Mikhailovsky Castle is the most unusual and the most mysterious palace of St.Petersburg. The castle was built by order Emperor Paul I, who is known as the Russian Hamlet. Paul I disliked the Winter Palace and was afraid of living there, for this reason he wanted to have a new palace built for himself, which would be a real castle like in the Middle Ages.
The palace was built hastily – in the daytime and at night with torchlight. Building materials were taken from other construction sites – from St.Isaac’s Cathedral, Tsarskoye selo, Taurida Palace and other projects. The tsar required that a real fortress be build urgently surrounded by a moat filled with water on all four sides, with drawbridges, and reliable armed guards. The castle was modeled at the Château de Chantilly of Princes de Condé.
The castle was separated from the city by the Moika river on the north and the Fontanka river on the east. In front of the castle is the Connétable Square, surrounded by canals, with a monument to Peter I. Drawbridges were spanned across the canals.
The castle was designed by architects V.Bazhenov and V.Brenna, later D.Cameron, K.Rossi and G/Quarenghi were also involved. Interior decoration works were completed in March 1801. The castle was decorated with ancient statues and paintings by the best artists of the time, which made it look stately. The castle was named after Archangel Michael whom Paul I considered his patron saint.
The emperor moved into his new nit fully completed castle to live in it as short a time as forty days. He was assassinated in his bedroom at night by conspirators, among whom were his own guards.
After Paul I’s death, the Romanovs never used the castle, and it was totally abandoned. Drawbridges were dismantled, moats were filled in, the building was reconstructed inside, and there was hardly any trace left of its original role.
In 1819, Nicholas I handed the castle over to the Engineering Academy, which gave the castle a new name the Engineering Castle. After the Revolution, the building housed the Leningrad Military Engineering Academy, a technical library and other institutions.
In 1991, the buiding was given to the Russian museum, and in May 2003 after a long restoration project, the building was open for visitors.
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