Excursions with Mikhailovsky Castle
The Mikhailovsky Castle is located close to the southern border of Summer Garden, at the same place where the wooden palace of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna stood before. The castle was erected according to the wish of Russian Emperor Paul I who being Crown Prince dreamed secretly about a new royal residence. Already in 1784 Paul himself drew the first sketches of the future castle embodying his impressions of Europe's medieval architecture. Architects A. Viollior, V. Bazhenov and V. Brenna worked in turn over this project. At first Paul intended to build a new palace in Gatchina, but later decided to choose Saint Petersburg.
In November of 1796 Prince Paul became the Russian Emperor and in February of 1797 the Mikhailovsky Castle was solemnly founded. Brenna redesigned the original project and erected the venue at the spot between the Moika and Fontanka Rivers. Mighty and gloomy, colored in dark orange the castle was in a marked contrast with usual for Saint Petersburg palaces. All four fa?ades of the Mikhailovsky Castle were decorated in a different way. The main, southern fa?ade looked most solemn with its columns and grandiose obelisks. Artificial Voznesensky and Tserkovny Channels bordered the castle's territory from the west and the south thoroughly isolating it from the city. It was good enough for Paul who wanted to hide from the assassination attempts in a really safe residence.
The square in front of the castle was decorated with the bronze monument to Peter the Great created after the design of B. Rastrelli in 1745-1747. The monument's pedestal had inscription «From Great Grandson to Great Grandfather».
The Mikhailovsky Castle was solemnly opened and sanctified in November of 1800 but it was fully finished in March of 1801.
Ironically Paul I had not luck in his new safe residence. On the night of 12th of March 1801 he was killed by conspirators. After his death the royal family returned to the Winter Palace and in 1819 the Mikhailovsky Castle was given to the Main Engineering School and received its second name — the Engineering Castle.
The unusual exterior and tainted reputation of the Mikhailovsky Castle brought to life many legends, especially connected with the ghost of murdered Paul I. Nevertheless nowadays the castle is a rather peaceful place. Since 1995 the building is at the disposal of the Russian Museum and houses permanent exhibition of the Russian ceremonial portraits. Here one can see portraits of Russian monarchs (from Peter I to Nicolas II), outstanding commanders and statesmen of Russia.