The Priory Palace/Prioratsky Dvorets

Prioratsky dvorets in Gatchina

Chkalova Street, the Priory park, Gatchina

Closest metro station:

Getting there:
Bus: 431, minibus: 18, 18a

Open hours:

June 17 – August 31: 11:00 - 19:00

September 1– April: 10:00 - 18:00

Closed: Monday, first Tuesday of each month, November 12 and January 1


The Priory Palace/Prioratsky Dvorets or Priory/Priorat is a unique architectural landmark not only by Russian, but also by world standards. The castle is located in Gatchina and is completely undeservedly located in the shadow of the more famous palaces of this area. The name goes back to the French word prieuré, which translates as "little monastery". The unusualness of the building can be traced throughout - the appearance, the technical features of the construction, the materials used. The castle has a very interesting history.

The main feature of Priorat is the only structure in Russia built using earth-based technology. The walls of the castle are completely made of earth. The use of such an unusual material did not affect the appearance of the palace. Priory looks extremely impressive. Strict straight edges, high steeple-shaped tower and close proximity to the water make it look like a medieval fortress.

The palace stands on the shore of Lake Black/Chyornoye ozero, around is a park with a total area of ​​160 hectares. The name of the park coincides with the name of the castle - Priorat. The terrain is incredibly picturesque: lakes covered with water lakes, green hills, alleys in the English style. The palace fits perfectly into a strict European landscape.

History of the palace

The idea of ​​creating the Priory Palace belongs to Emperor Paul I. In 1797, the Tsar inclined to mysticism declared the Russian Empire the center of world freemasonry. In 1798, after Napoleon's troops entered Malta, the Knights of the Order of Malta, including Prior Prince de Conde, took refuge in St. Petersburg. For these freemasons and planned to build a castle in Gatchina. The construction of the castle was completed in 1799: by this time the Prince of Conde handed over the reins of order to Paul I.

The palace was built by a talented architect, artist and poet N.A. Lviv. The asymmetric facade of the building has a unique feature: it looks completely different from different points of view. For example, from the side of the Chornogo Lake the castle looks like a fortress, from the side of the road it looks like a fairy-tale tower, on the side it looks like a medieval Gothic monastery.

The architect had to solve a difficult task: the site intended for the castle was very swampy and was completely unsuitable for construction. Lviv elegantly got out of the situation: an underground canal with a total length of 34 m was dug out to remove water. Later, a legend arose among the people that Tsar Paul I used the underground to quickly move from the Priory castle in the Gatchina palace/Gatchinsky Dvorets.

Two thousand rubles were spent on the construction of the earth walls of Priorat, which is huge by the standards of the 18th century. amount of However, historians have calculated: if a stone was used in the construction, the cost of the work would be 25 thousand rubles. Lviv not only saved a huge amount, but also erected the building in a record time - 3 months.

In the summer of 1799 the interior decoration was completed. Arriving at the opening of the castle, Paul I saw walls plastered in English style, painted in pale yellow tones. The interiors were distinguished by European laconicism: wooden floors, abundance of wood, unassuming colors. Immediately after inspection, the emperor handed over a new building to the Order of Malta.

After the murder of Paul I in 1801, his son, Alexander I, took away all the property of the masons in favor of the state. Priory was declared a backup lock for the royal family.

In the XIX century. Priory Palace was used for the rest of the most august persons, it contained a library and a collection of paintings. After the arrival of Soviet power, a sanatorium was located in the castle for some time.

During the Great Patriotic War, Gatchina was occupied by the Nazis. The invaders destroyed many palaces, but the Priory avoided this fate: only the roof was destroyed. In 1945, the roof was restored, and the castle was transferred to the Gatchina House of Pioneers. In 1968, the Local Lore Museum was housed within the walls of the Masonic Palace.

In 2004, large-scale restoration work on the Priorat was completed. The castle was completely repaired and returned to its original appearance.

Excursions to the Priory Palace

Currently, the castle is given the status of the museum. There are tours, concerts of classical music, theater and literary productions, meetings with interesting people. During the sightseeing tour, visitors will get acquainted with the interiors of the palace, learn a lot of interesting things about the Masonic Order, land-building, architect and poet N.A. Lviv, the underground course and the tragic fate of Paul I.

Read more

Special offers

Visit SPb Tram Museum and have a memorable ride on a vintage tram through the historical attractions.

Enlarge your War and Peace knowledge by joining Guide For You on the War and Peace Trail. (more…)

If you are looking for something unique to do in Saint Petersburg, experience Russian Blacksmith mastership!


Moderate 2 Day Shore Excursion St. Petersburg, Russia from 241$ Reserve Now & Pay Later