Catherine Park - The Grotto
The Grotto – an original pavilion with a fanciful high roof, located on the northern side of the Great Pond not far from the Hermitage - is one of the original structures created by Bartolomeo Rastrelli that have survived in the Catherine Park and Palace to this day. Intended as a nook for a rest on the hot summer days, pavilions of this were an inseparable part of the landscape of the symmetrical garden. The Grotto is an important element in the Catherine Park ensemble. Typical of late baroque, the façades of the building are embellished with rusticated columns, doors with intricately carved frames, and windows with ornate carvings. A graceful pattern adorns the balustrade running around the edge of the roof. At one time wooden sculptures helped to break up the monotonous rhythm.
The pavilion gets its name from the molded decorations on its façades and interior devoted to marine subjects. Dolphins’ heads are depicted on the capitals of the columns, and masks of Neptune on the keystones above the windows. The doomed pedestal of the fountain is decorated with sea deities pouring water from vessels, and complicated wavy shells and the heads of sea monsters bedeck the high roof of the building.
Today the Grotto is used as an exhibition pavilion.