The appearance ofSt. Petersburgincludes long, straight boulevards, vast spaces, gardens and parks, decorative wrought-iron fences, monuments and decorative sculptures. The Neva River itself, together with its many canals and their graniteembankmentsandbridgeshelp to give the city its particular ambience.
St. Petersburgs position below theArctic Circle, on the samelatitudeas nearbyHelsinkiStockholmAberdeenandOslo(60N), causes twilight to last all night in May, June and July. This phenomenon is known as the white nights. The white nights are closely linked to another attraction the eightdrawbridgesspanning the Neva. The bridges are drawn from May to late October according to a special schedule, between approximately 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. to allow shipping to pass up and down the river. Every night during the navigation period from April to November, 22 bridges across Neva and main canals are drawn to let ships pass in and out of the Baltic Sea.
Thehistorical center of St. Petersburgwas the first Russian patrimony inscribed on theUNESCOlist ofWorld Heritage Sites.
Saint Petersburg is built on what originally were more than 100 islands created by a maze of rivers, creeks, canals, gulfs, lakes and ponds and other bodies of water that flow into the Baltic Sea at the mouth of theNevariver.
Peter the Great designed the city as anotherAmsterdamandVenice, with canals instead of streets and citizens skilful in sailing. Initially, there were only about ten bridges constructed in the city, mainly across ditches and minor creeks. According to Peters plans, in the summer months, the citizens were supposed to move around in boats, and in the winter months when the water froze to move in sledges. However, after Peters death, new bridges were built as it was a much easier way of transportation. Temporarypontoon bridgeswere built across Neva in the summertime. The largest temporary bridge across theBolshaya Nevawas in operation from 1727 to 1850.
The first permanent bridge of bricks and stones across the main waters of Bolshaya Neva river was theLieutenant Schmidt Bridge, built from 1843 to 1850, and opened in 1850.
Today, there are 342 bridges over canals and rivers of various sizes, styles and constructions, built at different periods. Over 800 smaller bridges over smaller ponds and streams are gracing public parks and gardens.
Thanks to the intricate web of canals, St. Petersburg is often called the Venice of the North which is a popular poetic name for the northern capital.
KunstkameraPalace Bridge, arostral columnand the spire ofPeter and Paul Cathedral
Façade of the Larger Marble Palace. For a night view see here.
Saint Petersburg is known as the city ofpalaces. One of the earliest of these is theSummer Palace, a modest house built forPeter Iin theSummer Garden(17101714). Much more imposing are theof his associates, such as theKikin Halland theMenshikov Palaceon the Neva Embankment, constructed from designs byDomenico Trezziniover the years 1710 to 1716. A residence adjacent to the Menshikov palace was redesigned forPeter IIand now houses theState University.
The baroqueWinter Palace(17541762) is a vast stately building with over 600 rooms and dazzlingly luxurious interiors, now housing theHermitage Museum.The same architect,Bartolomeo Rastrelli, was also responsible for three residences in the vicinity of theNevsky Prospekt: theStroganov Palace(17521754, is now a branch of theState Russian Museum, theVorontsovpalace (17491757, now a military school), and theAnichkov Palace(17411750, many times rebuilt, now a palace for extracurricular schooling). Other baroque palaces include theSheremetevhouse on theFontankaembankment (also called the Fountain House), and theBeloselsky-Belozersky Palace(18461848) on the Nevsky Prospekt, formerly a residence of theGrand Duke Sergey Aleksandrovich.
St Michaels (or Engineers) Castle,aNeoclassicalpalace, was constructed forEmperor Paulin 17971801 to replace the earlierSummer Palace. TheTauride PalaceofPrince Potemkin(17831789), situated near the Smolny Institute, used to be a seat of thefirst Russian parliament, and now the Assembly of Independent States. Just two blocks from the Hermitage buildings is theMarble Palace, commissioned byCount Orlovand built in 17681785 from 44 various sorts ofmarbleto a Neoclassical design byAntonio Rinaldi, it is now part of theState Russian Museum. The Michael Palace (18191825), famed for its opulent interiors and named after its first lodger, Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, now houses the main collections of theRussian Museum.Also designed in the Neoclassical style is theYusupovMoyka palace(built in the 1790s), whereRasputinwas killed by Prince Yusupov. Other palaces are theRazumovskypalace (17621766); theShuvalovpalace (18301838); and theYelagin Palace(18181822), a sumptuous summerdachaof the imperial family, situated on theYelagin Island. The last Royal residences were built forNicholas Is children: theMariinsky Palace(18391844), located just opposite St Isaacs Cathedral, is now housing the St. Petersburg CityLegislatureand Offices of Representatives, theNicholas Palace(185361), and theNew Mikhaylovsky Palace(1857-1861). All major palaces are now housing numerous state and private museums and various branches of the government.
