Mikhailovsky Castle in St Petersburg
Mikhailovsky Castle in St Petersburg is considered to be the main and final epoch of an architectural monument of the 18th century, as well as the only Russian palace ensemble in the style of romantic classicism. It was built at the behest of Emperor Paul I, who for a short reign distinguished himself with extraordinary tastes and a desire to outdo the many predecessors in the decoration of the city.
The exhibition halls are open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00, on Thursday, the lengthened schedule until 21:00, cash desks are closed 1 hour before the end of the working day. Tuesday - the official sanitary day, the palace will not work.
The idea of a big castle in the center of St Petersburg Paul I bore all my life, and even the place for the future construction was not accidentally chosen - the wooden summer palace of his grandmother Elizaveta Petrovna. The demolition order was signed in 1797, and there were two responsible architects - Vasily Bazhenov, who created the Tsaritsyn ensemble, and Vincenzo Brenna, who had previously worked on several interiors of the Winter Palace.
The work began at an accelerated pace - according to the whim of the emperor, the time was set at one year, for which almost 6 thousand workers were brought here. Construction went both day and night - I had to think over a complex system of lamps and torches. The transfer of marble from other sites — St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the construction sites of Tsarskoe Selo — helped in part to speed up the process, but even such measures did not help — the project was finally implemented only in 1800 m.
The housewarming did not last long - 40 days after the ceremonial entry Paul was killed by conspirators in his own bedroom, and difficult times began for the Mikhailovsky Castle. The closest relatives and court families of the Romanovs were the first to leave, and behind them - numerous servants. Only the horse guards were left in the buildings, who were charged with protecting the empty corps from possible looting.
Ironically, the main "vandals" were not street thieves, but the descendants of the murdered emperor. First, Alexander I ordered the silver gates to be melted for the service for his sister Anna, and then Nicholas I ordered to destroy part of the buildings and take from them a valuable stone for the construction of the Hermitage. It was only in 1856, in memory of Pavel, that his bedchamber was rebuilt for the home church at the engineering school.
In the Soviet years, the educational institution continued to work for several years, and during the Great Patriotic War and the blockade a hospital was located here. Since the 1960s, most of the premises have been given to research institutes, and the territory has become closed to any excursions. The process of transferring to the Russian Museum began in 1991, and lasted until the anniversary year of 2003, when the restoration was fully completed.
Exhibitions of the Mikhailovsky Castle
Three expositions work on a permanent basis, and the first thematic exhibition is called “The Petersburg Society of the Romanov Era”. In its own way, this is a unique project dedicated to the everyday moments of metropolitan life in the 19th century. Here are the rarest paintings, watercolor paintings, prints and antique porcelain figurines. Everything is exclusively authentic, transferred from the storerooms of the Russian Museum and private collections.
Next comes the gallery "Faces of Russia", illustrating the evolution of portrait as a separate genre of painting. Here you can see the works of such legendary masters as Alexei Venetsianov, Ilya Repin, Karl Bryullov and Ivan Kramskoy. With their brushes they captured the first persons of the state, famous writers, musicians and military leaders. In the last room there is a plasma screen with an archival pre-revolutionary chronicle.
Finishes excursions to the Mikhailovsky Castle "Open Sculpture Fund" - one of the most equipped rooms of the entire museum. It contains an anthology of works from the 18th century to the present, including the avant-garde of the beginning of the 20th century and Soviet constructivism. There are multimedia screens, installations are periodically carried out using computer technologies. From time to time, experimental works by contemporary authors can be seen in the courtyard of the castle.
Outside the main building there is also something to be surprised about - the western pavilion conducts an interactive project “Our Romantic Emperor”, which focuses on the personality of Paul I. It includes a lecture hall for adults, quizzes, and educational puzzles for children of different ages. Among interesting bonuses is a chance to see a three-dimensional hologram of the crown of the Russian Empire, the original of which is kept in the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin.
Halls and excursions
To date, 21 rooms of the Mikhailovsky Castle are available for visit, including the following historic buildings:
The throne room of Maria Feodorovna - the empress's reception rooms, in which social events and balls were to take place. It was completely reconstructed in 2002, with the preservation of gilded stucco and ruby glass chandeliers.
Marble Gallery is the main reception hall of foreign ambassadors and guests of honor. It was restored by archival pictures and descriptions - it was barbarously destroyed for the extraction of marble under Nicholas I, and a direct hit by a German bomb during the blockade demolished half of the internal ceilings and the colonnade.
The oval hall is one of the few surviving premises that partially preserved the original decoration with artificial marble. It was conceived as a rest room, and during the years of its existence the school was used as a model workshop.
The main staircase begins with it, and excursions end there. Spans lead from the mezzanine, and now they are as close as possible to the pre-revolutionary appearance. Of particular interest is the gilded two-headed eagle with the Maltese cross on the heart - the distinctive symbolism of the Pavlovian era.
The Raphael Gallery exhibits unique student works by the greatest Russian painters, including Brullov, Bruni and Ivanov. These are copies of the textbook works of the Italian Renaissance. At that time, copying and interpretation were among the main disciplines of the Academy of Arts, and the ability to make reproduction was highly valued among collectors, including the august Romanov family.
The so-called Konstantinovsky bedchambers serve as a repository of another collection - collections of paintings by foreign artists. Here you can see the works of Lagrené, Torelli, Groote, Rotary and Robertson. There is also a unique collection of exclusive products of the imperial porcelain factory - statues, personalized dishes, vases and busts of famous statesmen of pre-revolutionary Russia.
The legends and secrets of the Mikhailovsky Castle still cause a lot of controversy among historians. For example, it is believed that the emperor was present at the construction site several times and even personally laid a couple of jasper bricks into the foundation. Another popular myth is that the ghost of Paul I wanders around the family grounds every night in an unsatisfied shadow and occasionally frightens passers-by and museum guards accidentally.
The palace has its own Chizhik-Pyzhik - this is a tiny statue of a soldier of the Guard regiment, standing in a niche opposite the main entrance. He even has a name - Second Lieutenant Kizhe, and if he get a coin to his head while standing on the bridge, you should definitely listen. Suddenly, the noble guard would decide to respond to such insolence and give out to the dearest guest a portion of selected soldier curses of the sample, of the 19th century.
How to get to the Mikhailovsky Castle
The nearest metro station of the green line is “Gostiny Dvor”, the easiest way from it is to walk - only 700 meters along Sadovaya Street, without turning anywhere, you just need to cross the road at the nearest traffic light, immediately at the exit from the hall. There is no need to go underground to the station “Nevsky Prospect”, as some guidebooks advise - just the same from him, but the time is definitely lost due to intricate intersections and yard trips.
It is also convenient to go by tram number 3 to the stop, which is called “Mikhailovsky Castle”. Past the central gate of the Inzhenernaya Square, from where there is a direct boulevard to the museum, only minibuses No. 107 and No. 289 go, the stop in this case is “Belinsky Square”. Comfort lovers can order a car through Uber, Yandex or Maxim - all popular services have been operating in the Northern capital for a long time and offer reasonable rates.
Independent travelers need to go to the coordinates of the navigator - 59.938436, 30.339804, only they are far from the castle, namely, near the Bolshoy St. Petersburg Circus. Next to it, opposite the fire station, spacious and free parking. Having literally walked a few steps from it, you need to go to the pedestrian boulevard of the public garden, from which to the main gate of the Mikhailovsky Castle is no more than 200 meters.