Khotchino (old name of 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, St. Petersburg. In 1708, Gatchina was given by Peter the Great. to his sister Natalya Alexeyevna, and after her death, Peter founded an Imperial Hospital and Apothecary here. In 1765, Catherine the Great bought Gatchina with suburban twenty villages, then she granted it to her favorite General Count Orlov. Between 1766 and 1788 Count Orlov built a sombre castle with six hundred rooms and laid out an extensive English landscape park over 7 square kilometers (2.7 sq mi), with an adjacent zoo and a horse farm. A triumphal arch was erected to a design by the architect of Gatchina,Antonio Rinaldi (1771, built 1777-1782), forming a monumental entrance, the gift of Catherine The Great to Count Orlov for his efforts during a recent outbreak of plague at Moscow.
The Gatchina Palace was expanded several times by several imperial owners.Rococo interiors were designed by Rinaldi and Vincenzo Brenna and executed by Italian stucco workers and Russian craftsmen. Interiors were highlighted with parquetry floors, painted ceilings, and distinctly Italian furniture (illustrations, right).
Gatchina Palace. Dressing-Room for Count Orlov, 1770s, seen in a 19th-century watercolor: much of the interior was burned by Nazis
Gatchina Palace. Chesma Gallery for Grand-Duke Paul, in the Neoclassical style of the 1790s
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