While many cathedrals and buildings formerly owned by churches and monasteries still belong to the Russian government, since their seizure in 1917, some were eventually returned to congregations. The largestcathedralin the city isSt Isaacs Cathedral, said to have the largest gold-plateddomein the world. It was constructed 18181858 under the supervision of architectsAuguste de MontferrandandVasily Stasov.
TheKazan Cathedralon the Nevsky Prospekt was modeled afterSt Peters, Vaticanin theEmpire style.
TheChurch of the Savior on Blood(18831907), is a monument in theold Russian stylewhich marks the spot ofAlexander IIs assassination.
ThePeter and Paul Cathedral(17121732), a long-timesymbolof the city, contains thesepulchersofPeter the Greatand otherRussian emperors. The St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Great Choral Synagogue are near the Mariinsky Opera Theatre. Most cathedrals and temples operate today as places of worship as well asmuseums, and there are numerous other places of worship in all major religions.
Of baroque structures, the grandest is the white-and-blueSmolny Convent(17481764), later theSmolny Institute, designed byBartolomeo Rastrelli, but never completed. It is followed by theNaval Cathedralof St Nicholas (17531762), a lofty structure dedicated to theRussian Navy, the outside being covered withplaquesto sailors lost at sea. The church of Sts. Simeon and Anna (17311734),St. Sampson Cathedral(17281740), St. Pantaleon Church (17351739), andSt. Andrews Cathedral(17641780) are also notable.
The Neoclassical churches are numerous. Many of them are intended to dominatesquares, like St. Vladimirs Cathedral (17691789), not to be confused withthe church of Our Lady of Vladimir(17611783). TheTransfiguration Cathedral(182729) and theTrinity Cathedral(18281835, fire-damaged) were both designed byVasily Stasov. Smaller churches include the Konyushennaya (18161823), also by Stasov, the Easter Cake church (17851787), noted for its droll appearance, St Catherine church on theVasilievsky Island(17681771), and numerous non-Orthodox churches on the Nevsky Prospekt.
TheAlexander Nevsky Monastery, intended to house the relics of St.Alexander Nevsky, is graced by two cathedrals and five smaller churches in various styles. The monastery is also one of three main centers ofChristianeducation in Russia, having the Russian Orthodox Academy and Seminary and the residence of the St. Petersburg Patriarch. It is also remarkable for theTikhvin Cemetery, with graves of such dignitaries as writersFyodor DostoyevskyandIvan Krylov, composersPyotr Ilyich TchaikovskyandModest Mussorgsky, pianistAnton Rubinstein, directorGeorgy Tovstonogov, actorsFyodor StravinskyVera KomissarzhevskayaNikolay Simonov, mayorAnatoly Sobchakand many other notable Russians.
TheGrand Choral Synagogue of St. Petersburgis the second largest in Europe.It was opened in 1893, with the building permit obtained in 1869 from the TsarAlexander II. The Small Synagogue was opened in 1886. On 5 Tamuz 5761 (June 26, 2001), the greater hall (Bolshoi Zal in Russian) was reopened after reconstruction.
Two small churches in the earlyGothic Revivalstyle, both designed byYuri Felten, are the St John the Baptist (17761781) and theChesmenskaya(17771780). The late 19th-century and early 20th-century temples are designed in theRussian RevivalorByzantine Revivalstyles.Saint Petersburg Mosque(19091920), once the largest in Europe, is modeled after theGur-e AmirMosque inSamarkand.
