JUN 27,2015 - JUN 27,2015 (1 DAYS)
From Grand Choral Synagogue to the Palace Square:
Main attractions: Grand Choral Synagogue, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Mariinsky Theatre, Theatre Square, Potseluyev Bridge, Khrapovitsky Bridge, New Holland Island, Nikolayevsky Palace, Neva river, Blagoveshchenskiy bridge, the English Embankment, Senate Square, The Admirality, The Senate and Synod Building, The Bronze Horseman Monument, Alexander Garden, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Saint Isaac's Square, Tsar Carpenter statue, Palace Square, Winter Palace, The General Staff Building, Museum of Guards. Alexander Column.
The monumental Neoclassical building was designed by Carlo Rossi in the Empire style and built in 1819-1829. It consists of two wings, which are separated by a tripartite triumphal arch adorned by sculptors Stepan Pimenov and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky and commemorating the Russian victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812. The arch links Palace Square through Bolshaya Morskaya St. to Nevsky Prospekt.
Until the capital was transferred to Moscow in 1918, the building served as the headquarters of the General Staff (western wing), Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry (eastern wing).
The western wing now hosts the headquarters of the Western Military District. The eastern wing was given to the Hermitage Museum in 1993 and was extensively remodeled inside.
Tip 1: From Grand Choral Synagogue to Alexander Garden.
Tip 2: St. Isaac's Cathedral and Square.
Tip 3: From St. Issac Square to Palace Square.
Start: Grand Choral Synagogue. Trolleybuses 3, 22, buses 27, 181. Alight at the Teatralnaya Square. Cross the canal towards Marinsky Theatre 2 (the new building) on your left. Or take bus 181 along Sadovaya and ask the bus driver or the conductor to stop at LERMONTOVSKIY. Walk northward along Lermontovsky (crossing Griboyedov Canal from south to north) until its northern most end.
End: the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum. Plenty of buses, trolleybuses and Metro stations in Nevsky Prospekt - behind (south) to the palace Square. Leave the Palace Square through its southern side, the triumphal arch of the General Staff building, and walk 200 m. along Bolshaya Morskaya St and you arrive to Nevsky Prospekt avenue.
Orientation: this route brings you, slowly, gradually and safely to several highlights of the grand past-capital. the general direction is from south to north, from the periphery to the centre. The whole itinerary is along water - along St. Petersburg marvelous canals, bridges, palaces, religious buildings and anchorages.
Weather: ONLY in bright (also half-cloudy) days. No rain please. Avoid windy days (especially in the New Holland area).
Distance: 10 km. Duration: 1 day.
The Grand Choral Synagogue, Lermontovsky 2, stands in the intersection of Ulitsa Dekabristov, and Lermontovskiy Prospekt. It now stands as a symbol to the perseverance of the Jewish community in St Petersburg - after hundreds years of endurance and disasters. In 1893 the Jewish community, first, felt socially and financially secure enough to build a synagogue and cultural centre, It was designed (by Vasily Stasov) and built in an oriental/Moorish style - and the result is marvelous. From 1884 to 1888 the main construction took place and in 1888 the cupola of the Grand Choral Synagogue was decorated and the process of interior design began. On December 8, 1893 the Grand Choral Synagogue was officially opened and consecrated during a most lavish ceremony. The door was opened with a specially designed silver key and 7 Torah scrolls were brought into the hall. It had taken so many years to be accepted into society and over 24 years to raise money, plan and receive permission, but finally the Jewish community of St Petersburg had their Grand Choral Synagogue. During WW2 a 100-bed hospital for the wounded was organized by the Jewish community, on the premises of the synagogue. And the Synagogue was bombed by the Nazi army during the Siege of Leningrad between 1941 and 1943. However, the hospital remained in operation. During the Soviet Era the Jewish community had a rocky relationship with the authorities and the Grand Choral Synagogue was closed several times and the activities inside the Synagogue were watched closely by the authorities and KGB secret police. In the mid to late 1980’s there was a youth movement and the Synagogue started to fill up again with those wishing to worship. Cultural organisations were formed during Perestroika and concerts were held in the Grand Choral Synagogue. Hard to believe how this building persevered amongst the turbulent rulers of the past hundred years. It is the 2nd largest synagogue in Europe (after the Budapest Neologic Synagogue).
This place is a must to see whether you are a Jew or not. It is particularly notable in its wonderful 47m-high cupola. The interior is breath-taking ! The Synagogue has a magnificent prayer hall, with its stucco friezes and stalactite moldings. The magnificent chandeliers that greet you upon entry into the sanctuary make a wonderful first impression. The Synagogue is praised for its wonderful acoustics and it is said that by placing ones ear in the right place, one can hear the minutest of whispers from way across the opposite end of the hall. Special room for marriage ceremonies, with big windows decorated with geometric shapes. At the end of the room, under a "roof" of cloth, tied to carved wooden poles, stands a bride's chair.
Adjacent to the synagogue are: a Jewish restaurant Lechaim and a Kosher catering shop. In summer, the synagogue also hosts performances with a Jewish cantor and other musicians performing Jewish, traditional and Klezmer music. The synagogue conducts English-language tours of the building, as well as longer tours of ‘Jewish St Petersburg’, all of which need to be booked in advance – see the Synagogue website: http://en.jeps.ru/
Concerts and tourist events (400-500 RUB): http://en.jeps.ru/excursions-and-tourist-services/jewish-concerts-saint-petersburg.html
Opening hours: open everyday except on Saturdays (Shabbat) and other holy days: 08.00 - 18.00 (OCT - APR: 17.00). Services: 10.00 - `12.00 SAT only. Men and women should cover their heads upon entering. Free entrance. On Saturdays and Jewish holidays it is forbidden to take videos or photos on the Synagogue premises. Expect a security detection in the entrance.
Now we walk along Lermontovskiy Avenue (Лермонтовский пр.) from north to south (crossong: Pechatnikov, Rimskogo-Korsakova roads) and meet the Griboyedov Canal. This is a quaint and pastoral of the canal:
We keep walking southward, arriving to Sadovaya street - where we turn to the left (north-east) side of this long and wide street. We continue along Sadovaya, crossing over the Kryucov Canal (links the Moika and Fontanka rivers just south of Teatralnaya Ploschad) and turning LEFT (north) on a small bridge the Griboyedov Canal again (now, from south to north):
We see, in front of us (north), the striking blue, white & gold Baroque St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral with ornate decor which is closely linked to the navy. The beautiful belfry of the cathedral is reflectrd in the motionless water of the Kryukov canal. Here, the two canals (Kryukov and Griboyedov) join the Fontanka River. Standing near the belfry you can see 8 beautiful bridges that create a great symphony combining water, parklands and architecture. St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (Nikolo-Bogoyavlenskiy Morskoy sobor) (Никольский морской собор), Nikolskaya pl., 1/3 was serving as the Russian Navy main shrine until the Russian Revolution. St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral consists, actually, of two separate churches. The lower Saint Nicholas Church is located on the first floor, while the upper church is on the second floor. The upper floor is even more beautiful than the lower one - and open, only, to worshipers. The altar of the upper church was consecrated in the presence of Catherine the Great. The main shrine of the cathedral - a Greek icon of St. Nicholas made in the 17th century with a portion of his relics—is located in the lower church. It has the shape of a cross and crowned by five gilded domes. The church can accommodate up to 5,000 people. It is decorated by Corinthian columns. The walls of the cathedral are decorated with scenes from the history of the Russian Navy. In 1907, two marble plaques were hung on the south wall of the upper church in honor of sailors who died in the Russian-Japanese War in 1904-5. At the same time, in the square next to the cathedral a memorial was erected to all the sailors of the battleship Alexander III who lost their lives in 1905. Its dominating exterior colors are: blue and white. Today, it is one of the best - and last remaining - examples of Baroque architecture. The cathedral is surrounded by a green space in front of it and, both, are located in a bend of Kanal Griboedova in an especially picturesque part of the SPB city. The area was originally settled by sailors in the time of Peter the Great, and the first, wooden chapel was built for them and bore the name of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker. As the area grew along with the new capital, Empress Elizabeth issued a decree to build a stone church for the regiments living here:
The church's beautiful bell tower looms over Kryukov Canal. It is a clear change that the bell tower is separate from the main building:
Unlike many other churches and cathedrals in St Petersburg this cathedral is not a museum but a fully working cathedral for local Russians. It is very peaceful inside. This is still an active church and maintains a sense of respectful worship. Note: it is expected for women to cover their head with a scarf. The cathedral houses 10 spectacular icons in gold frame that were a gift from Catherine the Great. The icons portray saints who are celebrated at Russian Navy celebrations. One of the most revered places in the cathedral is the image of Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, given to the church by Greek sailors, which was taken from Russia by the French in 1812, and returned to Nicholas I by the Prussians in 1835:
We continue NORTHWARD along Kryukov Canal (Kryukova Kanala), along the western side of St. Nicholas park:
On our right there is a black-colored building adorned with interesting decorations and friezes:
After crossing Soyuza pechtnikov road (on our right and left) - we see, on our right (east) the green-white colored building Mariinsky Theatre, (Мариинский театр, Mariinskiy Teatr). www.mariinsky.ru.
