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The Mikhailovsky Garden

The Mikhailovsky Garden is one of the most singular monuments of landscape architecture from the 18th through the first third of the 19th centuries. It features a unique combination of two different styles of landscape art in one territory: French and English. It is also an outstanding example of the architectural unity of a building (Mikhailovsky Palace) and the natural landscape (Mikhailovsky Garden), created from the plan of the great architecture Carlo Rossi.

The Mikhailovsky Garden is a part of the spatial composition of the central section of St. Petersburg, which includes the Summer Garden and the Field of Mars. Over its long period of existence, the garden has altered its design several times in accordance with changes in the style and tastes of its new owners.

Initially, local settlements, as well as the estate and hunting grounds of a Swedish military official, were located on the territory of the current Summer and Mikhailovsky Gardens, the garden around St. Michael's Castle and Engineers' Square, which is verified by the plan from 1698. In 1716 and 1717, the architect Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond, on the order of Peter I, made a General Plan for three Summer Gardens. The first and second gardens were located on the territory of what is currently the existing Summer Garden. The third was a garden located at the palace of Catherine I. The territory on which the Mikhailovsky Garden is located was a part of the third Summer Garden and was called the Swedish Garden.

Le Blond's plan was, in essence, a design for the creation of a unified, grandiose assemblage of palaces and parks. Le Blond incorporated all of the plans personally approved by Peter the Great. The northeast part of the territory where Catherine I's palace was designated for ceremonial events. The image of the palace in the design was practically identical to the design of the center section of Peter I's upper chambers in Peterhof. Spruces trimmed into a pyramid shape grew near the palace. A path of chestnut trees led to a large parterre with an arbor, an ornamental pool with a fountain and sculptures. The southwest half of the garden was initially designed to be a regular fruit garden. It was the garden of the Russian Imperial Court with a plantation of fruit trees, herbs and roots, with orangeries, greenhouses, tropical greenhouses and a root cellar, in which various exotic plants and fruits were grown. During the rule of Anna Ioannovna, the territory of the Swedish Garden had a "reserve" of maple trees, in other words, a nursery. Also constructed there was a small hunting area where hares and deer were kept in specially fenced areas for court hunts.

In 1741, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna requested that Rastrelli design a new Summer Palace on the place of Catherine I's palace and its garden. In April 1743, Rastrelli presented the design of a garden in the form of a labyrinth decorated with sculptures and fountains. Behind the palace, another ceremonial section with two ornamental ponds, a fountain and flower garden with a lace pattern. The Swedish Garden was modified slightly. The territory was broken up into geometric areas intersected by vertical and horizontal paths. Five rectangular ponds were dug in the center. Thus, we can say that the Third Summer and Swedish Gardens were another example of Russian garden and park landscape art of the 18th century.

Elizabeth Petrovna's palace was demolished by order of Paul, and St. Michael's Palace was constructed on its foundation beginning in 1787 and was completed in 1801. The territory adjacent to the castle included two gardens, the Rastrelli Garden and the Swedish Garden. The design of the castle complex provided for the preservation of two ornamental ponds with a line of trees planted around their perimeters. In the Swedish Garden, according to the design, instead of five, four ponds were preserved that were linked together by an underground canal that continued until the western ornamental pond. Here, it is necessary to note the unique water system of ponds and canals.

St. Michael's Castle was built as an impregnable fortress surrounded by water and accessible by drawbridges. The canals (Voskresensky, Tserkovny and Obvodniy) bordering the castle and the ceremonial square in front of it with the equestrian statue of Peter I was a grandiose architectural assemblage of the 18th century that does not have an analogue in world architecture. The third Summer Garden was called the Higher Summer and the Mikhailovsky. The design of the Swedish Garden and its designation as a fruit garden (in its western section) did not change. Unfortunately, the unique assemblage of St. Michael's Castle lasted for a very short time in this form. After the assassination of Paul I, the Castle was no longer used as a residence of the imperial family. The Tsar's family moved out of the castle, and the park and canal gradually fell into disrepair. In 1822, the castle was transferred to the Main Engineering School.