St Petersburg Buddhist temple was the first in Europe.Construction was funded by subscriptions of theDalai Lamaand Russian and Mongolian Buddhists; the structure was inaugurated in the presence ofItigilovin 1914 and served as a valuable resource to transientBuryatsKalmyksand other Buddhists during World War I. It did not function from 1935 to 1991, when the lamas were exiled togulags, and the temple and its grounds were used for secular purposes. In 1991 the St. Petersburgdatsanwas reopened for worship.
Palace Squarewith theAlexander Column, view from theWinter Palace
TheState Russian Museum, formerMikhailovsky Palace
FormerSingers House (now a popular bookstoreHouse of Books)
Alexandrine Theatre is the oldest Russian Drama theatre, named afterPushkin
The ensemble ofPeter and Paul Fortresswith thePeter and Paul Cathedraltakes dominant position on the right bank of the Neva river, across theWinter Palacein the center of the city. Aboardwalkwas built along a portion of the fortress wall, giving visitors a clear view of the city across the river to the south. On the other bank of the Neva, the spit (Strelka) of theVasilievsky Islandis graced by theOld Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange(Bourse) (18051810), an important landmark in the style of theGreek Revival, is now home of the Russian Naval Museum. The spit of the Vasilievsky Island is designed as a classic lawn-park on the waterfront, and is highlighted by two tall and colorfulRostral Columns, decorated with statues and prows of battleships. This is a traditional place for music festivals and public events, such as theWhite Nights Festival.
The most famous of St. Petersburgs museums is theHermitage, one of the worlds largest and richest collections ofWestern European art. Its holdings were originally exhibited in theGreek Revivalbuilding (18381852) byLeo von Klenze, now called theNew Hermitage. But the first Russian museum was established by Peter the Great in theKunstkammer, erected in 17181734 on the opposite bank of the Neva River and formerly a home to theRussian Academy of Sciences. Other important exhibitions are hosted by theState Russian Museum, theRussian Museum of Ethnography(19001911),Stieglitz Museum of Applied Arts(18851895), theSuvorov Museum of Military History(19011904), and the Political History Museum (190406).
The imperial government institutions were housed in stately buildings, such as theGeneral Staff Buildingon thePalace Square(18201827), with a huge triumphal arch in the centre, theSenateandSynodbuildings on theSenate Square(18271843), the Imperial Cabinet (18031805) and theCity Duma(178487) on the Nevsky Prospekt, the Assignation Bank (17831790), the Customs Office (18291832), and the masterpiece of Russian architecture: theAdmiralty(18061823), one of the citys most conspicuous landmarks. Most of Imperial palaces and state buildings were designed by reputable architects invited by the Russian Tsars from European capitals, such asDomenico TrezziniGiacomo QuarenghiThomas de ThomonBartolomeo RastrelliCarlo Rossiand other foreign architects who settled in St. Petersburg and worked on numerous large-scale projects. Next came the generation of Russian-born architects and engineers, such as Zakharov, Stasov, Voronikhin, Starov, and other Russians who studied abroad and returned to work in St. Petersburg.
The former imperial capital is rich in science and educational institutions.Saint Petersburg State Universityis based on Vasilievsky Island and in Peterhof. The universitys baroque edifice of Twelve Collegia (17221744) was designed byDomenico Trezzini. TheAcademy of Arts(17641788) overlooks aquaysideadorned with genuine. TheSmolny Institute(18061808), originally the first school for Russian women, wasLenins headquarters during theRussian Revolution of 1917, is now the office of the Governor. The Catherines Institute (18041807), also designed by Quarenghi, is now theRussian National Library. Another Neoclassical building by Quarenghi, a roomy Horse Guards Riding School (18041807), is now the CentralExhibition Hall.
Some historic shops andstorehousesare landmarks in their own right, such as the monumentalNew Holland Arch(17791787) and adjacent walls of theNew Holland isleThe Merchant Courton theNevsky Prospekt(17611785), also designed byJean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, houses the largest extant 18th-century shopping mall and supermarket in the world, now rebuilt and updated with several coffee bars and ametro station. Nearby are the Circular Market, erected in 17851790, andthe Passage, one of the great coveredarcadesof the mid-19th century.
