Mikhailovsky Castle in St. Petersburg, in detail

Mikhailovsky Castle

St. Michael’s Castle, a former imperial palace in St. Petersburg, resembling a fortress palace in Western Europe. The castle owes its name to the temple of Archangel Michael, the patron of Romanovs, and to a caprice of Paul I, who received the title of Grand Master of the Order of Malta, to call all his palaces “castles”; the second name “Engineering” came from the building, where from 1819 the Main Engineering School was located.

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General Information

When the building was transferred to the State Russian Museum in 1991, it was restored. Under Paul I the enfilade of the state rooms along the perimeter of the courtyard (Antiques Gallery, Raphael Gallery, Laocoon Gallery, Arabesque Gallery) was filled with first-rate works of art. After the restoration, the halls of the Mikhailovsky Castle were also filled with paintings and sculptures, but not any more. Exhibitions “Portrait Gallery of Russian Historical Figures”, “Antique Plots in Russian Art”, “Renaissance and Russian Artists”, “History of the Castle and its Inhabitants” were held there. Various temporary art exhibitions are held here.

Once there was a wooden summer palace of Empress Elizabeth, which was the birthplace of Paul – the son of the future Empress Catherine II, then wife of the heir to the throne. Paul did not like his mother Catherine, considered her a murderer of his father, illegally usurped power, and she responded to him with distrust. The very manner of her reign was unbearable for Paul. When at last the Empress died and Paul came to power he did not want to live in her residence (the Winter Palace) and ordered a new one to be built.

According to legend, Paul, who was prone to mysticism, once said that he would like to die where he was born, so this place was chosen for construction. At the request of the emperor who saw danger everywhere, his new palace was built as a secure fortress, surrounded on all sides by moats with drawbridges. It is traditionally called a castle in St. Petersburg. It was named Mikhailovsky Palace in honor of the archangel Michael, whom the emperor considered his patron saint.

The unusual for St. Petersburg appearance and structure of the Mikhailovsky Castle defined the chivalrous ideals and character traits of Paul I, who saw plots and treason everywhere. Until now do not subside disputes about the author of the castle project. According to one version, as a basis was taken the project of Vasily Bazhenov (the author of Pashkov’s house in Moscow), according to another one Vincenzo Brenna, and according to the third one the idea belonged to Paul himself, because the restless nature of the tsar romantic was reflected in the image of the building. In any case the project was brought to life by the Italian Brenna, who served not so much as architect as foreman.

It was the most expensive and hastiest construction of the XVIII century. The castle was erected for four years, and it cost 6.5 million rubles in gold. At the same time, materials for the construction of the marble St. Isaac’s Church, Catherine’s estate in Pella and the Taurida Palace were stripped. The work was being done with great haste, thousands of people were working there day and night, as Paul was hurrying to find shelter behind reliable walls. Finally, in early February 1801 the impatient owner, along with his many family members, entered the newly completed castle, which had not yet been dried and almost unheated.

The new royal residence, surrounded by rivers and specially dug canals with drawbridges, carefully guarded by soldiers, seemed impregnable. But fate played a cruel joke on Emperor Paul – only forty days after moving in he was brutally murdered by conspirators in his bedchamber. Dissatisfied with his erratic reign, the Guard officers beat the unhappy man to death. The prediction of one of the town hermits came true who prophesied that the tsar would live as long as the number of letters above the castle gates: “Unto thy house shall be the sanctity of the Lord for ever and ever. There are 47 letters here – at this age the emperor died.

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Let’s take a closer look at the castle. Doesn’t it reek of some severity and mystery? All its unapproachable and mysterious appearance is imbued with the spirit of architectural romance. Each facade of the massive building looks different. From the side of Sadovaya Street you can see the Mikhailovsky Palace Church, topped with a typical St. Petersburg spire. The northern facade faces the Moika River with an open terrace supported by a marble colonnade and a wide staircase decorated with statues of Hercules and Flora. Emphasized monumental is the main southern facade with marble columns and sculpture. On its pediment – the bas-relief “History puts on its tables the glory of Russia”.