THere are, actually, TWO Mariinsky theatres and a bridge connects between them: the Mariinsky I, 1 Theatre Square. Box-office working hours: Daily from 11:00 to 19:00. The Mariinsky II, 34 Dekabristov Street. Box-office working hours: Monday – Friday from 11:00 to 19:00, closed from 14:00 to 15:00; on Saturdays and Sundays box-offices are open from 11:00 to 18:00, closed from 14:00 to 15:00.
The theatre is named after Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II. There is a bust of the Empress in the main entrance foyer. The theatre's name has changed throughout its history, reflecting the political climate of the time. The Imperial Mariinsky Theatre and its predecessor, the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, hosted the premieres of many of the operas of Mikhail Glinka, Modest Mussorgsky, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. At the behest of the theatre director Ivan Vsevolozhsky, both the Imperial Ballet (ballet arrived at the Mariinsky theater in 1870) and the Imperial Opera were relocated to the Mariinsky Theatre in 1886. It was there that the genius choreographer Marius Petipa presented many of his masterpieces, including such staples of the ballet repertory as The Sleeping Beauty in 1890, The Nutcracker in 1892, Raymonda in 1898, and the definitive revival of Swan Lake in 1895. When the theatre was designated as principal venue of the Imperial Ballet and Opera in 1886, the theatre was extensively renovated. A lavish inauguration celebration was given at the behest of Emperor Alexander III, in which the first original ballet to be produced at the Mariinsky was given - Petipa's Les Pilules magiques, to the music of Ludwig Minkus. Other world premieres performed at the Mariinsky building included Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov in 1874, Tchaikovsky's operas The Queen of Spades in 1890 and Iolanta in 1892, the revised version of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet in 1940, and Khachaturian's ballet Spartacus in 1956. Other notable productions included Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel in 1909 and Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella in 1946. Under Yuri Temirkanov, Principal Conductor from 1976 to 1988, the Opera Company continued to stage innovative productions of both modern and classic Russian operas. Although functioning separately from the Theatre’s Ballet Company, since 1988 both companies have been under the artistic leadership of Valery Gergiev as Artistic Director of the entire Theatre.
The Imperial Ballet and Opera Theatre had existed since 1783, performing on a variety of stages including the Maly ("Small") Theatre, a wooden building that used to stand near the Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood, the private Hermitage Theatre, and from 1783 Antonio Rinaldi's Bolshoy Kamenniy ("Big Stone") Theatre on the site now occupied by the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, opposite the modern Mariinsky Theatre on Teatralnaya Ploshchad ("Theatre Square"). Rinaldi's building was enlarged and adapted by Thomas de Thomon 1802-1803, and further modified 1826-1836 by Alberto Cavos, the son of composer and conductor of opera Catarino Cavos, to allow the use of modern stage machinery.
The complex is equipped with a splendid cable-bridge and a giant poster of the theatre. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. Through most of the Soviet era, it was known as the Kirov Theatre. Today, the Mariinsky Theatre is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera and Mariinsky Orchestra. Since Yuri Temirkanov's retirement in 1988, the conductor Valery Gergiev has served as the theatre's general director.
All kinds of photo, audio and video recording of performances or parts are strictly forbidden. During performances all communication devices must be switched to silent mode. It is forbidden to enter the theatre performances with casual clothing, with beverages and/or food, with flowers and with (or under the influence of) alcohol.
Getting there: The Mariinsky Theatre is some distance from the metro. To walk from Sadovaya, Sennaya Ploshchad or Spasskaya metro stations takes around 20 minutes. Walk south from Sennaya Ploshchad down Sadovaya Ulitsa, and take the second turning after the square on the right onto Prospekt Rimskogo-Korsakova. Follow the avenue over the Griboyedov Canal and take the first turning on the right onto Ulitsa Glinki (opposite the St. Nicholas Cathedral). It is then about 150m to Teatralnaya Ploshchad and the Mariinsky Theatre.
If you are coming from Nevsky Prospekt, it is easier to take a bus (27) or trolleybus (3 or 22), from the north side of the street (odd numbers).
Official online tickets are usually your best alternative. All seats available at the box office are available online. Buying online is good because it enables the buyer to directly compare the available seats and choose his/her seats. Registration on the Mariinsky website is required and payment is made by credit card. PayPal is not accepted as of March 2015.
In the process of buying, you will be prompted to choose either Full Rate or Special Rate. The latter doesn’t apply to you unless you are a Russian citizen, living permanently in Russia, officially working there or have a Russian student card. Basically this means that foreign tourists must pay the Full Rate. You can either print your own tickets or get them from the tickets office. You may be required to show your passport if you go to the tickets office:
Northern facade of Mariinsky Theatre (Theatre Square):
The New Mariinsky Theatre (Mariinsky II): In May 2013, conductor Valery Gergiev marked his 25th year at the helm of St Petersburg's historic ballet and opera company by unveiling a brand new theatre, the Mariinsky II. The Canadian firm, Diamond and Schmitt Architects, along with its local partner KB ViPS Architects designed a new building, to be named The Second Stage, with 2,000 seats, which complements the existing, old Mariinsky. Construction began in 2003. Technical difficulties connected with sub-soil problems led to a slowing down of its progress. Construction was completed in May 2013. Blue and gold colors differ the Mariinsky theatre (the old one, Stage I) (about Stage II - see below) from other great theatres of the world. Five-tier Main Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre is kept unchanged after the Cavos rebuilding in 1859:
THe adjacent concert hall (still, part of the Mariinsky Theatre complex) holds 1000 spectators. Address: 20 Pisareva street (entry from Dekabristov, 37). Opening hours of tickets office: Daily from 11:00 to 19:00, closed between 14:00 and 15:00:
The Mariinsky Theatres stand at the west side of the Theatre Square. This is one of the oldest squares of St.Petersburg. As its name indicates, Theatre Square is the site of two theatre institutions in St. Petersburg: the Mariinsky Theatre and the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. The modern Theater square was, originally, named Carousel square because of the round amphitheaters, built for equestrian shows. It was a square of a variety entertainments for the citizens. In 1775 – 1783 the largest theater in Europe by that time was mounted on the square by the architect A. Rinaldi. The Stone (Kamenny) theater (see above) gave the name to the square, but it was called Theater Square officially only in 1810s. After several reconstructions the building of the Kamenny theater was enlarged and renovated for the purpose of St.Petersburg Concervatory - the oldest Russian higher educational musical institute, founded in 1862. During the times of Emperor Nicholas I reign, on the opposite side of the square, was created a Theater – Circus, but after the fire of 1859 the theater was restored to the Mariinsky theater - named after the empress Maria Alexandrovna. The whole square is under heavy reconstructions (as of Summer 2015).
