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Archive for November, 2009

Castle of the Week, Rundāle Palace, Latvia

Rundāle  Palace is one of the most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo art in Europe, it is situated at Pilsrundāle, 12 km west of Bauska, in Latvia. Located about 80 KM from the capital Riga, Rundāle  Palace is an architechtural pearl created by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli designer of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Built as the summer residence of the Duke of Courland Ernst Johann Biron the opulent palace was completed in two stages from 1736 to 1740 and 1763 to 1768.

Rastrelli was invited to design the palace by Biron, a favourite of Russian Empress Czarina Anna Ivanovna. The sudden death of the Empress in 1740 resulted in Biron falling out of favor and being banished to Siberia for 23 years. Biron was eventually pardoned and returned to finish his project, the Palace finally reaching completion in 1768. The resulting masterpiece is a magnificent example of Baroque style incorporating elements of classicism.

After Latvia was absorbed by the Russian Empire in 1795 Catherine the Great gave Rundāle  Palace to her lover Count Zubov as a gift. His young Widow, Thekla Walentinowicz remarried Count Shuvalov, bringing the Palace into the stewardship of the Shuvalov family. Rundāle  Palace remained in the Shuvalov family until 1920 when it was taken over by the Republic of Latvia  as a part of agrarian reform. The palace was in a rundown state but a lengthy restoration process that is still going on today has returned much of Rundāle Palace to its former grandeur. Visitors are able to tour the museum that was opened at the site in 1972 and several of the grand rooms are open to the public including many in the eastern block including the Room of Roses and the Duke’s Bedroom. In 2004, banqueting rooms and chambers in the western wing were opened. The palace is ringed by a canal, gardens and a hunting park.

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