Until now in the city there is a legend that for the unusual for St. Petersburg reddish-pink color, which is painted on the walls of the castle, was the glove, abandoned during the ball favorite of Paul’s Anna Lopukhina. “The palace has the name of an archangel and the paint of a mistress,” wrote the Saxon envoy Rosenzweig.

For almost twenty years after the violent death of the emperor, the castle stood empty. Members of the royal family feared and avoided this sinister and mysterious structure. Many rumors and mystical stories connected with Mikhailovsky Castle were spreading through the city. There were told about the bad omens that supposedly took place during its construction, the legend of the ghost of the killed emperor appearing here at night was passed from mouth to mouth. Not surprisingly, the castle remained abandoned for a long time, arousing curiosity and fear with its mysterious appearance.

. A singer looks thoughtfully at the desolate monument of a tyrant sleeping in the fog, The palace abandoned to oblivion. – Pushkin wrote about it.

Then, the castle housed the General Engineering School, hence its second name – Engineering. The future writer Dostoevsky, composer Cui, physiologist Sechenov, electrical engineer Yablochkov studied there. After the revolution the military engineering school continued its work, which was replaced by numerous offices and design bureaus. At the beginning of the 1990s the castle was handed over to the Russian Museum, which owns it to this day. By the anniversary of the city the building was restored, the fragments of the Voskresensky channel and the Three Span Bridge, a part of the fortifications surrounding the castle, were reconstructed and opened underground.

Let’s go into the courtyard of the castle. It has an unusual shape – octagonal, reminiscent of the octagonal Maltese star (Paul was grandmaster of the Order of Maltese Knights) . In the middle of the courtyard several years ago a monument to the emperor was placed. If you want you can go inside the castle. There is a museum there now – one of the branches of the Russian Museum. You can walk around the restored state rooms and view art exhibitions.

In front of the main entrance to the castle is the Connetable Square which has been arranged for parades with a monument to Peter I in the middle. This first equestrian statue of Peter the Great in Russia was made by the sculptor Rastrelli in the 1740s, but it was erected only 60 years later at the wish of Paul I who ordered the inscription “Great-grandson-in-law” to be written on the pedestal. The monument to the Tsar, depicted as a Roman emperor on a mighty horse, was much admired by Lomonosov:

This is the image of the wise hero, Who, for the sake of his subjects, deprived himself of rest, The last accepted the rank and reigning served, His laws themselves by example approved.

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The pedestal of the monument is decorated with two bronze bas-reliefs, which depict the most important battles of the Northern War – “The Battle of Poltava” and “The Battle of Gangut”. Both feature angels soaring in the sky, extending a laurel wreath to Peter and trumpeting victory. Note the polished heel of one of the sailors in the bas-relief depicting the Battle of Gangut. It is believed that if you try to help him climb aboard, your wish is bound to come true.

Mikhailovsky Castle (Engineering Castle) in St. Petersburg

Mikhailovsky Castle (Engineering Castle) in Saint Petersburg

The Mikhailovsky Castle in St. Petersburg, also known as the Engineers’ Castle, was built by order of Emperor Paul I. Construction lasted 2 years, from 1797 to 1800. Today the castle is the largest monument of St. Petersburg architecture of the XVIII century.

The castle was called an engineering castle at the beginning of the XIX century, when the building had the Main Engineering School. It was named Mikhailovsky in honor of Michael the Archangel, since this saint’s temple was located inside the castle. This is the only case in history, when a secular architectural structure was not named after the owner, not by the same name as the territory on which it was located, and without specifying the purpose, but in honor of the saint.

A visit to St. Michael’s Castle is a mandatory part of a sightseeing trip to St. Petersburg. And in this article you will find complete information about this object of history and culture, which will help to plan a tour.

