This baroque style palace with more than fifty ceremonial halls was designed by Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Its construction was financed personally by Earl Mikhail Vorontsov, who had become chancellor by the time the work was completed in 1757. However he had to sell it five years later to pay his debts.
It was bought by the imperial crown and Paul I gave it to the Order of Malta at the end of the 18th century. He gave refuge to the knights in Saint Petersburg after Malta was taken by Napoleon Bonaparte.
The order was abolished under Alexander I and from 1810 the palace hosted the Page Corps (most prestigious military institution of Imperial Russia). The 1917 revolution did not change this purpose of welcoming military academies.