There are more than 5000 monuments installed in Saint Petersburg, but, of course, not all of them are equally interesting. Some of the city’s monumental sculptures should be given priority during your visit to the city. In this blog post, we’ll tell you which ones.
On This Page:
- The Bronze Horseman
- Monument to Empress Catherine the Great
- The Alexander Column
- Monument to Nicholas I (emperor of Russian between 1825-1855)
- Monument to Alexander Nevsky
- Monument to Alexander Suvorov
- Monuments to Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly
- The Narva Triumphal Arch
- Monument to Alexander Pushkin
- Moscow Triumphal Gate
- The monument to Emperor Alexander III
- Monument to Ivan Krylov (Russian author)
- Monument to the Russian composer Glinka
- Monument to Rimsky-Korsakov (another famous Russian composer)
- Rostral columns
The capital city of the Russian Empire
During several centuries Saint Petersburg was the capital of the Russian empire. The entire political, legislative and judicial power of the country was concentrated here.
Development of architecture in St. Petersburg in the XIX century
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At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the main architectural ensembles of the city were almost completed under the guidance of architectural masters such as C.I. Rossi, O. Montferrand, D. Quarenghi and others. During this time the city center acquired its renowned view that it has retained to the present day. In that one.
During the same period, the Admiralty building after the changes made by the architect A.D. Zakharov
acquired a new look, and around one of the city’s most famous monuments, the Copper Horseman the Senate Square was build. The famous Italian architect К. Rossi in 1829-1834 erected the buildings of the Senate and the Synod in which officials of the highest judicial authority and the Orthodox Church administration were to be accommodated on this square. During the first part of the 19th century, the Kazan Cathedral one of the city’s most iconic cathedrals was also built, as well as the city’s Central Exhibition Hall and the Alexandrinskiy theater.
City of Museums
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Upon arrival in St. Petersburg, many tourists ask themselves the question: “What monuments are worth visiting?” With over 200 museums, 800 bridges, several thousand sculptural and architectural compositions, everything the city has to offer can be overwhelming. That’s why, for a start, it’s good to determine what’s of most interest, and on that basis to build your own route.
Of course, Saint Petersburg was much smaller than it is now, when many of its famous monumental sculptures were being installed. In fact, many of the famous monuments date from the period that stretches from the end 18th century until the middle of the 19th century. It is therefore logical that most monuments are concentrated in 2 of the most historic parts of the city, the central area and the Admiralteysky area. Moreover, most of the city’s main monumental sculptures are within walking distance from each other.
Even though we recommend to plan which places you would like to visit in Saint Petersburg, you will, if you are at least somewhat sensitive to beauty, be struck by the masterpieces of architecture that are so omnipresent in this city. And even though you have a plan, we urge you to take your time and enjoy the unplanned too.
When you’re on Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main avenue , you can, within a radius of merely 1-2 kilometers, find architectural treasures like: the Kazan Cathedral, Zinger Company House,the Church of the Saviour on the Blood, The Mikhailovsky Garden, the Russian Museum, the Hermitage, the Alexandrinsky Theatre, Catherine’s Square, Anichkov Palace, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Admiralty.
In the central part you can also admire many famous monuments, such as Kutuzova, Barclay de Tolly, Gogol, Pushkin, Suvorov, Alexander III, Peter I (Bronze Horseman), Nicholas I, Zhukovsky, Goethe, Bach and many others.
15 most famous monuments of St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is the cultural center of Russia, where the country’s spiritual heritage is concentrated and preserved.
By visiting its many museums and monuments and by merely wandering around the historical city centre the visitor comes in touch with this spiritual heritage of the largest country in the world.
And this is not just some vague term, one can literally observe how the Russian high society used to live during the 18th and the 19th century. And some of the most splendid works from these centuries are monumental sculptures.
1 The Bronze Horseman
This monument on Senate Square was erected to honour the late Russian Tsar Peter the Great (1682 – 1725). The monument was inaugurated in 1782.
Every Russian knows about the Bronze Horseman not just because of the statue itself, but also because of one famous poem by Russia’s most famous poet, Alexandr Pushkin.
According to Pushkin, the monuments that depicts Peter the Great on a horse, climbing a rock, symbolizes the victory of the Russian people over evil powers.
The monument was built under the guidance of the architector Yuri Felten by the sculptor Etienne Falcone together with his pupils Marie Ann Kollo and Fyodor Gordeev. They completed the sculpture in 1778.
The pedestal of this monument is actually made from a very unusual material: thunderstone. This thunderstone was found vicinity of the village of Horse Lahta (which is nowadays part of the Primorsky neighbourhood, in the north of the city of Saint Petersburg). The extraction of the thunderstone from the ground in Horse Lahta formed a water reservoir, which was later given the namePetrovsky pond and is located here. Delivery of the material to the site of the monument took about one year. The actual work on the future foundation of the monuments was carried out during this year-long transportation.
