The Grand Cascade, located at the Peterhof Palace in St Petersburg, Russia, was modelled on a complex of fountains constructed for the French King Louis XIV at his luxurious Chateau de Marly. Constructed in the early 18th century by Peter the Great, the founder of the city of Saint Petersburg, the Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces, along with its beautiful gardens and the exquisite fountains, which are sometimes referred as the Russian Versailles. The Grand Cascade, which runs from the northern facade of the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal, is the ensemble of more than 200 bronze statues, busts, vases, bas-reliefs as well as the picturesque grottos, stairs, arches and bowls. The combination of all these shiny golden grandeur is continuously washed by sprays of countless fountains.
Beginning with the streams from the two ornamental grotesque faces of Neptune and Vakh, situated on the walls of the Small grotto, the movement of the water in the cascade continues down the stairs and after having passed under the base of the cascade, finishes at the footsteps of the sculptures, symbolizing the Great Russian Rivers, Neva and Volkhov.
At the centre of the Great Cascade stands the spectacular sculptural group named ‘Samson Tearing apart the Jaws of the Lion’, celebrating Russia's victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War, when the Swedish troops were routed by the Russians on the 27th of June of 1709.It may be pointed out here that during his lifetime, Peter I was often compared to the Biblical hero Samson, connected with the victory over a frenzied lion. On the other hand, the lion as part of the Swedish coat-of-arms, symbolized Sweden and its king Charles XII. Designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the sculptural group, cast in lead, was installed in the large Samson Fountain in 1735. A vertical jet of water shoots 20-metre-high in the air from the lion's mouth, the highest in all of Peterhof.
However, since cast in lead, the masterpiece lost its gloss by the end of the XVIII century and was replaced with a bronze sculpture, created by MI Kozlovsky. But, it totally vanished during the WW II and after the liberation of Leningrad, the sculptor VLSimonov re-created the monument with the assistance of NV Mikhailov, which was installed on the pedestal in 1947.
Today, there are all together 225 sculptures made of bronze, lead and marble, which include 37 bronze gilded statues, 16 vases, 29 bas-reliefs, the coat-of-arms, brackets, mascarons, busts, dolphins, lions and frogs. Thirty seven sculptures of the fountain, including the most famous of them, Samson at the moment of tearing the jaws of a lion, were repaired in 2010-2011.
With the backdrop of the gorgeous Grand Palace, the vista of the Grand Cascade creates a breathtaking beauty for the visitors. The exceptionally beautiful Grand cascade, considered as the gem of the Sea Tzar's residence, currently contains a modest museum of the fountains' history. Usually, the fountains at Peterhof, including the Grand Cascade, officially open at the end of May, which is an all-day festival, with classical music, fireworks and other performances.