1766 – 1781. Architect: Antonio Rinaldi
The Gatchina Castle was built at the order of Catherine II for Count Grigorii Orlov, her faithful supporter in the coup d’état that put her on the Russian throne in 1762. After Orlov’s death, Catherine bought the palace from his heirs and presented it to her son Paul. Discouraged by Catherine for participating in the life of the Imperial court in St. Petersburg, Paul devoted his efforts to the improvement of the Gatchina Castle and park. Becoming Emperor, he granted the town of Gatchina the status of the official residence of the Imperial family. The old structure underwent a revival under Alexander III for whom the impregnable castle became his chief family home after the assassination of his father Alexander II. The last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, spent his younger years in Gatchina.