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The Mikhailovsky Castle is probably the most non-Petersburg palaces of all. Its walls are distinguished with a fortress power and painted in an unusual for Petersburg red and terracotta color.
It is said that a house reflects a character of a person it was built for. The Mikhailovsky Castle was raised for the Emperor Pavel the First, a personality mostly controversial. Pavel had a cute mind, knew eleven foreign languages, loved and valued the art. The reform that he carried out promoted to create the strong Russian Army. Meanwhile, the Emperor was distinguished with his unbalanced character. He acceded to the throne when he was 43, of which 35 of them he, actually, lived in exile, excepted by his mother Catherine the Great from all state matters. Pavel well remembered the fate of his father, Emperor Peter the Third, who was killed upon sufferance of Catherine. When acceded to the throne, he did not want to live in neither of the Imperial residencies. It seemed to him that the spirit of Catherine he hated is still flying within them. Moreover, in both the Winter Palace and Tsarskoye Selo he saw imaginary conspirators everywhere.
On February 26, 1797, a new residency was laid down. The Emperor rushed – he ordered to finish it in a rough form by the end of that year. The construction went on even at night under light of lamps and torches. Pavel called his new castle Mikhailovsky, because of Archangel Michael – traditional protector of the Russian Tsars. However, the heaven’s protection seemed not so sufficient for Pavel. For his own security he took quite down-to-earth measures. The rivers Moika and Fontanka were connected with a deep trench filled with water, dividing the palace and the city. To get to the castle, one needed to walk on lifting bridges that were protected day and night.
When Mikhailovsky Castle was almost finished, the architect Vincenzo Brenna inquired from the Emperor what color he would like to have the walls painted. Pavel thought for a moment, then asked his favorite Anna Lopukhina to take her glove off and stretched it to Brenna saying:
-Here is the color we need, Mister Architect.
Afterwards, a Saxonic Ambassador Rosenzveig wrote in his report: “The Palace bore the name of the Archangel and colors of a lover”.
On February 1, 1801, the Emperor with his family, to bell-ringing, moved from the Winter Palace to the Mikhailovsky Castle. Before this, he personally checked all the pickets and guards. The walls of the Castle had not even dried out. Traces of dampness were everywhere, and, in some rooms, windowpanes iced up in spite of the fire from fireplaces. In a ball hall the evaporations were so strong that people standing at its different corners, could not see each other. However, the Emperor was satisfied; at last, he was feeling himself in safety.
Nevertheless, no trenches, lifting bridges, even the Archangel Michael could save Pavel I. The Emperor lived in his new Palace just 40 days. At night from 11th to 12th of March, when the Castle seemed to be sleeping, the conspirators, mostly Guards Officers came up on inner spiral stairs to the doors of the Imperial bedroom. Pavel seemingly did not fall asleep. When he heard the noise, he realized everything and hid himself behind a screen. When broke into the bedroom, the conspirators were stunned at first, seeing nobody in the bed. But one of them peered round the screen and took out the ruler of the half the world in underwear. Platon Zubov, the last favorite of Catherine the Great, stretched out the Abdication Act. Pavel snatched out the paper, started reading it, then crumpled it up, threw it on the ground and tried to reach out for his sword. The conspirators ganged up on him and the fight started. Nicholas Zubov took a massive gold tobacco box and hit the Emperor with all his strength on his temple. Somebody flung an officer scarf over his shoulder and tightened the knot.
The new Emperor Alexander the First, who knew about the Conspiracy against his father, did not want to live at the Castle, where the assassination took place. The residency of Pavel was empty for a long time. Only in 1823, it hosted the Military Engineer College. This is where the name Engineer is dating back.
During the centuries of Empire St. Petersburg was a grand city with ceremonial buildings, rich and pompous palaces. Even today St. Petersburg can boast a huge number of palaces, including some of the grandest residences not just in Russia, but in the whole of Europe.
Our audio guide will take you to the most famous palaces and Grand residences of St. Petersburg. We can start with the Tauride Palace and Garden, one of the largest and most historic complexes in Russia. This palace was designed for Grigory Potemkin in a rigorous Palladian style. In the 19th century, the palace was transformed into a residence for minor royalty. It had been used to host balls and exhibitions until 1906, when it was given as a seat of the first Russian parliament, the Imperial State Duma.
You will also hear the history of the Winter Palace, the most prominent palace in Russia. The Winter Palace not only physically dominates Palace Square and the south embankment of the Neva River, but also plays a central political, symbolic, and cultural role in the three-century history of the city. It was declared part of the State Hermitage Museum on 17 October 1917. Now the Winter Palace, the Hermitage and all historical landmarks of St. Petersburg are enlisted by the UNESCO.
Another famous building is Anichkov Palace located next to Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka River. It’s one of the oldest buildings on Nevsky Prospect commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1741. When the palace was completed she presented it to Aleksey Razumovsky, her favourite and unofficial spouse.
Mariinsky Palace, the last neoclassical imperial palace to be constructed in Saint Petersburg, was built between 1839 and 1844 by the court architect Andrei Stackensneider. The palace stands on the south side of St Isaac's Square, just across the 99-metre-wide Blue Bridge from Saint Isaac's Cathedral. The palace was conceived by Emperor Nicholas I as a wedding present to his daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna.
During the tour you will also see the houses and mansions of famous court and military people: The House of Saltykov, The Marble Palace, The Vladimir Palace, The Mikhailovsky Castle, The Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace, The House of Gagarin, etc. Each building has its own history sometimes dramatic.
Take a walk in the Summer Garden. It was founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it, and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles. The Summer Garden is home to marble statues acquired from Europe especially for Russia's new capital, and also to rare flowers and plants, as well as fountains.
The Field of Mars, not far from the Summer Garden, has a long and varied history dating back to the very beginning of the city's history. You will listen to it while walking. To your attention will also be the stories and legends of The First Engineer Bridge, The Salt City, The Building of Senate and Synod, The Isakievsky Cathedral, The Petropavlovsk Fortress.
With audio visual materials you will also get a map that won’t let you lose your way.