1714 - 1724,
Architects: J. Braunstein, J.-B. Le Blond, N.Michetti, M.G. Zemtsov;
Hydraulic works: P. Sualem, V. Tuvolkov, Barattini brothers;
Sculptors: B.-C. Rastrelli, F. Vassu, K. Osner
The Grand cascade is the most grandiose fountain construction of the Peterhof ensemble and one of the most outstanding creations in the world.
The idea to finalize a nautical grand entrance to the Tsar's residence, with a hilltop palace and a cascade with grottos at its footsteps, belonged to Peter the Great. The cascade was being built simultaneously with the palace, having been its peculiar pedestal, fitting to its width and with it, a single architectural complex. The grand formal inauguration of the fountains took place, in August 1723.
The cascade solution is simple and laconic. The two massive seven-step staircases are connected by the archways of the Large grotto. The spacious area in front of it, switches into the central three-level cascade, with its water falling, as a silver veil, into the scoop, connected with the Sea canal. Above the Large grotto, there is a terrace, fettered by the facades of the Small grotto. It is completed with the marble balustrade, with eight marble vases placed on it. At the entrance to the Large grotto, on the lower terrace, there is a "Basket" fountain. The inclined jets spurt from its outer ring of tufa, interweaving similar to the twigs of the openwork basket, with nine powerful vertical spurts rising from inside of it, just like the stems of some mythical crystal flowers. The movement of the water in the cascade, begins with the streams from the two mascarons of Neptune and Vakh, situated on the walls of the Small grotto. It continues down the stairs and after having passed under the base of the cascade, finishes at the footsteps of the sculptures, symbolizing the Russian rivers - Neva and Volkhov.
The key role in the artistic appearance of the cascade, was given to the sculptural decoration, that was solving the main task of the grand construction, - to allegorically glorify the might of the Russian state and the victory of the Russian weaponry in the Northern war.
Originally, all the decor consisted of the lead gilded sculptures, that lost their former beauty by the end of the XVIII century. They were replaced in bronze, with the copies of works of the antiquity and renaissance masters among them, as well as 15 original masterpieces of the best domestic sculptors of the time: M.I. Kozlovsky, I.P. Prokofiev, F.F. Shchedrin, I.P. Martos, F.I. Shubin, J.D. Rachette. The new sculptures took their places in 1806. Today, the decorative pieces of the cascade include 37 bronze gilded statues, 16 vases, 29 bas-reliefs, the coat-of-arms, brackets, mascarons, busts, dolphins, lions and frogs - all together 225 sculptures from bronze, lead and marble, constituting the sumptuous appearance of the Grand cascade. It was forming during a century and a half, but these changes did not violate its integrality and the original idea, of the largest triumphal memorial of its time.
During the Second World War, the Grand cascade was turned into a hip of ruins. Not having time to take the sculptural heritage out of Peterhof before the beginning of the German occupation, part of them were dug into the ground or hidden in the stashes on the territory of the park. Stolen by the Nazi forces, the four statues ("Samson", "Neva", "Volkhov", "Tritons") had to be completely re-done. In 1956, the Herculean efforts of the restorers, brought the magnificent ensemble to life.
The Grand cascade, the gem of the "Sea Tzar's residence", is exceptionally beautiful during the festive occasions, when it becomes a scene for the costumed performances.