2 Monument to Empress Catherine the Great.
At the foot of the majestic pedestal on which the Empress stands, the people who were close to her are depicted: Alexander Suvorov, Alexander Bezborodko, V.Y. Chichagov, I.I. Betsky, P.P. Rumyantseva, E.R. Dashkova, G.R. Derzhavin, G.A. Potemkin. She holds a laurel wreath and a sceptre in her hands and at her feet lies the crown of the Russian Empire.
The monument to the Empress, which is more than 10 meters high and weighs about 50 tons, was erected in 1873 on Ostrovsky Square, opposite the Alexandrinsky Theatre. The monument is located in the centre of Catherine Square. The statue itself, its foot and the figures of the Empress’s favourites are made of bronze at the Nichols and Plink foundry in St. Petersburg. The pedestal is made of granite rocks.
The Russian architect David Ivanovich Grimm was in charge of the architectural composition of the project.
3 The Alexander Column
This monument is more widely known as the Alexandria Pillar, this is how the Russian poet Aleksander Pushkin referred to it in one of his poems. According to many, the Alexandria Pillar was clearly a poetic term for the Alexander Column, but not everybody agrees with this.
This monument was placed in the middle of Palace Square between the Hermitage and the arch of the General Staff in 1834 during the reign of Nicholas the First. The monument was erected to commemorate Russia’s victory over France in the war of 1812 (which was lead by Napoleon at the time) and is dedicated to Alexander the First (Emperor of Russia (Tsar) between 1801 and 1825) who was nicknamed “My Angel” by his relatives.
So what is so special about the Alexander Column? Well, it is the world’s tallest column made of a solid piece of pink granite weighing 600 tons. And the column is not fixed in any way and stands solely under its own weight!
With a height of 47.5 meters. The stability of the monument is ensured by six-meter high pile up.
How did they get to place such a huge heavy object in the centre of the city one may ask. Well, it took 400 workers and 2,000 soldiers just 1 hour and 45 minutes to get the job done. There’s what teamwork can do.
On the very top of the column there is an angel holding a cross. The face of this angel is very similar to Alexander the First (remember his nickname?).
The architect Montferrand was in charge of all the work on the monument. The work began in 1829. The work began on the pedestal of the column.
4. Monument to Nicholas I (emperor of Russian between 1825-1855)
In 1859 a monument to Nicholas I was inaugurated on St. Isaac’s Square. The author of the project was architect Auguste Montferrand, under whose guidance the statue was erected by sculptor P.K. Picture Claudette.
The monument is a figure of the emperor dressed in a uniform of the Russian Imperial Guard. The Imperial Guard were units which used to serve as the personal guards of the imperial family. They were also known as the Leib Guard.
The Monument Depicts emperor Nicolas sitting on a horse standing on its back. The composition is set on a pedestal of about 10 meters high, made of white marble and shoksha quartzite. The statue itself is about 6 meters high. Around the pedestal, there are figures of four women, symbolizing Strength, Wisdom, Justice and Faith.
What is incredible about this monument is that is that the horse has only two points of support. This was done by fastening the statue to the very base of the pedestal.
5. Monument to Alexander Nevsky
Location (google maps)
The monument to Prince Alexander Nevsky is a Grotesque bronze statue of of a rider mounted on a horse on a pink granite pedestal. The monument, designed by the sculptor V.G. Kozenyuk, is located on Alexander Nevsky Square. Which makes sense, doesn’t it?
Unlike the other monuments in this article, this one is a modern piece of art. Its opening ceremony took place on 9 May 2002. The sculptor did not have time to finish his work in before his death, but it was finished according to his instructions,
What’s funny is that this monument to Alexander Nevsky and the number one in our list, the bronze horseman, are located on opposite extremes of the Nevsky Prospekt and both statues look out over the Neva River. Peter the Great saw himself as the spiritual successor of Alexander Nevsky’s work and he ordered the remains of the prince to be moved from the city of Vladimir to St. Petersburg.
6. Monument to Alexander Suvorov
Who was Suvorov? Alexander Vasislyevich Suvorov was a Russian field marshal and generalissimo. For his success on the battlefield, he was considered a national hero of the Russian empire.
The monument to Suvorov is one of the most expressive and perfect in its composition in the city of Saint Petersburg. It was inaugurated during the reign of the Russian emperor Pavel I. During the reign of Pavel I, Suvorov embarked upon his famous Italian campaign (1799-1800). For the success attained during this campaign Suvorov earned the title “Prince of Italy”, this inscription is also shown in a golden frame on the monument (Князь Италійской, in old Russian spelling).
The sculpture is located on the left banks of the Neva River in the immediate vicinity of the Trinity Bridge right next to the Field of Mars.
