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Castles of Estonia

Photo Focus: Kadriorg Palace

by Peter Kessler, 20 January 2013. Updated 6 November 2021

 

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, Estonia
Photo © Marina Merkulova

Kadriorg Palace stands within its own grounds on the northern side of Weizenbergi street in Kadrioru Park in Tallinn. This is part of the leafy district of Kadriorg, which lies to the immediate east of central Tallinn.

The Russian empire captured Estonia as a prize from Sweden in 1710, during the Great Northern War, and although the Baltic German nobility largely remained in charge, Russian influences began to be felt.

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, Estonia
Photo © Marina Merkulova

Kadriorg Palace was built as a resplendent summer residence under the orders of Czar Peter I (1682-1725) for Empress Catherine. Construction began in 1718 under Niccolo Michett. Today the palace serves as the official residence of the president of the republic of Estonia.

Czar Peter the Great took a keen interest in his navy. He considered the port of Tallinn to be one of the most suitable, next to Paldiski to the west, for a military port. When setting up the port, the czar found his summer residence two kilometres to the east of Tallinn to be too small.

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, Estonia
Photo © Marina Merkulova

A more local palace was needed, which he named Katharinenthal (Catherine's Valley), after Empress Catherine ('Katharinenthal' translates into Estonian as 'Kadriorg'). The palace was built in the style of Italian villas, consisting of a main building and two annexes. The roof was added in 1719.

Work on the park and palace was continued by Mikhail Zemtsov from 1721, but Peter the Great died before it was completed. One of its main features is the well-preserved two-storey main hall, with beautiful Baroque architecture and lavish stucco.

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, Estonia
Photo © Marina Merkulova

Besides Russian and Italian artists, master craftsmen from Stockholm, Riga, and Tallinn also worked on the palace. It contains fireplaces with volutes, garlands, and busts, with monograms above them which were designed as cartouches, and with sculptures rimming them which depict various geniuses.

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, Estonia
Photo © Marina Merkulova

During the first period of Estonian independence, from 1921 the Estonian Museum in Tallinn was situated in the palace. In 1928 this was reorganised into the Art Museum of Estonia. From 1929 the palace served as the residence of the Estonian head of state (from 1938 this was the president).

Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, Estonia
Photo © Marina Merkulova

The building was refurbished in 1933-1934 and a banqueting hall designed by Aleksander Vladovsky was added to the back of the palace. From 1946-1991 the palace housed the main building of the Art Museum of Estonia, by which time it was in fairly poor shape.

Refurbished again in 1991-2000, it regained much of its original appearance. The art museum now has its own dedicated modernist building in the park grounds.

 

All photos kindly contributed by Marina Merkulova, taken in February 2011.

Main Sources

Praust, Valdo - Most Beautiful Manors and Castles, Grenader Grupp, Estonia, 2004

Online Sources

Estonian Manors

Tallinn Life: Kadriorg Palace

Tallinn Hotels: Kadriorg Palace

 

Images and text copyright © Marina Merkulova & P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.