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Gatchina is a city in Leningrad Oblast, Russia, located 45 km south of Saint-Petersburg by the road leading to Pskov. Population: 88,420. It is part of the World Heritage Site.
Gatchina was first documented in 1499, a village in possession of Novgorod the Great, Russia. In the 17th century, in a series of wars, it passed to Livonia, then to Sweden, and was returned to Russia during the Northern War. At that time, Gatchina was a southern vicinity of the new Russian capital, Saint-Petersburg. In 1708 Gatchina was given by Peter the Great. to his sister Natalia Alekseevna, and after her death, Peter founded an Imperial Hospital and Apothecary here. In 1765, Catherine the Great bought Gatchina with suburban 20 villages, then she granted it to her favourite General Count Orlov. Between 1766 and 1788 Count Orlov built a sombre castle with 600 rooms and laid out an extensive English landscape park over 7 square kilometres, with adjacent zoo and a horse farm.
The Empress took such a great liking of the Gatchina Palace and park that at Orlov's death in 1783 she bought it from his heirs and presented it to her son, the future Emperor Paul I.


Paul I was the owner of Gatchina for eighteen years. He invested much resources as well as used his experience from his travels around Europe to make Gatchina an exemplary town and residence. During the 1790s, Paul expanded and rebuilt much of the palace, and renovated palatial interiors in the sumptuous Neoclassical style. Paul I graced the park with numerous additions, bridges, gates, and pavilions, such as "The Isle of Love", "The Private garden", "The Holland garden" and "The Labyrinth" among many other additions. In November 1796, following the death of his mother, Catherine the Great, Paul became Emperor Paul I of Russia, and granted Gatchina the status of the Imperial City - official residence of the Russian Emperors.
A remarkable monument of Paul's reign is Priory Palace on the shore of the Black Lake. Constructed for the Russian Grand Priory of the Order of St John, it was presented to the Order by a decree of Paul I of Russia dated August 23, 1799.
After Paul's death the grand palace and park were owned by his widow, Maria Feodorovna, from 1801 to 1828. Then Emperor Nicholas I was the owner from 1828 to 1855. He made the most significant expansion of the palaces and parks, adding the Arsenal Halls to the main palace.