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Mikhailovsky (St. Michael's) Castle – a Place of Joy and Death of Paul I

Mikhailovsky Castle in St. Petersburg was built by design of Emperor Paul I and became a place where his life was cut short. In addition, it is the only known case in the history of Russian architecture, when a building of a secular purpose did not assume its owner’s name.

Paul I cherished the idea of building his own residence way back when he was a Grand Duke. He even developed projects himself when traveling over Europe and being inspired by its architecture. The emperor gave the order for construction of the Mikhailovsky Castle in the very first month of his reign in 1796, having decided to build the residence on the site of the dilapidated Summer Palace, where he was born. Several architects worked on the project: Vasily Bazhenov, other renowned architects, as well as the emperor himself, who made several layout sketches. The monarch was so hasty to see his residence that the construction was carried out day and night and was completed by 1800. The unusual, soft-orange color of the castle walls, according to the legend, was chosen by Paul I himself. During one of the balls he picked up a glove of that color, which belonged to his mistress Anna Lopukhina.

The waterlocked castle, symbolizing Russia as a maritime power, was consecrated in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel. The castle also contains Archangel Michael’s Church, who is the patron saint of the Romanovs House. After the consecration, the interior works lasted some months more, and the emperor finally established himself in the castle. However, he managed to live here a short while and was assassinated in March 1801, 40 days after he moved into his newly built residence. Soon after, the Romanovs left the castle for a few decades. Alexander I used it in a very peculiar way: he ordered to re-melt the castle’s silver gates to make his sister a wedding gift – a silver service.

In 1819, the Mikhailovsky Castle was given to the needs of the Main Engineering School, and from then on the former imperial residence became also known as the Engineers’ Castle. Throughout the twentieth century, the castle housed a military engineering school, a military hospital, two faculties of the Naval Engineering School, various research institutes and the Central Naval Library. Since 1991, one-third of the Mikhailovsky Castle buildings are used by the Russian Museum, and one of its expositions is dedicated to the history of the castle and its inhabitants. Lots of the building original interiors were restored as well.

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