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St. Petersburg


Founded by Catherine the Great, the Hermitage is one of the world’s oldest and largest museums boasting 3 million treasures of art and antiquity, and visited by over 2 million people every year.

Inside the Hermitage, we shine infra-red light on blackened mummies to reveal the strange tattoos of an ancient race, then visit a chamber of horrors to investigate why Peter the Great had a penchant for the macabre. We enter the private chambers of Catherine the Great to discover a device she used to improve her sex life. (No, it’s not one of those!) We reexamine the physical evidence of Rasputin’s murder to uncover his real killer’s surprising identity, then meet aged curators who risked their lives to save the museum’s treasures from Hitler’s bombs. And finally, in a gallery devoted to famous paintings, we unveil a small square canvas painted completely black. We reveal why dictator Joseph Stalin hated the black square, and why today it is worth a million dollars. 

Secrets revealed in this episode

Catherine's Pleasure Palace

What does a mechanical device in Catherine the Great’s private dining room tell us about her sex life?

Tattooed Mummies

What do strange tattoos discovered on the mummies of an ancient tribe called the Scythians reveal about the people of modern Russia?

Peter the Great Enigma

Does Peter’s macabre cabinet of curiosities prove he was a great man or a monster?

Cats in Wartime

Why did the housecats that have roamed the Hermitage for hundreds of years disappear when Leningrad was besieged by the Nazis in World War Two?

Rasputin’s Murder

Who really killed the strangely charismatic faith healer of the last Czars?

Black Square Mystery

Why is a hundred-year-old painting of a simple black square worth a million dollars?