St. Petersburg Conservatory named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov, Theatre Square, 3 stands more in the eastern side of the square. THE BUILDING IS UNDER RECONSTRUCTIONS. The St. Petersburg Conservatory which is the oldest music school in Russia was founded in 1862. Its foundation was made possible due to the efforts of a group of famous Russian musicians, including Anton Rubinstein - pianist, composer and the first director of that school. Outstanding musicians from Russia and Western Europe were invited as Conservatory lecturers. The present building of the Conservatory was constructed by architect Vladimir Nicholas in 1896 on the grounds of the Grand Stone Theatre (in Russian: Bolshoy Kamenni) and still has a main staircase and landing of this historic theater. Bolshoy Kamenni Theatre was founded on the order of the Empress Catherine II in 1783 and was the first musical theater in Russia. In this theater in 1836 the premiere of the first Russian opera "Life for the Tsar" by Glinka took place. Among the graduates of the St. Petersburg Conservatory were such prominent musicians and composers as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Anatoli Liadov, Dmitri Shostakovich. From 1944 the Conservatory was named after the famous Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov who was one of its most prominent professors. Picture below from 2008:
The interior of the St. Petersburg Conservatory:
A prominent statue of Rimsky-Korsakov stands in a small garden, between the Mariiensky Theater and the St. Petersburg Conservatory:
In the center of the square is mounted the monument to composer M. Glinka (1906, sculptor Robert Bach, architect Alexander Bach). Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (Михаи́л Ива́нович Гли́нка; 1804 – 1857, was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the fountainhead of Russian classical music. Glinka's compositions were an important influence on future Russian composers:
We continue northward from the Theatre Square along ul. Glinki and arrive to a wonderful sight spot: Potseluyev Bridge (Potseluyev most), 1808–16, by William Heste). The bridge was named after merchant Potseluev who kept a tavern near the bridge. Entrance to the bridge features four granite obelisk with lanterns. The panoramic view of Saint Isaac's Cathedral that opens from the bridge makes it a popular subject of artists paintings. DO NOT MISS THIS SPOT (especially, in the afternoon hours when St. Isac Cathedral is lit by the sunset rays:
We head now to the New Holland Island. We do not choose the shortest route - but opt for walking around the island. Avoid coming to this area in a windy or rainy day. Chances to find a shelter or, even, a restroom are very poor. In a sunny day this round itinerary would be very rewarding. Head west on nab. Reki moyki (наб. реки Мойки) toward наб. Крюкова канала
550 m. Turn right to Khrapovitsky Bridge (мост. Храповицкий), 58 m. Khrapovitsky Bridge (Храповицкий мост) is named after Catherine the Great's personal secretary, Alexander Vasilievich Khrapovitsky, who is best-known to posterity for his popular memoirs of the empress. The current bridge was built between 1965-67 on the site of a wooden bridge that had remained intact for nearly two centuries (1737-1935). A 43-meter, single-span bridge of concrete, the Khrapovitsky Bridge is typical of the 1960s, and unremarkable (except the fine view you gain - while standing on this bridge):
Turn right onto nab. Admiralteyskogo Kanala (наб. Адмиралтейского канала)
Note the old, gorgeous buildings/palaces on your left (north) side:
New Holland Island had been hidden away from the world for long periods of time. The hidden-away, austere grandeur of its dockyards and warehouses have constituted the architectural identity of the entire isolated island. We found New Holland as a romantic corner of St. Petersburg. It is still, mostly, unaccessible due to heavy reconstruction works carried out onto its territory. From the moment of its founding, New Holland has been under naval control. Originally built on the orders of Peter the Great, the island of New Holland in St Petersburg got its name from the Dutch shipbuilders brought in by the Russian ruler to help create his model city from reclaimed swamps. The sizable territory has been used for maintenance of the Russian fleet: in one spot they stored lumber for ship-building, in another they constructed rows of warehouses, a water tank for testing ships and submarines, a naval prison and one of the first radio stations in the country. The island's buildings are still examples of early Russian Classicism. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the island has been given over to the SPB city:
Continue along nab. Admiralteyskogo Kanala (наб. Адмиралтейского канала) until its most eastern end. Cross nab. Kryukova kanala and turn LEFT (north) to Nikolayevsky Palace, pl. Truda, 4. Nikolayevsky Palace in Truda Square is home of famous folk shows. The Nikolaevsky Palace was constructed in 1853-1861 by famous architect Andrey Stakenshneider. It is a great way to end your tour day in St. Petersburg. Traditional costumes make the folk performance exciting and interesting. The performances are approximately 1.5 hours with an intermission that includes drinks and snacks. The palace itself is designed in a classic style with a beautiful garden in the front that is always full of flowers. When entering the palace you will see a grand stairway, which is one of the best places for a photo opportunity. The Nikolaevsky Palace was built in the mid 1800's. Originally the palace served as the residence to the son of Czar Nicholas I. His name ,was Grand Duke Nickoli. At one point is was called the "Palace of Labour" due to the demands of Lenin, but has since had its name restored. the Folklore show take place EVERYDAY at 19.00, 4900 RUB. Come early to secure better seats. THe show-hall is is not a large one. Seats are nor numbered. The stage may be obstructed, from several seats, by two large pillars in front of the stage. Online tickets: http://folkshow.ru/online-reserv#.VgzyLfAas_o
Keep walking north-east along Pl. Truda, in the direction of ul. Glaernaya (ул. Галерная). After 200 m. you arrive to the Neva river, to the Blagoveshchenskiy bridge (Благовещенский мост). The Neva River is an essential part of St. Petersburg's charm. Many generations of locals and visitors to the city have been completely enraptured by long, evening walks along the banks of the Neva during the city's famous White Nights. Very few things can be more romantic than strolling along the Neva's granite-clad embankments and admiring the city's open bridges, the marvelous architecture and the large ships as they pass by:
The Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Bridge (Благовещенский мост) is the first permanent bridge built across the Neva River in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It connects Vasilievsky Island and the central part of the city (Admiralteysky raion). The bridge's length is 331 meters and the width was 24 meters. The original name of the bridge was Nevsky Bridge. It was later renamed Blagoveshchensky Bridge. After the death of Tsar Nicholas I, it was named Nikolaevsky Bridge in his honor. The bridge was built in 1843-1850. It was designed by Stanisław Kierbedź, a Polish engineer working in Russia. The architect Alexander Brullov participated in the decoration. The design was a cast iron bridge with twin parallel swing sections at its northern end. At the time, it was the longest bridge in Europe. According to the legend, the Russian Tsar, Nicholas I promised to Kierbedź to give him a promotion for every completed span. After the bridge was completed with eight spans total in it, Kierbedź was promoted to the rank of General, but actually when he started the construction he already had a rank of Podpolkovnik (i.e. lieutenant colonel). The bridge was formally opened on November 12, 1850. Since it was close to Blagoveshchenskaya (Annunciation) Square, it was called Blagoveshchensky Bridge:
The Neva river provides pleasant sights, especially, in a sunny day far away to its northern bank. Walking along its southern bank will discover the various attractions spread over the northern bank on the Vasilevsky Island - The Menshikov Palace:
The Academy of Arts and the University Embankment -
We shall walk 1 km. eastward along the English Embankment, along the southern bank of the Neva river - heading to the Senate Square and Aleksandrovsky Garden. In other words - we turn RIGHT (east) from Pl. Truda to the English Embankment. I recommend browsing the mansions and palaces along the English Embankment ALSO LEFT (WEST) to the turning from Pl. Truda.