Nevsky Prospektis the main avenue of St. Petersburg connecting theWinter Palacewith the monastery atAlexander Nevsky Lavra. Nevsky is a busy shopping destination and center of entertainment and nighlife. Shopping malls,department stores, business centers, built in a variety of styles, include theElisseeff Emporium, the House of Books,The Passage, and more.
St Petersburg is a home to more than 50theatres. The oldest is theHermitage Theatre, which was a private palatial theatre ofCatherine the Great, still preserving the complex stage machinery of the 18th-century. The Alexandrine Theatre, built in 18281832 by Carlo Rossi, was named after the wife ofNicholas I. Most famous outside Russia is theMariinsky Theatre(former Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet), which has been styled the capital of the worldballet. TheCiniselli Circusis one of the oldest circus buildings in the world. The Opera House atSaint Petersburg Conservatory, the first in Russia, was founded in 1861 byAnton Rubinsteinand bears the name ofNikolai Rimsky-Korsakov; its alumni includeTchaikovskyProkofiev, andShostakovichwho also taught here.
A horse tamer on theAnichkov BridgebyPeter Clodt von Jrgensburg
A horse tamer on theAnichkov Bridge, designed byPeter Clodt von Jrgensburg, near theBeloselsky-Belozersky Palace
Probably the most familiar symbol of St Petersburg is theequestrian statueofPeter the Great, known as theBronze Horsemanand installed in 1782 on theSenate Square. Considered the greatest masterpiece of the French-bornEtienne Maurice FalconetAleksandr Pushkins poem about the statue figures prominently in the Russian literature under the name ofThe Bronze Horseman.
ThePalace Squareis dominated by theAlexander Column(18301834), the tallest of its kind in the world and so nicely set that no attachment to the base is needed. A monument to, represented as a youthful god of war, was erected in 1801 on theField of Mars, formerly used for military parades and popular festivities.Saint Isaacs Squareis graced by theMonument to Nicholas I(18561859), which was spared byBolshevikauthorities from destruction as the firstequestrianstatue in the world with merely two support points (the rear feet of the horse).
The publicmonumentsof St Petersburg also includeMikeshins circular statue ofCatherine IIon theNevsky Avenue, fine horse statues on theAnichkov Bridge, aRodin-like equestrian statue ofAlexander IIIbyPaolo Troubetzkoy, and the Tercentenary monument presented byFrancein 2003 and installed on theSennaya Square.
Some of the most important events in the history of both the city and the Russian Empire are represented by particular monuments. TheRussian victoryoverNapoleon, for example, was commemorated by theNarva Triumphal Gate(18271834), and the victory in theRusso-Turkish War, 1828-1829 by theMoscow Triumphal Gates(18341838). ThePiskarevskoye Cemeterywas opened in 1960 as a monument to the victims of the900-Day Siege.
St. Petersburg is surrounded by imperial residences, some of which are inscribed in theWorld Heritagelist. These include:Peterhof, with the Grand Peterhof Palace and fountain cascades;Tsarskoe Selo, with the baroqueCatherine Palaceand the neoclassicalAlexander Palace; andPavlovsk Palace, which contains a domed palace ofEmperor Paul(17821786) and a large English-style park.
Much of Peterhof and Tsarskoe Selo had to be restored after being blown up by the retreating Germans in 1944. Other imperial residences have yet to be revived to their former glory.Gatchina, lying 45km southwest of St Petersburg, retains a royalcastlewith 600 rooms surrounded by a park.Oranienbaum, founded byPrince Menshikov, features his spacious baroque residence and the richly decorated Chinese palace.Strelnahas a hunting lodge ofPeter the Greatand the reconstructedConstantine Palace, used for official summits of theRussian presidentwith foreign leaders.
Another notable suburb isKronstadt, with its 19th-century fortifications and naval monuments.Catherinehof, originally intended as a garden suburb, was engulfed by the city in the 19th century.
Schedule for main drawbridges across the Neva river (Official Russian schedule):
St. Petersburg:Architecture of the Tsars. 360 pages. Abbeville Press, 1996.ISBN0-7892-0217-4
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This page was last edited on 26 May 2018, at 18:34.