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