The English Embankment (Англи́йская на́бережная or Angliyskaya Naberezhnaya) is a street along the southern bank of the Bolshaya Neva river. The English Embankment was renamed Red Navy Embankment in 1919. The historical name was restored after the fall of Communism in the early 1990s. It has been historically one of the most fashionable streets in Saint Petersburg, and in the 19th century was called by the French term, Promenade des Anglais. The English Embankment runs perpendicular to the south end of the Annunciation Bridge and spans between the Novo-Admiralteysky Canal and the Decembrists Square, where it becomes the Admiralty Embankment (see below). Today, the Angliyskaya Embankment is one of the most prestigious locations in St. Petersburg and is mostly home to corporate offices located in former palatial houses of imperial Russian nobility and pre-revolutionary foreign embassies. It is very a popular sightseeing destination among tourists because of the wonderful view of the Neva and palaces across the river. The Menshikov Palace and the Academy of Arts building on the Vasilevsky Island across the river. Many boat tours start at the embankment, taking tourists on a journey about canals and bridges of St. Petersburg. The Constitutional Court of Russia moved to the former Senate and Synod buildings at the Decembrists Square and English Embankment in St. Petersburg in 2008. The move, partially, restored Saint Petersburg's historic status, making the city the second judicial capital.
# 60 English Embankment:
The English Embankment was built between 1763 and 1767. It is named after the former British Embassy and the English church that was located at # 56, the building is now occupied by the Travel and Sightseeing Bureau. The English church was built in 1814 and 1815 to a design by Giacomo Quarenghi, it is preserved as architectural landmark. The interior of the English church is highlighted with marble, historic paintings, and boasts a large pipe organ - the only English organ existing in Russia. The last British Ambassador left in 1918, after the Russian Revolution.
Note at # 54 the Palace of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich. This austerely elegant mansion belonged to Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1878-1918), younger brother of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II. In March 1917, Nicholas II abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Mikhail. However, within a year Mikhail had been shot by the Bolsheviks in Perm. Mikhail Alexandrovich rarely stayed in his palace. From 1914, he commanded the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division, comprised of Muslim volunteers who, under Russian law, were not subject to conscription for military service. When he was on leave he preferred to rest at his residence in Gatchina, and it was there he was arrested by the Bolsheviks. In Soviet times and until very recently, the palace was occupied the All-Russian Society of the Deaf. The premises are currently being leased as office space. It is possible to tour the palace, where some of Meltzer's and Rachau's interiors have survived, including the marble staircase and fireplaces, fine wooden panelling and doors, and an ancient elevator:
Kazalet Mansion – 6 English Embankment:
After walking 1 km eastward along the English Embankment grandiose mansions and past-glamour buildings - we arrive, first, to the Senate Square and, later, to the Alexander Garden (Aleksandrovskiy Sad) (Адмиралтейский пр-кт) - just behind the Senate Square.The Senate Square (Senatskaya Ploshchad), (Сенатская площадь), formerly known as Decembrists' Square in 1925-2008, and Peter's Square, before 1925. On July 29, 2008, the square was renamed back to Senate Square. It is situated on the left bank of the Bolshaya Neva, in front of Saint Isaac's Cathedral. Getting here: from the Admiralteyskaya metro station, turn left and left again down Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa. Follow the road down to St. Isaac's Cathedral and turn right past the Cathedral onto Prospekt Dekabristov. It is around 200 m. along the street to Senatskaya Ploshchad, with the Senate and Synod Building on your left.
The square is bounded by the Admiralty building to the east. The original Admiralty was one of the first structures to be built in St Petersburg. It was designed to be a dockyard, where some of the first ships of Russia's Baltic fleet were built (some with the participation of Tsar Peter himself who, was an expert in shipbuilding). The Admiralty experienced many fires, especially since it was constructed with wood. Anna Ioannovna, the Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740, decided to rebuild the Admiralty with stone. This stonework lasted until 1805. The present Admiralty building was built between 1806 and 1823 by the architect Adrian Zakharov. He turned it into a marvelous example of the Russian Empire style, with rows of white columns, wonderful relief detail and numerous statues. Because the naval officers and wealthy merchants near the former Admiralty became the aristocracy of St. Petersburg, Admiralty Square became the social area for them. Alexander I was not fond of so much upper class influence in this area and gave Admiralty Square more administrative buildings. More changes were made in 1844 when the shipbuilding base was filled in at Admiralty Square and moved downstream (Navigating St. Petersburg). Rows of white columns and numerous statues, such as those of great military leaders, are part of the design plan. A frieze portrays Neptune handing his mighty triton to Peter. Other decorative features bore naval themes as well. The gilded spire of the Admiralty ( "the little ship") is another of St. Petersburg's famous icons and landmarks. The weathervane, a replica of Peter's personal ship, is now a reproduction. The original is housed in the Naval Museum. The Admiralty tower, topped with its golden spire, is the focal point of three of the city's main streets; Nevsky Propect, Gorokhovaia Street and Voznesensky Prospekt, and can be seen along the entire length of each one. The Admiralty was Russia's Naval Headquarters until 1917, and now serves as a naval college. The complex also suffered much damage during the blockade of Leningrad and was continually bombarded by the Germans during World War II. Despite that it is quite iconic, this place is not open to public. Though you can takes photos from the outside:
On the west is the Senate and Synod Building (now headquarters of the Constitutional Court of Russia). This immense building in high neoclassical style was built for the two most important administrative organs of the Imperial Russian government, the Senate and the Synod. The former was the highest legislative and administrative power, while the later was the highest body in the Russian Orthodox Church, introduced by Peter the Great to replace the Patriarchy. Carlo Rossi designed the building with an arch "in the fashion and image of the General Staff Building". Construction of the building took five years, from 1829 to 1834, and it turned out to be the last major project of Rossi's glittering career. From 1925, the building was used to store the Russian State Historical Archive. During the Second World War, the building was badly damaged from shelling, and it was not fully restored until the 2000s. The archive was moved from the building in 2006, and in 2007 a complete and careful restoration of the building was undertaken. It is now home to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, and to the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. The building also contains apartments designed specifically for meetings between the Russian President and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The building consists of two 100-meter-long blocks joined by a triumphal arch, which leads through from Senatskaya Ploshchad to Galernaya Ulitsa. Rows of Corinthian columns affirm the building's ceremonial character:
The Bronze Horseman Monument adorns the square. This is an impressive, equestrian Statue of Peter the Great in Senate Square. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great, and is now considered to be one of the most famous symbols of St. Petersburg (just like the Statue of Liberty is to NYC). That massive granite slab was found in Finland in 1765, and originally weighed 1500 tons. To help facilitate the move it to its current location, master stone cutters continuously shaped the enormous monolith during shipment, and carved and shaved the weight down to 1250 tons. It is the largest stone ever moved by man, without the use of any animals. It took 400 men nine months to transport the stone across frozen ground to a barge on the Neva River. That effort is considered to be a historic feat of engineering. It then took 12 years from 1770 to 1782 to create the bronze mold of Peter on his horse on top of that colossal piece of granite. There is a carving on the sides of the stone that is in both Latin and Russian that means “Catherine the Second to Peter the First, 1782”. This is obviously an expression of her admiration for Peter the Great -- who is the founder of St. Petersburg, and is considered to be one of Russia’s greatest rulers. An exceptional and mesmerizing work. The blending of the Neva River and St. Isaac's Cathedral, and the "Bronze Horseman" is astonishing. The atmosphere around is always festive. The pedestal on which it stands is called “Thunder Stone” which got its name from the local legend that thunder and lightning split off a piece of the stone giving it its odd shape:
The Alexander Garden lies along the south and west façades of the Russian Admiralty, parallel to the Neva River and the Admiralty Quay, extending from St. Isaac's Cathedral in the west to the Palace Square in the east. It joins together the former Admiralty Square and the Senate (formerly: Decembrists) Square. Alexander Garden was immediately immortalized in Alexander Pushkin’s description in his novel Evgeny Onegin. However, Alexander Garden received its name from another Alexander, Alexander II. Interestingly, the park was built in honor of Peter the Great’s 200th birthday. Because he chose 52 different types of tree species to be planted there, Alexander II earned his name on the plaque (Alexander Garden [Saint Petersburg]). Many historians enjoy reminding tourists and residents alike that Alexander Garden used to be fortification against the Swedes. The English-style garden was designed by Luigi Rusca. Initially, a large part of the Alexander Park was occupied by woody vegetation. Old trees have survived here until now, but new buildings have been added over time. It was formerly known as the Admiralty Boulevard, the Admiralty Gardens, and the Workers’ Garden.
