Places Around Mikhailovsky Castle
Address: 2 Sadovaya Str
Open hours: 10.00 – 18.00
The Michailovsky Castle seems to be the most romantic and mysterious building of Saint Petersburg. It was constructed in 1797-1801 by order of Paul I. Afraid of intrigues and assassinations, he didn't like the Winter Palace where he could never feel himself safe. His mother Catherine the Great overthrew her husband Peter III to gain access to the Russian Imperial throne and Paul I was afraid that he would suffer the same fate. Paul I strove to create an irreproachable shelter where he could hide from his numerous enemies and ill-wishers and make the castle as unassailable as possible. From four sides the castle was surrounded by waters of the Moika River, the Fontanka River and two canals, which were specially dug. To leave the palace and depart to the city, one should use the hanging bridges, which were raised in the nights. The new royal residence, that was isolated from the city and looked like a fortified medieval castle encompassed with a deep moat, stroke fear into the hearts of people.
Mikhailovsky Castle was designed by architects Vincenzo Brenna and Vasily Bajenov. All four facades of the St Michael's Castle are different. Decorated with massive marble obelisks, the southern facade was particularly expressive and monumental. A porphyry frieze hung above the entrance, proclaiming in gilded bronze letters: Your home is befitting of an object of worship for years to come.
The northern facade looks onto the Summer Garden. Flanked by bronze statues of Hercules and Flora, it is reminiscent of an Italian Renaissance villa. The steeple with a graceful gilt spire crowns the Church façade.
An equestrian statue of Peter the Great in the guise of a Roman emperor was set in the centre of Connetable Square in the 1740s. The statue was cast according to the design of Carlo Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
The palace interiors included sumptuous state chambers, intimate private apartments and enfilades of long, narrow rooms housing the emperor's art collection — the Raphael Gallery, the Laocoön Gallery, the Arabesques Gallery and two Antique Rooms. Many parts of the interior were made according to the drawings by Vincenzo Brenna and Carlo Rossi. Johann Mettenleiter, Antonio Vigi, Pietro and Giovanni Batista Scotti added to monumental decoration of parade rooms.
Paul only spent forty days in the St Michael's Castle. On the night of 11/12 March 1801, he was murdered in his bedroom in a palace coup. Soon after the assassination of Paul I all masterpieces were removed from the castle and its front rooms became flats. The St Michael's Castle was presented to the Central College of Engineering in the early 1820s. In February 1823, it was renamed the Engineers Castle. Throughout the following century, the college altered the structure and interior decor to suit its own needs. Even in its dilapidated state, the St Michael's Castle has lost none of its former grandeur. Many famous Russians were educated at the Central College of Engineering.
Nowadays the Mikhailovsky Castle is a branch of the Russian Museum and houses several permanent exhibitions: "Portrait Gallery of the Outstanding Figures of the 18 - 19th Centuries Russian History" and "Exposition of the 18th Century Sculptural Portrait". The core of gallery is formed by the official portraits of Russian monarchs starting with Peter the Great and ending with Nicolas II, as well as members of royal family and Russian generals. The portraits were made by outstanding Russian and foreign artists.