The Engineers Castle – built in the Tuscan style and originally known as Mikhailovsky Palace (St. Michael Palace) - with its pavilions, the last and perhaps most perfect of the edifices created in Saint Petersburg by V. Bazhenov,
Engineers (Mikhailovsky) Castle - View from the FontankaThe castle stands as a monument to the culminating period of classic architecture, a period already partly tinged by the spirit of Romanticism which was invading the Russian art of the late 19th century.
The will of the Archangel
According to legend, a sentry, standing guard in front of the Summer House built by Peter the Great, had a vision. An angel ordered the sentry to go to the Tsar and say that a temple should be erected in the name of the Archangel Michael. When Paul heard of this apparition he said: “ The will of the Archangel is already known to me; his wish shall be carried out.”
Day and Night
Six thousand people worked on the construction of the palace, rain or shine, all through the day and all through the night, by the torchlight when it became dark. Such incredible pace of construction was demanded by Paul himself, who wanted for the castle to be built as soon as possible.
Engineers (Mikhailovsky) Castle - View from the Mikhailovsky Garden on a rainy day
The color of the glove
Legend has it that Anna Lopukhina, Paul’s lover, dropped her glove at one of the balls. Paul picked up the glove, but was so enthralled with its rare yellowish-orange color that instead of returning the glove to Anna, he sent it to Brenna (the architect), asking him to paint the castle in that color.
The statue of Peter the Great
The statue of Peter the Great (sculptor Carlo Rastrelli) was unveiled in 1800 in front of the main entrance to the Mikhailovsky (St. Michael) castle. Peter is depicted as a military leader and victor, powerful and threatening to the external and internal enemies of the state.
The pedestal is decorated with bronze bas-reliefs (sculptor Mikhail Kozlovsky) showing the decisive battles of the Northern War (the victory at Poltava in 1709, and the sea victory at the cape of Gangut in 1714).
A chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael
On 8th November 1800 it was consecrated by the priests. Soldiers guarded it continually, as though the city was in a state of siege. The entrance was decorated tastefully, and traces of its luxury can still be seen. The beautiful staircase leading from the main approach gives an idea of its former splendour. In the upper storey is the immense chamber of the Tsar, later converted into a chapel. In addition to this there was a chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael, who so imperiously ordered the palace to be built.
Engineers (Mikhailovsky) Castle - Watercolors by Giacomo Quarenghi
Murder of Paul I on March 11, 1891
The rooms and apartments of the castle are large and too numerous to name. A marble staircase leads to the first floor lobbies and corridors are paved with a kind of very beautiful marble. Immediatelly after the murder of Paul I on March 11, 1891, the castle was abandoned as uninhabitable. Later, the castle was converted into a school for engineers, hence the current name - Engineers Castle.
St. Michaels Palace, the last, as well as favorite, residence of the unfortunate Paul, stands near the summer garden. It is a vast quadrangular fabric, built by an Italian architect, of red brick, upon a basement of Finland, rock, displaying little taste, but many spacious apartments, and numberless windows. Only two years and a half were occupied in the erection; by dint of incessant labor, and the almost daily superintendence of the Emperor himself, who looked forward to its completion with an eagerness, now considered by his superstitious subjects, ominous of his own fate; for here the unhappy monarch was soon after put to death. What induced him to construct a new palace, while so many were unoccupied, is difficult to say, except it were whim, or an aversion to his mothers memory. The latter is commonly believed; and among his people, at least his nobility, it constituted one of his deadly sins. She had practiced that system of favoritism, of loose principles, and of ostentatious profusion, so congenial to minds only half enlightened; she had extended at once their fame and their arms, and gratified their love of barbarous aggression abroad, and useless shew at home. They in return believed all she did to be right, and that any deviation from her system was improper. Even Alexander, on his accession, had to assure the nation that he would tread in her steps. None of the Imperial family have resided in this palace since the horrible catastrophe alluded to.
A Voyage to St. Petersburg in 1814, Surgeon in the British Navy