This lovely park is facing St Isaacs cathedral and offers a great fresh air breath before the cathedral visit (see Tip 2 below). Here, in contrary to other Russian parks, you can relax, sitting on the soft grass or on the bench, if the weather allows. The garden is full with activities and has enough shady and sunny places. From the park you get beautiful views of the Neva river and embankments, the solid governmental and of the past-royal mansions around, of which there are many around. The old trees protect from the sun or inclement weather. From Alexander Garden you can see the main monuments of the city from the Winter Palace to St. Isaac's Cathedral. It is a favorite place for walks by locals and guests of St. Petersburg. THe garden or park is equipped with sculptures, busts, fountains, and, of course, the memorable monument of the Bronze Horseman in the nearby Senate Square:
The Admirality - a view from Alexander Garden:
Cross the Senate Square and the adjacent section of Alexander Garden from north-west to south-east and you can't miss the mighty St. Isaac's Cathedral (see Tip 2 below).
St. Isaac's Cathedral and Square:
Open: Daily 10.30 to 18.00. Last admission is at 5.30 pm. Evening openings of the Cathedral in the summer only (May 1 - September 30): 18.00 to 22.30. Evening openings of the Colonnade in the summer only (May 1 - October 31): 18.00 pm to 22.30. Night openings of the Colonnade in the White Nights only (June 1 - August 20): 22.30 to 04.30. Closed: Wednesdays. Prices: Cathedral: Adult: RUB 250.00. Children: RUB 50.00. Audio-guide (in Russian, English, German, French, Italian or Spanish): RUB 100.00.
The colonnade: The colonnade is closed every second Wednesday of the month. Open: 16 September – 30 April: 11.00 – 17.00. 1 May – 15 September: 10.00 – 17.00. Also, 1 May – 1 November: evening excursions, 18.00 – 23.00. Price:: RUB 150.00.
Evening openings of the Cathedral in the summer only: RUB 400.00. Evening openings of the Colonnade in the summer only: RUB 300.00. Night openings of the Colonnade in the White Nights only: RUB 400.00. Photo and video: free/included.
St. Issac's Cathedral entrance:
Introduction: The presence and relevance of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg is undeniable: a Russian Orthodox church, situated next to the Neva, with a golden dome that can be seen for miles and is considered one of the signature sights of St. Petersburg. However, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is more than just a Russian Orthodox church. It is infused with influences and motivations from many different aspects, specifically concerning who it is supposed to serve, who built it, and how it is supposed to function. It tries to be many different things, incorporating European influences to Russian tradition; a church and a museum; a tourist attraction and a sacred place for parishioners. When appreciated just for its grandeur, it is one of the most extravagant sights in St. Petersburg. Peering deeper, though, it is a church that is more than just a church. St. Isaac's Cathedral is the largest cathedral in St. Petersburg. It was the largest church in Russia when it was built (101.5 meters high), and is still the third largest domed cathedral in the world. For visitors willing to climb 300 steps, it provides a spectacular view of St. Petersburg. It was dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great. St. Isaac the Confessor, was a monk who, during the fourth century was imprisoned by the Roman emperor Valens. St. Isaac was eventually freed by Valens's successor Theodosius. His feast day is on May 30th, the birthday of Peter the Great. This was reason enough for the Russian Tsar to have a church built in honor of St. Isaac. The wooden church was consecrated as early as in 1707, just four years after Peter the Great founded the city of St. Petersburg.
After the Napoleonic wars, plans were made for a new church replacing the previous eighteenth-century cathedral which was still uncompleted. The new St. Isaac's Cathedral was to be the most magnificent of the whole Russian empire. St. Isaac's Cathedral was ordered by Tsar Alexander I and a specially appointed commission examined several designs, including that of the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand (1786-1858), who was freshman and had studied in the atelier of Napoleon's designer, Charles Percier. Monferrand's design was criticized by some members of the commission for the dry and allegedly boring rhythm of its four identical colonnades. It was also suggested that despite gigantic dimensions, the edifice would look squat and not very impressive. The Tsar, who favored the pompouse style of architecture, had to step in and solve the dispute in Monferrand's favour. The foundations of the colossal church posed serious problems, as the soil was too soft to build upon. Eventually Montferrand used a technique which had been commonly used for centuries in Venice: thousands of wooden piles were driven into the ground to provide a solid foundation. The cathedral took 40 years to construct, under Montferrand's direction, from 1818 to 1858. Montferrand died just months after completing his masterpiece. A model of the wooden framework used to erect the columns of St. Isaac's Cathedral is on display inside:
Under the Soviet government, the building was abandoned, then turned into a museum of atheism. During World War II, the dome was painted over in gray to avoid attracting attention of the Nazi aircraft. During the 900-day Nazi blockade from 1941-44, the grounds were planted with cabbage to help feed the 3 million residents.
Today, worship activity has resumed in the cathedral, but only in the left-hand side chapel, and in the main body of the cathedral on sacred holidays only.
Exterior: This is the fourth tallest cathedral in the world after St. Peter's in Rome, St. Paul's in London and the Santa Maria del Flore in Florence. The exterior, barely hints of the extremely rich interior. The structure, architecture, and interior decoration of St. Isaac’s Cathedral are some of the most immediately visible conundrums of the church. From the outside, one can see both Russian and European influences on the design. It is dominated by gray and pink stone, and features a total of 112 red granite columns with Corinthian capitals, each erected as a single block: 48 at ground level, 24 on the rotunda of the uppermost dome, 8 on each of four side domes, and 2 framing each of four windows. The general design of St. Isaac's Cathedral has a Greek cross ground plan with a large central dome and four smaller domes at each corner. Four monumental porticoes supported by enormous Corinthian columns in red granite are decorated with reliefs and sculptures.
St. Issac's eastern facade:
St. Issac's southern facade:
Porticoes of the Cathedral are decorated with reliefs and statues of the Apostles, corners are effectively completed with figures of angels holding lamps, on the balustrade of the main dome there are 24 statues of angels. Each of the porticoes are crowned with mighty bronze pediments weighing approximately 80 tons which have bas-reliefs ornately sculptured by Ivan Vitali and Francois Lemaire.
