There are a lot of castles and palaces in the Baltic states. Every one of them deserves separate attention, because visiting them is like a diving into a history full of secrets, intrigues and incredible stories.
So have you ever heard of Courland? Now it is the western part of modern Latvia, but from 1561 until 1795 it was an independent duchy in the Baltic region. The Duchy was one of the smallest European nations, but is was so rich that it had its own colonies on the Caribbean islands of Tobago and Trinidad and at the mouth of the Gambia River in Africa.
In 1735 Ernst Johann von Biron, Duke of Courland and favorite of the Empress Anna of Russia, bought land in the Zemgale region with an old medieval castle in the territory of a planned summer residence. Now in the beginning of the 21th century the whole region has become famous due to the Rundale Palace, one of the most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo art in present Latvia.
Rundale palace was designed by the Russian court architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli and built under his supervision. Most of the interior decorations were created between 1765 and 1768 when a sculptor from Berlin Johann Michael Graff, and Italian painters from St. Petersburg Francesco Martini and Carlo Zucchi worked at the palace.
The central block of Rundale Palace accommodates the Duke’s suite with reception parlours and private rooms, and the eastern block – a fully restored suite of Duchess’s rooms. The representation rooms in the eastern wing of the palace – the Gilt Hall, the White Hall, and the Great Gallery – are open to the public.
A Baroque palace cannot be imagined without the French garden. The park spreads out to the south of the palace, and Bartolomeo Rastrelli designed it together with the palace building. An artificial canal runs around the park, encircling also the palace and the stables. Although Rundāle’s formal garden is but 10 ha large, Rastrelli has managed to fill it with an intricate maze of allees, cross paths, pergolas and bosquets. The bosquets feature an impressive, almost one hectare large, rose garden that spreads on both sides of the parterres. The garden reflects the history of cultivating roses in Europe from the early 18th century till these days.
Museum of Rundale palace with the surrounding gardens is now one of the most visited museums not only in Latvia, but also in the whole Baltic region.