St. Michael’s Castle opening hours in 2022

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to Sunday, Mikhailovsky Castle welcomes visitors from 10:00 to 18:00.

On Thursday its doors are open to guests from 13:00 to 21:00.

Tuesday is a day off.

Cash desk closes 30 minutes before the end of the castle.

Tickets to St. Michael’s Castle

During an epidemic of coronavirus there are special rules: tickets are sold only online. Buy tickets to the Mikhailovsky Castle at the museum ticket office – it is impossible. Such an order will be in force until a special order.

Entrance to the St. Michael’s Castle Museum is carried out by sessions, each session – no more than 5 people. Tickets are sold for a specific date and time of the session. If you are late, the service is considered rendered, and the cost of the ticket is not refundable. To enter the castle is possible within half an hour from the beginning of the session, which time is specified in the purchased ticket.

Ticket price to St Michael’s Castle

The cost of tickets for the citizens of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan:

  • standard ticket – 450 rubles;
  • children from 3 to 16 years old – free of charge;
  • pensioners – 220 rubles;
  • students – 220 rubles;

Ticket price for citizens of other countries:

  • standard ticket – 550 rubles;
  • children from 3 to 16 years old – free of charge;
  • Students – 270 rubles.

Free tickets

Children under 3 years old go to the castle for free, a separate ticket for them is not necessary.

Also eligible for free visit:

  • participants of the Great Patriotic War;
  • People of besieged Leningrad;
  • participants of military operations;
  • military personnel performing compulsory military service;
  • cadets of the institutions of the Ministry of Defense, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Security Service and the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations;
  • students of Suvorov military and Nakhimov naval schools;
  • disabled persons of groups I and II with one accompanying person;
  • members of families with many children;
  • members of the Union of Russian Museums and employees of regional ministries of culture;
  • Heroes of the USSR and the Russian Federation.
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In order to use the right of a free visit to the castle, you must submit supporting documents. Concessional tickets can be obtained in the ticket office of the museum.

Every year on the 18th of May the museum receives free tickets for all categories of visitors.

Complex tickets

On sale are complex tickets that provide the right to visit the Mikhailovsky Palace, the Marble Palace, the Stroganov Palace, as well as the Benoit Building and the Mikhailovsky Castle.

The cost of complex tickets for the citizens of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan:

  • standard ticket – 1000 rubles for 1 day, for 3 days – 1250 rubles;
  • Pensioners, students (over 16 years old): 500 rubles for 1 day, 650 rubles for 3 days;

The cost of complex tickets for citizens of other countries:

  • standard ticket – 1200 rubles for 1 day, for 3 days – 1600 rubles;
  • Pensioners, students (over 16 years old) – 600 roubles for 1 day ticket, for 3 days – 800 roubles;

Complex ticket is valid for 3 days.

Rules of visiting

During the period of the spread of the coronavirus infection, all visitors to the castle are required to wear protective medical masks and to keep a social distance of at least 1.5 meters. For non-compliance with these requirements the guest can be refused service and removed from the castle grounds, and the cost of the ticket is not refundable.

All outerwear should be left in the checkroom, it is forbidden to carry any weapons, including dummies. It is also forbidden to enter the castle with bags and backpacks, sports equipment and other bulky things.

Photography and videotaping with additional equipment such as flashes, tripods, selfies and others is prohibited.

History of the Castle

History of St. Michael's Castle

The initiator of the construction of the Engineering Castle in St. Petersburg was Paul I, during the time when he had the title of Grand Duke. Development of the project of residence began in 1784, and lasted 12 years. During his foreign trips Paul I consulted eminent architects, and was inspired by buildings in different countries of the world.

The castle became a dream, and as soon as Paul ascended the throne, he issued a decree for the construction of a castle palace. Gatchina was one of the places where the castle was to be built, but he chose to build it “on the site of the dilapidated Summer House”.