Of note is the bas-relief on the pediment of the western portico, depicting the meeting of St. Isaac blessing emperor Theodosius and his wife Flacilla, sculpted by Ivan Vitali. Vitali modeled Theodisius' head after that of Tsar Alexander I and Flacilla's after that of his spouse, Elizabeth Alexeievna:
Note also the “Resurrection of Christ” relief on the northern pediment. Sculptor: Philippe Lemaire, 1842-44:
In the corner of the high relief is the sculpture of A. Montferrand wearing an antique toga with a model of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in his hands:
The eastern shows “Meeting of St. Isaac of Dalmatia with Emperor Valent” by F. Lemer:
On the pediment of the southern portico is I.P. Vitali’s high relief “Wise Men Worshipping” or "the Adoration of the Magi":
To reach the colonnade, visitors are directed up a spiral staircase, then across a suspended walkway to reach the rotunda. Once at the rotunda, visitors can walk around the entire dome, giving a 360 degree view of St. Petersburg. Massive granite columns frame each view, with cardinal directions labeled at points around the dome in both Russian and English. There are also fantastic views of the statues placed on the roof of the cathedral, as well as the minor golden domes located on the four corners of the cathedral. The colonnade gives another perspective on how massive St. Isaac’s is. The statues and the roof take on a weathered green-gray color, adding another color to the already abundant palette of St. Isaac’s. Looking over the skyline of St. Petersburg, it is also apparent how relatively short St. Petersburg as a city is. Unlike Moscow, St. Petersburg does not have skyscrapers or other abnormally large buildings, allowing visitors at St. Isaac’s Cathedral to see for miles in every direction. The colonnade makes St. Isaac’s Cathedral one of the best places to gain a sense of the beauty of St. Petersburg. 24 statues gaze down from the roof, and another 24 from the top of the rotunda. The rotunda itself is encircled by a walkway accessible to tourists. It enables the cathedral to charge additional fees from visitors who choose to climb the cathedral up to the rotunda and gain a spectacular view of St. Petersburg city from the high rotunda. Visit to St. Isaac's would not be complete without paying the extra few Rubles and climbing the 262 steps of the spiral staircase to the colonnaded rotunda walkway. This public gallery is about 43 m above ground and offers a magnificent panoramic view of central St. Petersburg:
The cathedral's doors are covered in reliefs, patterned after the celebrated doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The south portico has three enormous double shuttered doors made from electroplated or cast bronze over solid oak. Each panel weighs ten tons and they can only be moved on their hinges with the help of the gearing that is built into the walls. The composition of the doors is multi-levelled and consists of bas-relief panels put into caissons. These multi-figured doors were designed by Montferrand in 1840 and Vitali created them with the assistance of sculptor R. Zaleman. Of particular interest to us on this site are the scenes of Alexander Nevsky having his altercation with the Swedes, which are depicted on two of these South doors. The doors of the West entrance are less ornate but tastefully decorated with images of apostles Peter and Paul:
Western door of St Isaac's Cathedral:
Bas-relief at the western door of St Isaac's Cathedral:
Interior: Entrance is quite small, especially compared with the other external doors that appear on each side of the building. Once inside, the overwhelming nature and grandeur of the cathedral is immediately evident, even though the full size of the cathedral is still for the most part hidden. Directly to the left of the entrance is a small exhibit, detailing the engineering feats that were involved in creating St. Isaac’s Cathedral, including a model of the pulley system used to hoist the pillars upright. Continuing through the exhibit, there is a model of the architecture of the dome, which was also innovative because of its light weight. On the other side from the engineering exhibit is an exhibit on the history and architecture behind St. Isaac’s, printed in Russian and French. Much of the exhibit focuses on Montferrand’s work and inspiration for his design, as well as neoclassicism in general in the 19th century. In addition to this, murals from the ceilings have been replicated and placed in between the two exhibits, showing the craftsmanship and skill of the artists who worked on St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The interior is perhaps the most notable aspect of the Cathedral’s design and ornamentation. The primary sanctuary is large enough to accommodate several thousand people. As you walk inside, your eyes are almost immediately led to look at the walls, and then the ceiling.
Through the doors is the colorful interior where the opulence and the sheer vastness of it must stir the emotions of all who enter. Nobody sits inside an Orthodox church, so there is standing room for over 14,000 worshippers on the 4,000 Sq. m of floorspace. Those who have attended functions here will be able to attest to the excellent acoustic qualities of the interiors. The floor, walls, arches and huge pillars of the interior are skillfully decorated with fourteen kinds of marble, as well as jasper, malachite, lazurite, porphyry, gilded stucco, frescoes and 600 sq. metres of mosaics. More than 400 kg of gold, 1000 tons of bronze and 16 tons of malachite went into the interior.
The interior was originally decorated with scores of paintings by the great Russian masters of the day. When these paintings began to deteriorate due to the cold, damp conditions inside the cathedral, Montferrand ordered them to be painstakingly reproduced as mosaics, a technique introduced in Russia by Mikhail Lomonosov. This work was never completed.
The inside is very ornate and has very cool mosaics of Bible scenes and is worth visiting. The walls themselves are faced with marble in many different colors. The painted wall panels and monumental murals around the pillars and arches were created by many gifted artists such as Fedor Bruni, Vasily Shebuev, Timofei Neff, Carlo Mussini and several others. In total there is over 600 sq. m of wall space dedicated to mosaics and paintings and more than 200 artists took part. The lower halves of the walls are covered with exotic stones of all colors, columns made of marble and granite, and gold. The vertical nature of this design directs attention to the murals that adorn the higher half of the walls, which depict scenes from the Bible. Adjacent to these murals, a gilded ledge in a sense frames the murals, providing reflected light to showcase the scene. Gazing at these murals, your eyes are once again directed upwards, this time at the ceiling, where detailed murals are prominently displayed. The mosaics that were made from millions of tiny glass pieces is almost impossible to believe. The main sanctuary’s shape, if looked at from above, is roughly in the shape of a cross; this is a traditional design commonly found in Eastern Orthodox architecture:
The internal gilded sculptures are mainly by Vitali, Piotr Klodt, Alexander Loganovsky or Nikolai Pimenov. Here is the statue of architect Monferrand:
Because of this cruciform shape, all walls and ceilings point towards and seem to climax at the main dome of the Cathedral, where a mural of heavenly figures covers the inside of the dome. This is a huge painting by Karl Briullov inside the cupola; it covers almost 800 sq. m and depicts the Virgin Mary surrounded by saints and angels. Karl Briullov's lungs were damaged from working in the confines of the damp cupola for many consecutive years and he moved to the warmer climes of Italy as soon as his major work was completed in 1852, but soon died from his ailment:
Inside, suspended underneath the peak of the dome is a sculpted dove representing the Holy Spirit. Internal features such as columns, pilasters, floor, and statue of Montferrand are composed of multicolored granites and marbles gathered from all parts of Russia. The stone floors mirror the shape of the dome, with a circular pattern and a center point situated directly underneath the dove. The dove was removed during the Soviet period and was replaced by a Foucault pendulum, which was said to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. However, after Perestroika, the dove was reinstalled in the dome and the church was converted back to a place of worship from a Museum of Atheism and Religion:
Ten green malachite and two blue lazurite columns decorate the three tiered Iconostasis which is set in white marble. The two lower tiers are mosaics designed by Neff and F. P. Briullov while the upper tier has paintings by S. A. Zhivago:
St. Issac's Cathedral is a museum, but, still, an active worshiping church:
Saint Isaac's Square (Isaakiyevskaya Ploshchad, Исаа́киевская пло́щадь), known as Vorovsky Square (Площадь Воровского) between 1923 and 1944, is a major city square sprawling between the Mariinsky Palace and Saint Isaac's Cathedral, which separates it from the Senate Square (see Tip 1 above):
The square is graced by the equestrian Monument to Nicholas I:
The Lobanov-Rostovsky House (1817-20) on the west side of the square was designed by Auguste de Montferrand. It may be described as an Empire style building that has an eight-column portico facing the Admiralty building. The main porch features the twin statues of Medici lions on granite pedestals; they were made famous by Pushkin in his last long poem, The Bronze Horseman.Today, it is the Four Seasons hotel:
Nearby is Quarenghi's Horse Guards' Riding Hall (1804-07), in part inspired by the Parthenon and flanked by the marble statues of the Dioscuri, by Paolo Triscornia:
Opposite the cathedral is the Mariinsky Palace, built in 1829-1844 for Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna. Currently the palace houses the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly.
In front of the palace is the 97-metre-wide Blue Bridge, which used to be the widest in Saint Petersburg. Spanning the Moika River, the bridge is usually perceived as the extension of the square, although in fact it forms a separate square, called Mariyinskaya. To the right from the bridge is so-called Neptune's Scale, with a granite top. This is a stele which marks water levels during major floods:
To the east of the cathedral is the six-storey Hotel Astoria, designed by Fyodor Lidval. It opened in 1912 and was one of the most luxurious hotels in the Russian Empire.
Adjacent to the Astoria is the hotel Angleterre, which is remembered as the deathplace of poet Sergei Yesenin.
