Never has a room inspired such awe and intrigue as the Amber Room at Catherine Palace. Once dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world”, this palatial chamber was unrivaled in beauty and craftsmanship.
Designed by German Sculptor Andreas Schlüter and Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram, construction of the room was completed in 1711 in Prussia. In the centuries that followed the room was given as a gift, reconstructed several times, and eventually stolen before mysteriously disappearing forever.
The Amber Room – A Brief History
In 1701 the Amber Room was commissioned by Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia. It was to be installed at Charlottenburg Palace on completion but it was eventually placed in Berlin Castle instead. In 1716, Friedrich’s son presented the Amber Room to Peter the Great, who had admired it on a visit to the Prussian royal family. This generous gesture served to cement a Prussian-Russian alliance against their common enemy, Sweden.
On arrival in Russia, the room was installed at Catherine Palace, a Rococo palace located in the town of Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) which is 25 km south-east of St. Petersburg. During the 18th century it underwent many renovations and extensions, eventually covering an enormous 180 square feet. Over 6 tons of amber was used, as well as semi-precious stones and gold leaf. Historians have estimated that at the time the room was worth a phenomenal $142 million in today’s dollars.
A war, a theft and a mystery
During World War II the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. The Amber Room was to be removed from its home at Catherine Palace and hidden, but during removal the aged amber began to disintegrate. In an attempt to protect the precious art from seizure by the German Army, the room was covered in wallpaper. Unfortunately, this thin attempt failed and Catherine the Great’s Amber Room was dismantled by German soldiers in less than 36 hours.
The art was shipped in 27 crates to the castle at Königsberg in East Prussia. This is where the mystery of the stolen Amber Room begins. After an initial appearance of select pieces at an exhibition, the original room was never seen in public again. Despite extensive searching the Amber Room has not been recovered. There are several theories surrounding the fate of the art, but none have been supported by substantial evidence. It is believed that the Amber Room may have been destroyed by bombing, hidden in an underground bunker or taken aboard a German ship later sunk by Soviet forces.
Rebuilding the Amber Room
In 1979, with the mystery of the original room unsolved, rebuilding of the Amber Room began. A team of extremely talented artists, sculptors, amber craftsmen and researchers was assembled to complete the project. After 24 years of painstaking work, the room was unveiled in time for St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary in 2003.
The chamber was recreated using just one colour photograph, several black and white photographs and interviews with those who remembered the room; a truly incredible feat. It is undeniable that the team have recaptured the breathtaking beauty and fairy-tale like quality of the original room.
You can experience the majesty of the Amber Chamber for yourself with a Scandi Travel shore excursion to Tsarskoye Selo and Catherine Palace. Scandi Travel is fully authorised to provide Visa-free shore tours to cruise ship passengers. We understand how important your shore excursion is – that’s why we aim to make every trip exciting, comfortable and unforgettable. Book now and discover St. Petersburg’s most illustrious and incredible attractions.
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