The figure was cast in bronze in 1801 under the direction of sculptor M.I. Kozlovsky and was exposed to the public a year after the death of the Generalissimo.
Suvorov himself is depicted in ancient Greek clothes with a sword in one hand and a shield in another. He was made to look like the old Greek god of war, Mars.
It is noteworthy that at the time this monument was placed, it was not usual in Russia to have monuments to people without royal blood. And Suvorov was not of royal blood.
During the Second World War, the monument was not hidden behind protective shields or completely moved to another place, like many other monuments in the city.
7. Monuments to Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly
Actually these are two monuments, but they were made by the same artist and look very much alike.
A monument to whom?
Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov (1745-1813) was a Field Marshall of the Russian Empire. Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly (1761 – 1818) was was a Baltic German Field Marshal and Minister of War of the Russian Empire. Both Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly played important roles in leading Russia’s army when the country was being invaded by the French, lead by Napoleon (1812). This war against Napoleon is in Russia known as the Patriotic war.
After their death, Alexander I ordered by Imperial decree in 1818 to immortalize their services to the motherland. However, only during the reign of Nicholas I was this finally realised. The grand opening ceremony was held on December 25, 1837 in honor of the 25th anniversary of victory in the Patriotic War.
The quality of this sculpture is just amazing, a true work of art. Both commanders are dressed in military uniforms, in their hands they are holding a special decorated stick that only Field Marshalls were allowed to have.
Kutuzov’s sculpture symbolizes the rapid actions and defeat of the French army. The image of Barclay de Tolly, on the contrary, is tragic, because he commanded the retreat of the Russian army.
If you want to know more about the war with Napoleon I very much recommend you read War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.
The pedestals are made of polished granite with inscriptions carved on it. This was done for the sake of durability, instead of casting the letters in bronze and fixing them on the surface.
Both commanders are cast in bronze and the height of both figures is about 4 meters. The monuments were so popular that they had to be surrounded by an iron fence. Later the fence has been replaced by chain bollards.
8. The Narva Triumphal Arch
Location (at metro station Narvskaya)
Like the previous monument we discussed, this monument is also connected with Russia’s Patriotic war.
The Narva Triumphal Arch was built to celebrate the honourable return of Russian troops after the Russian victory against the French in the Patriotic War of 1812.
At first this monument was was made of wood and alabaster in just a month. But, of course, this construction didn’t last long. It was later decided to erect a stone arch. That stone arch was built according to the same plan as the wooden one and was finished in 1834. It is still standing there to this day.
It was built under the supervision of the Russian architect Vasily Stasov, who tried to stay close to preserve the idea of the first wooden arch, which was built under the supervision of the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi, who has left his mark on the way Saint Petersburg looks until this very day.
The new arch was made of red bricks covered with copper sheets with a total weight of about 9 tons. On top of the arch, there is a composition of six horses and a figure of Glory. Besides that, Russian knights made of copper were added as further decoration of the arch.
The height of this impressive piece of architecture is 30 meters, its width is 15 meters. The Narva Gate has no less than twelve ten-meter columns with gilded inscriptions.
Not many people know there is a museum inside the Narva Triumphal Arch. In the huge pylons of the gate, there are on both sides spiral staircases. which connects the three-storey building of the museum.
Opening times museum: 11:00 – 17:00 (closed on Monday and Tuesday)
Ticket price: 60 rubles
9 Monument to Alexander Pushkin
Location on Arts Square Arts Square (площадь Искусств)
Pushkin has already been mentioned on this blog as Russia’s most famous poet. And he will be mentioned again, he’s too much an important figure in Russian culture not to be mentioned.
The bronze sculpture of Pushkin on a reddish granite pedestal is installed on Arts Square, next to the Main building of the Russian Museum. The monument has a height of no less than 8 meters.
This is a more modern monument, it was inaugurated in 1957. It was a challenge not to bring the architectural ensemble of the square out of balance. The statue had to harmoniously fit into it. For this purpose, many ideas passed the review. Even a contest of sketches was organized., The winner of this contest subsequently worked on his sculpture of Pushkin for over 10 years.
The decision to erect a monument for Pushkin was taken only in 1936. Initially, they didn’t want to place it on Arts Square but on the Vasily Island. They even renamed the Birzhevaya Square on Vasily Island into Pushkin Square. But I think it’s the right decision that they finally placed Pushkin on Arts Square. He’s an artist after all.
10 Moscow Triumphal Gate
The full name of this architectural structure is the Moscow Triumphal Gate (Московские триумфальные ворота in Russian). The monument is a colonnade of 12 fifteen-meter cast iron columns, together weighing 450 tons! The full height of the monument is 24 meters and its width is 36 meters. The Russian emperor Nicholas I (reigned from 1825 to 1855) left a dedicatory inscription that said “To the victorious Russian troops, in memory of their heroic deeds in Persia, Turkey and in the subjugation of Poland in 1826, 1827, 1828, 1829, 1830 and 1831.
