Saint Michael's Castle
is a former royal residence in the historic centre of Saint Petersburg
. St. Michael's Castle was built as a residence for Emperor Paul I
by architects Vincenzo Brenna
and Vasili Bazhenov
Afraid of intrigues and assassination
plots, Emperor Paul I disliked the Winter Palace
where he never felt safe. Due to his personal fascination with medieval knights
and his constant fear of assassination, the new royal residence was built like a castle
around a small octagonal courtyard. The building with rounded corners was surrounded by the waters of the Moika River
, the Fontanka River
and two specially dug canals (the Church Canal and the Voznesensky Canal), transforming the castle area into an artificial island which could only be reached by drawbridges
Construction began on 26 February (N.S.
9 March), 1797 and the castle was solemnly consecrated on 8 November 1800, i.e. on St. Michael's Day
in the Eastern Orthodox
calendar, though finishing work on the interior continued until March 1801.
Ironically, Paul I was assassinated only 40 nights after he moved into his newly-built castle. He was murdered
on 12 March 1801, in his own bedroom, by a group of dismissed officers headed by General Bennigsen
After Paul's death, the imperial family returned to the Winter Palace; St. Michael's Castle was abandoned and in 1823 was given to the army
's Main Engineering School
In the Russian Empire any information about the death was banned by the censor until the revolution of 1905
, although the murder was discussed actively by foreign and emigre press. The official version for over a century was the end of the disease from natural causes "of apoplexy
" (stroke). Any publications containing hint to the violent death of the emperor, were suppressed by the censor.