“Great Toy” Paul I: What is famous for the fortress near St. Petersburg, which the emperor built for fun
The son of Catherine II, Paul entered the Russian history as a man with a difficult fate and ambiguous ruler, obsessed with military affairs and, as they say, he loved to play soldiers. A small castle-fortress, located in the city of Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg, still keeps the memory of the “military eccentricities” of this controversial person. Paul I’s Bastion is not very famous, but, nevertheless, the most interesting sight of the northern capital.
The abbreviation BIP, which was later transformed into the name “Bip”, appeared among the people immediately after the construction of this building, and it has two transcripts. One is the “Bastion of Emperor Paul”, and the second is the “Big Toy of Paul I”.
Pavlovsk fortress was built for several years, erecting it on the site of the Marienthal residence, which was owned by his wife, Maria Fedorovna, so the new building was called the Marienthal fortress for a long time. The construction of the building, perceived by many contemporaries as an irrational act and simply the whim of the emperor, ended in June 1798, a couple of years after the death of Paul’s mother – with whom, as you know, my son had very bad relations.
The building was erected at the whim of the emperor (as is well known, a big fan of the Prussian king and his army) and it was designed by Vincenzo Brenna in accordance with the wishes of Paul, according to all the rules of classical fortification. The fortress in the style of pseudo-gothic, similar to the old five-pointed knight-like castle with two towers, a courtyard and drawbridges, looked very colorful.
On one of the towers were installed clock, and later also the emblem of the city of Pavlovsk. The building housed the guardhouse for military personnel, and also in 1799 the St. John of Jerusalem chapel (the so-called Maltese Chapel) was opened here.
Bastions, ravelins and other elements of the fortification system were built around the castle at the behest of the emperor. All earthworks were created under the direction of military engineer Kajus. Inside, Paul placed a garrison and 28 artillery shells. As a great lover of salutes, the emperor demanded that any important event for him be accompanied by volleys of guns. Palba was opened at the arrival and departure of Paul, during dinner parties, and after the military successes of Alexander Suvorov during the Swiss and Italian cannon trips on the orders of the royal monarch more than a hundred volleys were fired. Nearby residents have long remembered this salute, which alarmed the whole district and almost stunned the audience.
Paul I often visited Pavlovsk and invariably organized military parades and parades on the territory of his beloved fortress, receiving great pleasure from it.
In principle, there were no objective reasons for the construction of this fortress, but here Paul felt happy – the fortress was his kind of outlet. That’s why they nicknamed her ironically – the great toy of the king.
Alas, Pavel didn’t have time to rejoice in his brainchild: in March 1801 he was killed (according to official data of that time, he died from an apocalyptic impact).
For some time a military garrison continued to be stationed in the fortress. As contemporaries recalled, sometimes the widow of the emperor came here to take a walk in Mariental park. There is even a legend that once Maria Feodorovna met a deaf-and-dumb boy here, which prompted her to arrange a school for deaf and dumb children in the building of the first in the Russian Empire. This institution really existed here in the period from 1807 to 1810.
In 1811, exactly 10 years after the death of Paul I, the building was officially excluded from the list of fortresses, although some of its premises were still used for some time by the Cavalry Guard and Horse Guards regiments.
In the late 1820s, large-scale repairs were carried out in the Paul’s Bastion, after which a military infirmary, office apartments, several colleges and other organizations were housed in it.