The triumphal arch was built in four years. The foundation was laid in 1834 and it was inaugurated in 1838.
The occasion for building this gate was the Russian victory on the Turks in 1828-1829. It is named the Moscow Gate because it was built on the Moscow Highway (nowadays Moscow Avenue or Московский проспект in Russian), the road that leads to Moscow.
At that time, it was the most famous building in the world that was made of cast iron parts. It was constructed under the supervision of the same architector who lead the construction of the Gate of Narva, Stasov.
In 1936, the Moscow Gate was dismantled for installation in a new location in the south of the city. In 1960,however, the gate returned to its original place.
11 The monument to Emperor Alexander III
Location (Google Maps)
Emperor Alexander III reigned over Russia from 1881 until 1894.
During Alexander’s reign, the construction of the Transsiberian railway started. The construction of this railway is also mentioned in the inscription of the monument.
The order for creation was in 1899 given to the Italian sculptor Paolo Trubetskoy. It took the artist eight years to finish the statue, during this time the sculptor created 14 variants of the monument. The monument depicts Alexander III riding a heavy horse. The composition is placed on top of a three-meter high granite pedestal.
Originally the monument was erected on Znamenskaya Square, but later it was moved to the entrance to the Marble Palace, where it remains to this day. Despite criticism from some citizens, Nicholas II himself liked the work.
According to the historian Orlando FIges, this monument was a subject of mockery among the population of Saint Petersburg. The people saw the unwieldy structure as a symbol of the autocracy that Nicholas II (Alexander’s son) very much tried to revive.
12 Monument to Ivan Krylov (Russian author)
Location (google maps)
The monument to the Russian author Ivan Krylov was erected in the Summer Garden in 1855. Actually the statue was funded by donations, not by the state. General Rostovtsev, a close friend of the writer, personally petitioned for the erection of it.
The work of the sculptor Baron von Klodt was installed on a high granite pedestal, decorated with characters from Krylov’s works, cast in bronze, as well as the figure
The sculpture was badly damaged during the war of 1941-1945, so later it had to be restored.
13 Monument to the Russian composer Glinka
The idea to erect the monument to the great composer came from the Imperial Russian Music Society. About 100 thousand roubles were collected through joint efforts. The monument to the great composer is, appropriately, located theater square, close to the world famous Mariinsky theatre.
The monument was erected in 1906.The moment had to be reconstructed after the second world war (and the blockade of the city of Saint Petersburg), but nowadays it can again be looked at in all its glory.
The monument represents the figure of the composer installed on a pedestal. The total height of the monument is 7.5 meters. Glinka is depicted standing in full height with a tense and thoughtful expression on his face.
14 Monument to Rimsky-Korsakov (another famous Russian composer)
Very close to the monument to Glinka, in 1952, a monument to the great Russian composer and art historian Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov was erected in the park near the Conservatory (which also bears the name of Rimsky-Korsakov and where he worked for almost forty years). The peculiarity of this monument is its pedestal, made of new blocks of granite and blocks, partly taken from the pedestal of the monument to Alexander III, who had become a less popular historic figure during Soviet times. The massive sculpture of the composer reaches almost 7 meters in height.
15 Rostral columns
Location (google maps)
Two thirty-two-meter columns were installed in 1810 on the Spit of the Vasilievsky Island. They were meant to serve as lanterns of the port of St. Petersburg. The author of the project was the French neoclassical architect Jean-François Thomas de Thomon
There are spiral staircases inside the columns along which one can go up to the upper platforms.
To keep the fire on top of the colums burning initially, hemp oil was used. But this caused problem, because the wind would spray it burning oil on passers-by. Nowadays the columns are gasified. Normally the columns don’t have a fire burning on it anymore, but on holidays they do. On these special days one can observe flame torches up to 7 meters high!
The columns, according to the ancient custom, are decorated with rostrums (front side of a sunken ships). At the foot of the monument are figures of ancient gods of the sea and commerce. At first it was planned to cast them out of bronze, but due to the complexity of production it was decided to replace the material with limestone, which was extracted nearby and was easy to work with. The authors of the figures were sculptors from France, Thibaud and Cumberlin.
St. Petersburg is a unique city of cultural heritage
Saint Petersburg was the capital of Russia for over 2 centuries and, of course, this has left its mark on the city. There is so much to see.
Moreover, Saint Petersburg’s locations at the crossroads of Russia and Europe make the city unique. and status of the metropolis at the crossroads of Russia and Europe make the city a guardian not only of Russian culture but also of European culture.
By looking at monuments one can look at the heroes of the past and the way in which they were honoured. And looking at how the heroes of the past were honoured we can try to predict future developments.