THE LOWER and THE UPPER GROTTOES
The focal point of the Great Cascade is the Lower (Great) Grotto. Its outer wall faced with tufa is pierced with five high arches and their keystones are decorated with gilded mascarons. The site in front of the Lower Grotto is limited by two cascade stairways. The wall of the Lower Grotto is completed by the granite cornice with a marble balustrade adorned with vases and located in front of the terrace of the Upper (Small) Grotto. The grotto facade has been apparently designed to match stylistically the architecture of the Great Palace which is seen in its decor subordinated to three-partite articulation, its semicircular arches and niches, its keystones and, finally, its white-and-yellow colouring.
The Grotto's history dates back to the early eighteenth century when Peter the Great offered to erect on the slope of the terrace two grottos and two cascade stairways to let water run down to a rectangular pool connected by a canal with the sea. The construction of the canal began in 1715 and of the Lower Grotto in May 1716. Begun by Le Blond and Johann Braunstein, in 1720 the work was continued by the Italian architect Niccolo Michetti. Under his direction, the grotto was decorated with stones and shells and the balustrade was adorned with vases. A little later two mascarons, depicting Bacchus and Neptune, were placed on the terrace above the Lower Grotto and four marble busts, allegories of the seasons, were installed in the niches between them.
In the summer of 1723 three fountains and a trick table-fountain were built in the Lower Grotto and the entrance to the grotto was covered by water curtains. Over the next sixty years the cascade and the grotto were repeatedly rebuilt - the wooden pedestals were replaced by stone ones, the pool surrounds were changed and the sculptures regilded. However, the sculptural decor became deformed, some low-reliefs and other decorations disappeared and the fountains in the grotto ceased functioning.
In the nineteenth century the problem of the cascade's and the Grotto's restoration grew more urgent every year, and at last in 1859-60 the work began under the leadership of Nikolai Benois. It was necessary to build galleries for the inspection of the fountain pipes and to make special openings for the ventilation of the grottos. The openings cut through the side walls of the cascade staircases were to serve the same designation.
The Grotto, like the Great Cascade, suffered the greatest damage during World War II. A new lease of life was given to it in 1995, as a result of seven-year restoration. The restoration was necessary because of the poor state of the grottos and underground pipeline systems supplying water to the numerous fountains of the cascade.
A wonderful trick table-fountain, like its predecessor in the eighteenth century, re-decorates the Grotto's interior and serves an endless source of funny situations and general merriment for visitors.
the Lower (Great) Grotto (3.660 Mb)
The Enter to the Lower Grotto.
The Lower Grotto.
Sculptor Pietro Baratta.
Early 18th century.
The Lower Grotto Statue:
"Pan and Olympius." 1857.
Copy from a Classical Original.