St Michael Palace
The St. Michael Palace was built for Mikhail, the brother of Russian tsar Nicholas I, by Carlo Rossi between the years of 1819 and 1825.
Its main building is located at the back of a forecourt formed by the administrative premises. The high railing separating the forecourt from the square is considered to be one of the finest examples of wrought-iron work in Saint Petersburg. It’s dissected by three gates, the gate posts of which are decorated with military accoutrements. Under the arcade supporting the protruding central eight-column portico, ramps allowed carriages to drive right up to the palace’s main entrance.
The Michael Palace is one of the handsomest in St. Petersburg: the front forms one side of a square, while the back looks over its spacious gardens to the Champ de Mars. The greater part of the lower rooms is devoted to the Arsenal, and to his Imperial Highness’s private apartments; a handsome staircase leads to the magnificent reception rooms up stairs. The garden is very pretty, and very extensive for a city park. It contains many good trees, which are rare objects in the neighborhood of St. Petersburg, and lying as it does, between this beautiful place, and the immense Champ de Mars, it forms a great addition to the beauty of the town, and a delightful promenade for its Imperial owners. Altogether the palace of the Grand Duke Michael is the most agreeable residence of all the imperial palaces which abound in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg and Moscow: A Visit to the Court of the Czar - Richard Southwell Bourke
During 1796-99 the crumbling Summer Palace of Empress Elizabeth was ordered torn down to make room for a new palace, initially called Mikhailovsky (St Michael) Palace and later renamed Engineers’ Castle. Two symmetrical three-story pavilions were set up at either end of a long and narrow square at some distance from the palace building, which, like a medieval castle, was completely surrounded by water: the Moika on the north, the Fontanka on the east, and a canal (later filled up) along the south wall, which turned northward along the western rim of the palace grounds to flow into the Moika.
The Michailof palace, or rather castle, stands on the site of the old Summer palace on the Eontanka canal, which was pulled down by the emperor Paul, who built this of granite in its stead, and fortified it as a place of defence; and, according to Russian custom, which dedicates to protecting saints and angels not churches only, but fortresses, castles, and other buildings, it was dedicated to the archangel Michael.
Robert Sears, An Illustrated Description of Russia, 1852
Three guarded drawbridges provided access to the palace. Medieval motifs prevail in the sculptural décor of the palace, such as knightly armor and weapons richly wrought in marble adorning the obelisks on either side of the main gateway and the heraldic helmets, swords and shields in relief above the top-story windows and running the length of the façades and walls of the octagonal inner court.
When the Emperor Paul began to be afraid of his subjects, he entrenched himself behind the strong walls of the Michailow Samok (fort). He pulled down the old Summer Palace on the Fontanka, and built in its stead one of granite, surrounded by walls and ditches, and bristling with cannon, and dedicated it to the Archangel Michael, according to Russian custom, which dedicates to protecting saints and angels not only churches, but fortresses, castles, and other buildings. The castle has a more gloomy exterior than the other palaces of St. Petersburg, and an extraordinary style of architecture. It is an immense, high, strong, massive square, whose four facades all differ the one from the other. The ditches are again partly filled up, and laid out in gardens, but the main entrance is still reached over several drawbridges, like a knightly castle in the middle ages. In the square before the chief gate stands a monument, insignificant enough as a work of art, which Paul erected to Peter the Great, with the inscription, "Prodiidu Pravnuk" (the Grandson to the Grandfather). Over the principal door, which is overloaded with architectural ornaments, is inscribed in golden letters a passage from the Bible in the old Slavonian language: "On thy house will the blessing of the Lord rest for evermore." This prophecy was badly fulfilled, for the emperor had only inhabited the house three months when he met his death from a hand that his cannon could not protect him against.
J. Kohl, Panorama of St. Petersburg, 1841