The Priory Palace in Gatchina has never been used for its intended purpose, that is, as a residence of the Prior of the Maltese Order. It was a place of summer rest of Emperor Paul I. Almost abandoned in the XIX century, today the palace is one-of-a-kind from the architectural point of view.
After the revolution in France in the late 18th century, Prince Conde, who was also a Prior of the Maltese Order, moved to Russia. Back then, Emperor Paul I signed a convention on the establishment of the Grand Priory of the Order in Russia and ordered to build a Priory, a residence for the prince in Gatchina. Architect Nikolai Lvov erected a building of layers of compacted loam, impregnated with a lime mortar. This is the first and only rammed-earth construction of those survived in Russia. The style of the palace can be described as something between a castle, a Catholic monastery, a Gothic chapel and a country estate. The Priory is deliberately asymmetric and has no repetitive motives in its shape.
In 1799, the Palace was handed over to the Maltese Order. When Emperor Paul I gained the status of the Grand Master of the Order, he was given the holy relics of the Hospitallers in one of the halls of the palace: a piece of Christ’s Cross of the Lord, the right hand of John the Baptist and the icon of the Mother of God of Philerma. Later, Paul visited the Priory several times. However, Emperor Alexander I who came to throne after him decided to give the Palace to the treasury. Even later, at end of the 19th century, it became home to the court choristers, and then it was used as an exhibition hall. In the Soviet period the Priory Palace was turned into a recreation camp. Today the Palace is open to the public. Unfortunately, its historical interior has not been preserved: only two pieces of original furniture and a set of china are on display. Glased tile stoves and the mock-up of the Palace are also of interest. The modesty of the exposition is compensated by the excursion dedicated to the Maltese Order and the history of the Priory Palace.