The Emperor gave orders that the construction work did not stop – the builders worked day and night, and the number of those who worked simultaneously reached six thousand people.

Paul I wanted to create not only a ceremonial residence, but also a secure dwelling that his enemies could not reach. The castle was surrounded by water, had canals and half-bastions, cannons and drawbridges.

However, all this did not save the owner of the castle, and he was killed 40 days after the housewarming. After his death, the Romanov dynasty left the palace. The imperial residence stood in disrepair for a long time, after some time Alexander I melted down the silver gates of the palace church into a service, which he gave to his sister Anna for her wedding. Even later, Nicholas I ordered the architects to use the marble from the castle for the construction of the New Hermitage.

In 1819 the castle was given to the General College of Engineering, but a church was arranged in the bedroom where Paul I was killed. The following year, the area around the school was redesigned: the canals were filled in and the drawbridges removed. With the passage of time and numerous redevelopments, the external appearance of the castle was losing its pristine appearance.

During the Great Patriotic War the building housed a hospital, and afterwards – faculties of colleges and institutes, and a library. Because of the long and careless exploitation by 1988 the castle was in bad condition: paintings on the walls painted over with paint, objects of art and everyday life were lost or spoiled, the building was in need of extensive reconstruction.

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It was not until 1994 that the former imperial residence was transferred to the State Russian Museum, and the restoration was completed by 2000. Many of the paintings and interior details were restored to their original form. The grand opening to the public took place in 2003.

Facade and the courtyard of St. Michael’s Castle

Mikhailovsky Castle (Engineering Castle) in St. Petersburg in 2020

The prominent figure of the main facade was the monument to Peter I, to emphasize his contribution to the creation of the maritime empire. It was consecrated at the same time as the castle. In fact the monument had already been completed in 1747, long before the construction of the castle, but could never find its place. Paul I ordered an inscription to be engraved on it: “To my great-grandson” as opposed to the message on the Bronze Horseman.

On the central facade you can see the bas-relief “History puts on its tables the glory of Russia.

Interior decoration

Inside the castle there are a lot of interesting corners that will be of interest to tourists.

The Main Staircase

The main staircase of St. Michael’s Castle is striking in its monumentality. It is a replica of the antique sculpture “Dying Cleopatra” made of white marble. It expresses the past reign of Catherine II. In the side niches you can see the sculptures “Prudence” and “Justice”, so embodying the reign of Paul I himself.

Note the wall, next to the main staircase: it still bears the image of the Russian coat of arms with the Maltese cross included. It emphasizes Paul’s affiliation with the Knights of the Order of Malta.

The Antique Room

The Antique Hall, unfortunately, did not retain the original decoration. The walls here were decorated with marble and the doors were of bronze, and the antique statues were kept inside. Nowadays the place is occupied by a portrait gallery of the Romanov dynasty.

Gallery of Raphael

Raphael Gallery got its name because of the four trellises that were on the wall in front of the windows. They were given by the French king Louis XVI. The pieces of art reproduced the subjects of the wall paintings in the Vatican, which were made by Raphael: “Constantine before his army”, “Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple”, “School of Athens” and “Parnassus”. Three of the trellises are now kept in the Hermitage, and the latter in Leipzig. Original monumental paintings are preserved in the gallery.

Throne room and bedroom of Empress Maria Feodorovna

Throne room of Empress Maria Fyodorovna at Mikhaylovsky Castle

The throne room of Empress Maria Fiodorovna is impressive in its opulence. The walls are upholstered in velvet and the windows are covered with gilt bas-reliefs.

Maria Feodorovna’s bedroom has been recreated with former luxury. The furniture could not be preserved, so there is nothing in the room except the medallions. But the overall decoration makes an unforgettable impression.