In 1819, a new stage of the formation of the gardens began. In this period, a significant contribution in the transformation of the gardens was made by architect Carlo Rossi. In the place of the old orangeries adjacent in the south to the Higher Summer Garden, Rossi, by order of Alexander I, carried out one of his most ambitious projects: a complex with the Mikhailovsky Palace for Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, a redesign of the Mikhailovsky Garden and landscaping for the area in front of the façade of the new palace. This was, as a matter of fact, the last palace assemblage built within the city limits. The final plan for redesigned garden at the Mikhailovsky Palace, which Rossi worked on with the architect Adam Menelaws, was approved by the emperor in April of 1822.

In 1823, Emperor Alexander I approved Rossi's plan for the redesign of the land around St. Michael's castle. In the plan, the Tserkovny Canal is filled in and the size of the western ornamental pond in the Mikhailovsky Garden is reduced. Only the Voskresensky Canal along the southern façade of the castle remained. But Rossi retained the unique water system (the ponds of the Mikahilovsky Garden and the canals of St. Michael's Castle), adding to it with the construction of an underground collector that linked the large pond with the Moika River, thus ensuring additional water circulation. According to Rossi's design, squares of two rows of trimmed trees encircle St. Michael's Castle.

A characteristic feature in the composition of the Mikhailovsky Garden in Rossi's design was the preservation of the layout of the individual sections according to Le Blond's and Rastrelli's designs.

Carlo Rossi created the model "English" garden, in which all of the basic techniques of landscape design taken from English landscape architecture from 1715-1760 were used with great expressiveness. In front of the garden façade of the Mikhailovsky Palace, Rossi placed a vast meadow of an irregular oval shape framed by paths and designed in an even grid layout.

Another typical application of "English" garden design is the use of ponds with irregularly outlined banks. That is why the architect turned the former pools with geometric forms into picturesque ponds of various sizes, the banks of which he gave a meandering "natural" shape, and he got rid of smaller, rectangular ponds in the center of the garden. One more traditional element of the landscape park appeared in the garden, which was a pavilion with a landing on the bank of the Moika River. Build on the space of the foundation of the Elizabeth I's first wooden palace, the pavilion was designed for romantic meetings during summer evenings for a cup of tea or a game of cards.

On the territory of the Mikhailovsky Garden, there were many flower gardens and beautifully flowering shrubs. The most valuable thing that Rossi kept in his redesign was the system of paths that formed the basis of the composition. The plantings along the paths were partially preserved, and picturesque groups of trees were added. Until the revolution, the garden was closed to the public. The subsequent history of the Mikhailovsky Garden is tragic, like the fate of all of the historical areas.

In 1902, the small eastern pond became shallow and was filed in. At the same time, in connection with the construction of the Church of the Resurrection designed by Alfred Parland and the new garden fence, the western section of the garden was significantly reduced.

In 1922, the garden was renamed the Garden of MOPR (International Red Aid). Under this "poetic" name, the former Mikhailovsky Garden took on the status of an ordinary city park. The English Meadow was crossed by a road; stages were built and pavilions at which exhibitions were organized in 1924. Afterwards, these spaces were turned into playgrounds for children. In the beginning of the 1960s, the building of tennis courts and public toilets was allowed.

During this period, the planting of trees and bushes was conducted chaotically. The encroaching trees gradually began to cover the garden façade of the Mikhailovsky Palace and the view of the palace onto the Field of Mars. With each year, parts of the once-amazing landscape changed...

A survey from the year 2000 showed that the garden was in critical condition. Work on the reconstruction of the Mikhailovsky Garden was conducted from 2001 to 2007. The design of the complete reconstruction was based on the preservation of English landscape style in the center, and even French design on the perimeter. This allowed for the creation of one of the best gardens in the central section of St. Petersburg and returned historical significance to the complex of the Mikhailovsky Palace and the Mikhailovsky Garden.