests, practically not inhabited by people. This is how the house looked. Pay attention to the deserted landscape.
Later Peter I created more comfortable houses that were actual palaces. However, the Emperor strived to preserve his first modest residence. For this reason, in 1723, he ordered the construction of a protective gallery around the house. It was meant to save the fragile wooden house from humidity and floods.
Thus, what you first when you approach the Cabin of Peter the Great is a picturesque red-brick building. But it is not the cabin itself. The cabin is inside this building.
Note about Peter the Great
Peter the Great is a Russian tsar and emperor who founded Saint Petersburg. He was born in Moscow in 1672. His childhood and youth in Moscow were tumultuous because of frequent state rebellions and political plots.
Hence, for personal and historical reasons, Peter did not like Moscow. The tsar aspired for a new Russia, intellectual and free of the Middle-ages beliefs. New Russia needed a new capital. And Peter I decided to build a new city from scratch.
Peter the First founded Saint Petersburg in 1703. In 1712, the capital of Russia was transferred from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. The city remained the capital until the fall of the Russian Empire in the 20th century.
What you will see in the Cabin of Peter the Great
In the documents from the epoch of Peter I, the cabin is called ‘the original palace’. But this is not a palace in the way we imagine palaces. In fact, the Cabin of Peter the Great is a small wooden house. There is nothing luxurious in it.
The cabin is 12 meters long and 5.5 meters wide. The roof is covered with wooden tiles.
The cabin has large windows that are not usual for Russian architecture. The glass was rare and expensive. Each window of Peter’s cabin consists of small square pieces of glass. It is so-called crown glass. The crown glass is not fully transparent and not smooth. But I admit that I like its unique look.
1. Rooms of the Cabin of Peter I
The cabin of Peter the Great consists of a tiny entrance hall and three rooms (study, bedroom, dining room). There was no heating: no stove, no fireplace. For this reason, Peter I lived in his cabin only in summer.
Visitors can not enter the cabin itself. It is too tiny for visiting. I guess that Peter the Great could not have imagined that in 300 years thousands of people would want to see his humble wooden shelter.
Visitors can go around the cabin and look at the interiors through the windows.
— The study of Peter the Great
The study of Peter the Great is the largest room of the house. There is a large table with utensils, a bookcase, a couple of chairs, and icons in the corner. The most remarkable item is the armchair that Peter I made himself.
Inside the cabin, the walls are upholstered with sea sailcloth. They were finished that way in the time of Peter the Great and they are still finished that way now.
— The dining room
The dining room is as large as the study. There is a long table, chairs, and tableware that date back to the 18th century. Those are not necessarily items that belonged to Peter the Great. They were made at that period — the beginning of the 18th century.
As you see, we can hardly call these interiors luxurious. The furniture is robust rather than exquisite. It is more suitable for a castle than for a palace. However, there are small details that prove, that Peter I aspired for beauty too. For instance, look at the door trims. Tender floral garlands embellish them.
— The bedroom
The bedroom is the smallest room in the cabin. It occupies only 6.72 square meters! Remember that Peter the Great was a two-meter-high guy. Could he sleep comfortably in such a small room?
Because, probably, Peter slept in a half-sitting position.
It seems that in the 17-18th centuries, the doctors considered sleeping in a sitting position as beneficial to health. Allegedly, such a pose prolonged life: the blood did not rush to the head. People also believed that sleeping in a sitting position could increase mental capacity.
In the bedroom, the visitors see the items that belonged to the tsar. The original interior (the bed) was not preserved. When Peter I had moved to another palace, the Romanovs transformed the bedroom into a chapel. The main icon of the chapel was the most venerated by Peter I — the Saviour Not-Made-By-Hands (Image of Edessa).
As I have already mentioned, the wooden cabin stands in the middle of a brick housing. And inside of the housing, you will see other interesting things.
2. Wherry made by Peter the Great
First of all, it is a wherry. The legend says that Peter the Great built this boat by himself. The wherry is a narrow 7-meter-long boat. It looks very stylish. Probably, the Emperor used this wherry for crossing the Neva River. There were no bridges, you know.
3. Marble bust of Peter the Great
Secondly, next to the wherry, we see a marble bust of Peter the Great. The sculptor is unknown.
4. Exhibition about the life of the tsar and the construction of Saint Peteresburg
In the museum, there is also an exhibition about the deeds of the Russian tsar and the foundation of Saint Petersburg. For example, you can see the maps, the project of the future city, and old images of the cabin.
The model of Saint Petersburg at the beginning of the 18th century will surely attract your attention. You can explore the miniatures of the cabin, Peter and Paul Fortress, old houses, and ships on the Neva River.
5. A garden around the cabin of Peter the Great
After exploring the cabin of Peter the Great, make a tour of the building outside. Take time to sit on a bench under the trees. In the 19th century, the members of the Imperial family planted those oaks around the house of their prominent ancestor.
By the way, it is surprising that the area around the cabin is usually quiet. It is the centre of the city, but the embankment of the Neva River in front of the cabin is quite empty. In the distance, on the other bank of Neva, you can notice the Summer Garden. The Summer Garden is always vivid. But the cabin of Peter the Great ordinarily remains silent. It is a peaceful romantic place.
Lions-guardians on the embankment
After visiting the Cabin of Peter the Great, think of crossing the Petrovskaya Embankment Road and going closer to the Neva River. There you will find one more city sight — a pair of Chinese lions Shi Tsza.
Shi Tsza are two mythological lions that sit on the embankment since 1907. They are a gift to the city from Russian ethnographer and writer Nikolay Grodekov.
According to Chinese traditions, the lions-guardians Shi Tsza stand at the entrance to a cemetery or a temple. Thus, in Saint Petersburg, they protect the entry to one of the most important city ‘temples’ — the house of the founder of the city.
Info about the museum
The Cabin of Peter the Great is a part of the Russian Museum.
Address: 6, Petrovskaya Embankment, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Closest metro station: Gorkovskaya
Opening hours: 10 a.m. — 6 p.m. Tuesday is a day off
Ticket price: 400 Rub. (~5.5 USD)
You will need 30-40 minutes to tour this museum.
By the way, if you take interest in other places related to the Russian Imperial family, check the project ‘Imperial Russia’. It is a collection of posts about the Romanovs, their palaces, and other stuff related to the Russian Empire.