Bedroom of Paul I

The bedroom of Paul I cannot be entered on its own, only as part of a tour group. The unrestored rooms lead up to the entrance, and only here can you appreciate the work that has been done by the restorers. A few years after the assassination of Paul I, his bedroom was converted into a church, but its interior has not survived to this day. Now here you can see plaques with the names of the students of the engineering school who died in the wars.

The common dining hall

The common dining hall had two bronze chandeliers, the biggest in the castle, and each had a capacity for 50 candles. This was the place for meals of the imperial family and invited guests.

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The church of St. Michael

The church is currently undergoing renovation, and can only be visited with a guide. The area of the temple is small, and there are several columns inside. But the most interesting detail is the Masonic symbol of the all-seeing eye right on the ceiling, as well as above the Holy Gates.

The Marble Gallery

The Marble Gallery at St. Michael's Castle

It is also called the St. George’s Hall, and is one of the largest ceremonial halls of the castle. It served as the place for the guard of the Maltese order. It was named so because of the different colors of marble that was used for decoration. Along the wall were installed 3 fireplaces that were decorated with semiprecious stones. The parquet, mirrors, and other parts of the interior were moved to the Taurida Palace after Paul’s death, and the fireplaces were sent to Pavlovsk.

During the restoration, the marble decoration of the walls as well as the columns and stucco have been restored. The fireplaces and chandeliers are copies made from the originals.

Oval Room

The Oval Room is one of the rooms where the sculptural decorations of Paul I have been preserved. Unfortunately, the hall was seriously damaged when the castle housed the School of Engineering. It was divided into two floors, because of which the cornices, bas-reliefs and door were damaged. But, during the reconstruction, fragments of wall decoration were found.

Museum exhibitions

Exhibitions in St. Michael's Castle in St. Petersburg

There are 2 permanent exhibitions in the museum: “Faces of Russia. Portrait Gallery of the Russian Museum” and “Saint-Petersburg society of the Romanovs’ epoch”.

At the first you can see the works of such famous masters as Ilya Repin, Karl Bryullov, Vasily Surikov and others. There are portraits of tsars and emperors of the Romanov dynasty, as well as statesmen, writers, composers and military leaders. Along with them you can see portraits of ordinary citizens of St. Petersburg, and the exhibition ends with an exposition of images of secular intellectuals.

At the second permanent exhibition you can see works of Russian art of the first half of the XIX century: paintings, graphics, sculptures and many others. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a work by Grigory Chernetsov, “Parade on Tsaritsyny Meadow. This painting depicts St. Petersburg society in the 1830s, the brightest era in the history of St. Petersburg.

Excursions to the Mikhailovsky Castle

For the guests of St. Michael’s Castle, a sightseeing tour is made, which can be accompanied by a guide. The cost of the ticket for a tour session – 700 rubles. The price already includes an entrance fee.

Game-quest “Around Michael’s Castle”

On an interactive tour you can uncover the secrets of one of the most mysterious castles of St. Petersburg. The tour guide will offer to solve the cipher and perform tasks, so that a trip to the museum becomes an interesting quest. At this excursion you will get acquainted not only with Michael’s castle, but also learn about its owner and one of the pages of history of Russia.

Type of excursion: individual, walking tour.

Duration: 1.5 hours.

Cost: 3250 rubles for a group of up to 4 people.

How to get there

Address of Mikhailovsky Engineers’ Castle in St. Petersburg: Garden Street, 2.

Nearby is the streetcar stop of the same name. You can get there by streetcar number 3. Across the bridge is another stop – “Summer Garden” (Lebyazhaya Kanavka Embankment), the bus number 46, as well as minibuses number K-76 and K-212 stop here. The nearest metro station is “Gostiny Dvor”. From it the distance to the Mikhailovsky Castle is about 900 meters, it takes 10-15 minutes of walking along Sadovaya Street.

Official website: https://rusmuseum.ru

Feel free to contact me by phone: +7 (812) 595-42-48 +7 (812) 347-87-04 +7 (812) 570-51-12

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