Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Sentry Box Illusion

The Winter Palace had one main entrance, on its north side facing the Neva, called the Jordan Entrance.

There were also five ‘small’ entrances along the palace embankment façade that led to basement vestibules as well as private staircases to the Imperial family and Minister of the Court’s apartments on the 2nd floor.

Photograph (below) c1850 showing the five ‘small’ entrances

All entrances around the palace were vigilantly guarded by palace grenadiers and police. In the 1860s, reports of unauthorized access to the palace resulted in more stringent procedures that are fascinating to read in the archival documents. One proposal would have made it almost impossible for even the Emperor to enter his own entrance!

The ‘small’ entrances have been described as ‘ridiculous’ for marring the baroque façade of the palace and creating difficulties for its protection.

There were two sentry boxes on the Neva embankment side: the northeast Ministerial entrance and the northwest Emperor’s Own entrance.

Photograph (below) c1906 of the northwest sentry box

Painting of the Changing of the Guard at the northwest sentry box

The public had open access, walking close to the palace and the ability to peek through its windows, causing security headaches for Court officials.

Photograph (below) of a sentry box in Palace Square

The sentry boxes provided an illusory protection.

Photograph (below) of Nicholas II and his brother George’s room in Gatchina Palace with its ‘toy’ sentry box

My 2008 photo (below) of the sentry box on Gatchina’s Arsenal mezzanine 


  1. Joanna, another fantastic post & lots of great pictures!
    It's interesting that the general public could get that close to the palace that they could look in the windows, you couldn't and never would get that close to Buckingham palace or any of the others for that matter!
    I kind of agree that the small entrances marred the facade but it was obviously for a good reason.
    Ghostie x.

  2. They would look into the study of Nicholas I in the 1840s!

    I am puzzled why they would want the small entrances. It was narrow stairs leading to a basement vestibule and then low ceiling basement walk to their stairs/elevator. And security an issue - guards and doormen on the inside but the outer perimeter was 'open'.

  3. Yeah, I read that somewhere, I think it might've been here, what a distraction for Nicholas I especially if he was trying to get work done!
    It surprised me when I realised that the palace wasn't closed off by some sort of fencing.
    Why were the entrances so small & how come the royal family didn't enter via the main entrances like the Jordan stairs case & the October stair case, entering through the smaller entrances make it seem as though they were sneaking into their own palace, unless the smaller ones were for staff members?
    Ghostie x.