From St. Issac's Square we return NORTWARD to the Admirality Embankment and Neva river and turn RIGHT (east) to walk, again, along the Admirality Embankment (skip to Tip 3).
From St. Issac Square to Palace Square:
It is 900 m. walk from St. Issac's Square to the next attraction ("Tsar Carpenter statue" along the Admirality Embankment). From St. Issac's square walk nortward (better, cross the Alexander Garden, rather than repeating the Senate Square again). After turning east (right) and walking along the Admirality Embankment - you cross the first road to the right (Admirality pr.). Your next road to the right is Kerchenskiy pereulok. Here, stands the "Tsar Carpenter" statue. The impressive monument to Peter the Great "Tsar Carpenter" portrays a young and determined Peter the Great undergoing the laborious task of building a ship with rolled up sleeves and an axe in one clenched hand. Three hundred years ago a young Peter the Great set off to the city of Zaandam in Holland to learn the craft of ship building which he would bring back with him to Russia to help build the Russian Navy. In 1909, the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II in honor of the bicentennial of the great Russian Naval victory at Poltava presented the city of St. Petersburg with a monument completed by sculptor Leopold Bernshtam. The monument was titled "Peter the Great learning the craft of ship building in the city of Zaandam." And in the following year a copy of the monument to Peter the Great was also presented to the city of Zaandam, which remembers Peter the Great till this day. The Bolsheviks tragically destroyed the monument in 1918 shortly after coming to power. Yet the bronze copy of the original "Tsar Carpenter" monument remained in Holland. On September 7, 1996 the copy was given to city of St. Petersburg by the Government of the Netherlands in honor of the tri-centennial of the Russian Navy and the tri-centennial of the Great Embassy of Peter the Great in the Netherlands. The monument made its way back to the city on the Neva by royal frigate and was then transferred from the frigate by helicopter to its current site on a pedestal on the Admiralty Embankment:
400 m. further east along the Admirality Embankment - we arrive to the Dvortsovyy most (Palace Bridge). Here, the Admirality Embankment changes into the Palace (Dvortsovyy) Embankment. The Palace Bridge connects Nevsky Prospekt with and leading to Vasilievsky Island:
From the Palace Bridge we walk 500 m. more to the Palace Square. We turn RIGHT (south-east) from the Palace Embankment into the road which continues from the bridge - the Palace Square road (Дворцовый пр-д) for approx. 200 m. We see the mighty Palace Square (Dvortsovaya ploshchad) (Дворцо́вая пло́щадь) on our left. It is the central city square of St Petersburg and of the former Russian Empire. It was the setting of many events of worldwide significance, including the Bloody Sunday (1905) and the October Revolution of 1917. All monumental buildings that surround this huge square are harmonious and blend with each other - but, they are from different periods. The earliest and most celebrated building on the square is the Baroque white-and-turquoise Winter Palace of Russian Tsars (1754–62), which gave the square its name. This is St. Petersburg's most famous building. The Winter Palace not only physically dominates Palace Square and the south embankment of the Neva River, but also plays a central political, symbolic, and cultural role in the three-century history of the city. The opposite, southern side of the square was designed in the shape of an arc by George von Velten in the late 18th century. These plans were executed half a century later, when Alexander I of Russia envisaged the square as a vast monument to the Russian victory over Napoleon and commissioned Carlo Rossi to design the bow-shaped Empire-style Building of the General Staff (1819–29), which centers on a double triumphal arch crowned with a Roman quadriga. The centre of the square is marked with the Alexander Column (1830–34), designed by Auguste de Montferrand. This red granite column (the tallest of its kind in the world) is 47.5 metres high and weighs some 500 tons. It is set so well that no attachment to the base is needed. The eastern side of the square is occupied by Alessandro Brullo's building of the Guards Corps Headquarters (1837–43). The western side, however, opens towards Admiralty Square, thus making the Palace Square a vital part of the grand suite of St Petersburg squares. The square also serves as open-air venue for concerts by international performances - mainly, rock and sportive shows. The whole square and its monuments are particularly impressive on a sunny evening shortly before dusk !!!
The Winter Palace is situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, adjacent to the site of Peter the Great's original Winter Palace - a wooden house in the Dutch style built in 1708 for Peter the Great and his family. It seems that Peter soon tired of the first palace, for in 1721, the second version of the Winter Palace was built under the direction of architect Georg Mattarnovy. Mattarnovy's palace, a stone building, though still very modest compared to royal palaces in other European capitals. The remains of this modest building formed the foundations of the Hermitage Theatre. Parts of this original palace have now been restored and are open to the public. After Peter the Great death (1725) he was succeeded by his widow, Catherine I, who reigned until her death in 1727. She in turn was succeeded by Peter I's grandson Peter II, who in 1727 had Mattarnovy's palace greatly enlarged by the architect Domenico Trezzini. Trezzini, who had designed the Summer Palace in 1711, completely redesigned and expanded Mattarnovy's existing Winter Palace to such an extent that Mattarnovy's entire palace became merely one of the two terminating pavilions of the new, and third, Winter Palace. In 1728, shortly after the third palace was completed, the Imperial Court left Saint Petersburg for Moscow, and the Winter Palace lost its status as the principal imperial residence. Following the death of Peter II in 1730, the throne passed to a niece of Peter I, Anna Ivanovna, Duchess of Courland. The present and fourth Winter Palace was built and altered almost continuously between the late 1730s and 1837, when it was severely damaged by fire and immediately rebuilt. The palace was constructed on a monumental scale that was intended to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia. Its principal façade is 250 m long and 30 m. high. The new Empress cared more for Saint Petersburg than her immediate predecessors; she re-established the Imperial court at the Winter Palace and, in 1732, Saint Petersburg again officially replaced Moscow as Russia's capital, a position it was to hold until 1918. Empress Anna Ivanovna was the first of Peter's descendants to reconstruct the palace. In 1731, she commissioned Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the recently appointed court architect who would go on to become the recognized master of late Baroque in Russia, to create a new, larger palace on the site.Completed in 1735, the third Winter Palace served for only 17 years before Rastrelli was again asked, this time by Empress Elizabeth (Elizaveta Petrovna) (a daughter of Peter the Great), to expand the building. After two years proposing different plans to adapt the existing building, Rastrelli eventually decided to completely rebuild the palace. Rastrelli devised, now, an entirely new scheme in 1753, on a colossal scale—the present Winter Palace. His new design was confirmed by the empress in 1754. It was Empress Elizabeth who selected the German princess, Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, as a bride for her nephew and successor, Peter III. This princess made a coup d'état, in which her husband was murdered, and the princess became Catherine the Great coming to the throne in 1762 and coming to be chiefly associated with the Winter Palace. The new palace was nearly complete and, although Catherine removed Rastrelli from the project, his designs for the exterior of the building have remained almost completely unaltered to this day. Catherine's patronage of the architects Starov and Giacomo Quarenghi saw the palace further enlarged and transformed. In 1790, Quarenghi redesigned five of Rastrelli's state rooms to create the three vast halls of the Neva enfilade. Catherine was responsible for the three large adjoining palaces, known collectively as the Hermitage - the name by which the entire complex, including the Winter Palace, was to become known 150 years later. Catherine the Great played an immense role in forming the gigantic collections of Art. Catherine also christened the complex as the Hermitage, a name used by her predecessor Tsaritsa Elizabeth to describe her private rooms within the palace. WE DEVOTE A FULL, SEPARATE BLOG FOR THE HERMITAGE INTERIOR TREASURES.
Catherine the Great was succeeded by her son Paul I. He was murdered in the palace three weeks after taking up residence in 1801.Paul I was succeeded by his 24-year-old son, Alexander I, who ruled Russia during the chaotic period of the Napoleonic Wars. Following Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the contents of the Winter Palace were further enhanced when Alexander I purchased the art collection of the former French Empress, Joséphine (ex-wife of Napoleon). Alexander I was succeeded in 1825 by his brother Nicholas I. Tsar Nicholas was to be responsible for the palace's present appearance and layout. He not only effected many changes to the interior of the palace, but was responsible for its complete rebuilding following the fire of 1837 which broke out in the Winter Palace, destroying nearly all the palace interiors and only being prevented from spreading to the priceless art collections in the Hermitage with the prior destruction of three passages leading between the two buildings. Nicholas ordered that reconstruction of the palace be completed within one year, a monumental effort considering the construction technologies of the day. The rebuilding of the palace took advantage of the latest construction techniques of the industrial age. The lavish interiors were recreated under the supervision of Vasily Stasov, while his fellow architect Alexander Briullov added new designs in more contemporary styles. The last Tsar to truly reside in the palace was Alexander II, who ruled from 1855 to 1881, when he was assassinated. During his reign there were more additions to the contents. Alexander II was a constant target for assassination attempts, one of which occurred inside the Winter Palace itself. In 1881, the revolutionaries were finally successful and Alexander II was assassinated as his carriage drove through the streets of Saint Petersburg. The Winter Palace was never truly inhabited again. After his assassination in 1881, it became clear that the palace was too large to be properly secured (the first attempt on his life the year before had been a bomb that damaged several rooms in the palace and killed 11 guards). Alexander III and Nicholas II both set up their family residences at suburban palaces, the former at Gatchina and the latter at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Nonetheless, the Winter Palace was still used for official ceremonies and receptions. In 1894, Alexander III was succeeded by his son Nicholas II. The last Tsar suspended court mourning for his father to marry his wife in a ceremony at the Winter palace. However, after the ceremony the newlywed couple retired to the Anichkov Palace. In 1895, Nicholas and Alexandra established themselves at the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo. This was to be their favored home for the remainder of the reign. However, from December 1895 they did reside for periods during the winter at the Winter Palace. During the reign of Nicholas II, court life was quieter than it had ever been, due to the Tsaritsa's retiring nature. Under her influence, gradually the great court receptions and balls at the Winter Palace came to an end. A spectacular masked ball commemorating the anniversary of the reign of Tsar Alexei I (1646-1676), the second Romanov Tsar, held in 1903 was the last major event hosted by the Imperial family at the Winter Palace.
In 1905, the Winter Palace was a mute witness to the Bloody Sunday Massacre on Palace Square, when thousands of striking workers came to meet the Tsar in peaceful protest and were met by troops with orders to fire at will. It marked the beginning of the end for the power of the Imperial family, which was increasingly isolated at its suburban residence. The Winter Palace saw the official opening of the first Duma in 1906, and Nicholas II and his wife returned to the palace to accept the Russian troops departing for the front in 1914 against Germany and Austria-Hungary. In the beginnibg of the war the Russian troops ahd been defeated and the Winter Palace was to be transformed into a temporary hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1917, after Nicholas II's abdication and the February Revolution, the Winter Palace became the seat of the Provisional Government under Alexander Krenskiy. It was against this authority, rather than the Imperial family, that the Bolshevik-led revolutionary forces besieged and then stormed the palace in October of the same year. Portions of the Winter Palace's riches were ransacked, including the enormous Imperial wine cellars.The contents of the state rooms had been sent to Moscow for safety when the hospital was established, and the Hermitage Museum itself had not been damaged during the revolution. The Winter Palace was declared part of the State Hermitage Museum on 17 October 1917. The first exhibition to be held in the Winter Palace concerned the history of the revolution, and the public were able to view the private rooms of the Imperial Family. Following the 1941–1944 Siege of Leningrad, when the palace was damaged, a restoration policy was enacted, which has fully restored the palace. Although initial Bolshevik policy was to remove all Imperial symbols from the palace and use the premises as a museum of the Revolution, the restoration project of the 1940s and 1950s, which followed further extensive damage to the building during the Siege of Leningrad, saw the beginning of an ongoing process to return the Imperial splendor of many of the palace's rooms. The State Rooms of the Winter Palace now form one of the most popular sections of the Hermitage, and are essential viewing for all visitors to St. Petersburg. Today, the restored palace forms part of the complex of buildings housing the Hermitage Museum. Today, as part of one of the world's most famous museums, the palace attracts an annual 3.5 million visitors. No doubt - it is the biggest museum in the world.
The Hermitage Theatre:
The Old Hermitage:
Building of the General Staff (Здание Главного штаба, Zdanie Glavnovo Shtaba) is a huge, alongated (580 m long), crescent-shaped facade, situated in front of (south to) the Winter Palace. As an extension to the Hermitage Museum, the General Staff Building is far more than a mere annexe. Viewed across the majestic sweep of Palace Square, the curving Neo-classical facade of this vast early-19th-century office complex already feels like a challenge to the Baroque opulence of the parent institution opposite. And that’s before you’re aware that its 800 rooms are filled with art, much of which has been deemed breath-taking. A spectacular building, which separates the palace Square from the bustling Nevsky Prospeky thoroughfare. The monumental Neoclassical building was designed by Carlo Rossi in the Empire style and built in 1819-1829. It consists of two wings, which are separated by a tripartite triumphal arch adorned by the sculptors Stepan Pimenov and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky. Rossi project revolved around the architect’s idea to unite two separate buildings with a triumphal arch. This majestic arch is a symbol Russia’s glory and military triumph; it forms a symmetrical axe with the central part of the Winter Palace. The arch and the sculptures commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon in the Patriotic War of 1812. The arch and the passage, underneath, link Palace Square through Bolshaya Morskaya St. to the famous Nevsky Prospekt avenue. Before the Revolution, until the capital was transferred to Moscow in 1918, it housed not only the offices of the General Staff, in the East Wing, but also the Tsarist Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Finance in the West Wing. The western wing now hosts the headquarters of the Western Military District. The eastern wing was given to the Hermitage Museum in 1993, was extensively remodeled inside, and hosts, from 2014 the European Modern Art exhibition: Impressionist painting vast collection (special and separate ticket - not included in the Hermitage admission ticket) of the Hermitage Museum. This Hermitage's superb collection of Modern European Art, the bulk of which is made up of French impressionist and post-impressionist painting, is divided between those works that were received into the Hermitage collections after the Revolution, and art seized from Germany after World War II. The former are displayed on the museum's third floor, and include some of the world's largest collections of works by Picasso, Renoire and Matisse. Entry to the galleries is via a broad new marble staircase, which doubles as an amphitheatre for musical performances held in the glassed-over courtyard:
Also in the former premises of the General Staff, the Museum of Guards is an exhibition detailing the history of the Russian Imperial Guards through paintings, uniforms and weaponry. Likely to be of interest only to military historians, this small exhibition does have one particularly interesting room devoted to Guards-related relics returned to Russia since the fall of Communism:
The Alexander Column (Алекса́ндровская коло́нна, Aleksandrovskaya kolonna) is the focal point of the Palace Square. The monument was erected after the Russian victory in the war with Napoleon. The column is named for Emperor Alexander I of Russia, who reigned from 1801–25. The Alexander Column was designed by the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand (creator of the marvelous St. Isaac's Cathedral), built between 1830 and 1834 with Swiss-born architect Antonio Adamini, and unveiled on 30 August 1834. The monument is claimed to be the second tallest of its kind in the world at 47.5 m tall (the highest is the Monument to the Great Fire of London - 62m high) and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross, as a triumphal column. The statue of the angel was designed by the Russian sculptor Boris Orlovsky. The face of the angel said to be modeled on the face of Emperor Alexander I. No cranes were used to place the monument in the square. It was an example of the great technical achievement as the middle part of the column was made of a single block of granite weighing 600 tons and it was elevated in less than 3 hours on August 30, 1832 with more than 10000 spectators watching the procedure:
Pedestal decorations of Alexander column decorated with symbols of military glory:
Alexander column from the Winter palace gates: