SQUARES IN SAINT PETERSBURG
Arts Square is one of the most impressive ensembles of Saint Petersburg. It gained its modern name in 1940: all the buildings, facing the square, are connected to arts.
The center of the ensemble is the Mikhailovsky Palace, designed by architect Rossi in 1819-1825 for the grand duke Mikhail Pavlovich, brother of Emperors Alexander I and Nicolas I. The palace is separated from the square with monumental cast-iron wrought. In the center of the facade of the palace there is a portico decorated with columns. The frieze with 44 high relieves were made after the design of sculptor Demut-Malinovsky. On the sides of the granite stair-case there are two bronze statues of lions. The opposite facade of the Mikhailovsky Palace is shaped as grandeur twelve-column loggia above the arcade, with side porticos and pediments. The facade looks like the buildings by architect Gabriel on Agreement Square in Paris.
In 1895, the Mikhailovsky Palace was purchased by the state, and in 1898 the Museum of Russian Art, housed in the palace interiors, was officially opened to the public. Today the Russian museum contains the largest collection of works of Russian art in the world. In 1912-1916 the new building, designed by architects Benua and Ovsyannikov was added to the Mikhailovsky Palace. It was intended for temporary exhibitions, but nowadays Benua building houses part of the permanent exposition of the Russian Museum. Designing the ensemble of Arts Square Rossi planned that the Mikhailovsky Palace will be the landmark of the composition, thus the rest of the buildings facing the square feature relatively modest architectural characteristics. To the left from Benua building there is the Maliy Opera and Ballet Theater called in honor of Mussorgsky. It's housed in the building of the former Mikhailovsky Theater built in 1831-1833 according to the design of architect Brullov. Today the repertoire of the theater includes operas and operettas by outstanding Russian and foreign composers, performed by genre masters. On Arts Square, there is another building, closely connected to the musical life of Saint Petersburg. It is the Bolshoy Hall of Saint Petersburg Philharmonic named after Dmitriy Shostakovich, built in 1839 by architect Jacquot. The building used to house the Assembly of the Noble. Starting from the 40s of the 19th century, the Bolshoy Hall of Philharmonic became the center of the musical culture of Petersburg: it was the place where world-famous musicians such as Liszt, Berlioz, Wagner, Schumann and others gave concerts.
The date of August, 9, 1942 had gone down in history of the city: that's when composer Dmitriy Shostakovich performed his famous Seventh Leningrad symphony, dedicated to Leningrad defenders, on the philharmonic stage of the siege city. The citizens of the blockade Leningrad called the symphony "the salvo in Reichstag". Next to the Mikhailovsky Palace there is the building of the Ethnographic Museum, constructed by architect Sviniin. The exposition of the museum includes the collections of the life items of ethnographic groups of Russia and former USSR, as well as works of modern folk arts and crafts. The ensemble of the square also includes the eclectic building of the Europe Hotel, built in 1873-1875 by Fontana and reconstructed by architect Lidval. In different times such outstanding persons as Straus, Debussy, Turgenev, Gorky, Mayakovsky and others stayed in the rooms of the hotel. Nowadays the hotel is one of the best in Saint Petersburg. In 1957, a monument to the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was put up on Arts Square. It was designed by sculptor Anikushin in 1957, and nowadays it harmonically completes the square ensemble.
Palace square is the main square of St. Petersburg. It is the center of the city. The ensemble of Palace Square was formed in the middle of the 19th century. The main structures of the square are the Winter Palace, the former General Headquarters building, Alexander Column and the Guard Headquarters.
The Winter Palace was built as the residence of the Russian monarchs. It was designed and constructed by the architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1754-1762. The palace is a fine example of Russian baroque. Today the rooms of the Winter Palace house the collections of the Hermitage.
There is a grandiose building opposite the Winter Palace. It is the former General Headquarters building. It was built by the architect Carlo Rossi in 1812- 1829 in the classical style. There is the Arch of Triumph in the middle of the building. It is a monument to Russia’s victory over Napoleon in the war of 1812. It is decorated with compositions of armour and figures of the genii of Glory. The Arch of Triumph is crowned with six horses bearing the winged figure of Glory. The sculptures had been created by Demuth-Malinovsky and Pimenov.
The former Guards Headquarters were built by architect Bryullov in 1837-1843 in the style of late classicism.
In the center of Palace Square Alexander Column is rising. It was installed to commemorate the victory over Napoleon in 1812 in the Patriotic War and in foreign campaigns of the Russian’s Army of 1813 and 1814. Alexander Column was erected after the design of Auguste Montferrand.
It took three years to deliver the shaft of the column from a cliff in one of the bays of the Gulf of Finland. The weight of the monolith was 704 tons. It was brought to St. Petersburg in a barge. More than 2,000 soldiers and 400 workmen rolled it onto a high platform. Then they lowered it onto its pedestal. The column was made of dark red granite monolith. The column rises to the height of 47.5 meters. On the top of the column is the bronze figure of an angel with a cross symbolizing peace. The figure of an angel was executed by sculptor Boris Orlovsky. The face of the angel is a portrait likeness of Alexander I in whose reign the victory over Napoleon was won.
The bas-relief on the pedestal was made by the sculptor Peter Svintsov and Ivan Lepper. On the bas-relief facing the Winter Palace, the Allegories of the rivers Neman and Visla surrounded by ancient Russian suits of armour are depicted. The western bas-relief facing the Admiralty presents Justice and Mercy. The southern bas-relief presents Glory writing on the tables the dates 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815 and Peace. The eastern bas-relief presents Wisdom and Abundance.
Alexander Column was inaugurated at a grand ceremony on the 30th of August in 1834.
The ensemble of the Smolny (Resurrection) Cathedral is situated in Rastrelli Square. It’s one of the most beautiful ensembles of St Petersburg. It makes the cathedral especially picturesque.
The name “Smolny” comes from “Smolyanoy Dvor”, meaning “tar yard”. The tar yard was built soon after St Petersburg was laid. Tar was necessary for the ships built at the St Petersburg shipyards. In 1723 the tar yard was moved to another district of the city. In 1744 the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna ordered to establish a convent. The construction of the cathedral and the convent was started in 1748 after the design of Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The Smolny Cathedral is one of the best works by Rastrelli. The composition of the ensemble gives the impression of lightness and upward flight.
The cathedral was constructed in full accordance with the traditions of the Russian church building. The cathedral is crowned with the central dome. Close to the central cupola there are four well-proportioned towers. These towers are crowned with small cupolas. Many architectural and sculptural expressive details add much to the picturesque appearance of the cathedral fañades. A special effect is achieved by the snow-white stucco mouldings on the bright blue background of the walls. The architectural style of this ensemble is a combination of baroque and classicism. The height of the Smolny Cathedral is 85 metres. A bell-tower was supposed to raise 140 metres high in front of the cathedral. The wooden model of this tower is kept in the Academy of Fine Arts. The works were not finished while Elizaveta Petrovna was alive. The interior decorations of the cathedral were finished in the 1830s only, by the architect Vasily Stasov. It looks much more modest than Rastrelli’s design.
The building of the cathedral was not completed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli. In 1756 the building rate was slowed because of the Seven-year War and after the death of Elizaveta in 1761 it was stopped. More than 70 years the cathedral stood deserted without the inner decorations’ finishing.
It was only in the 830s that the architect Vasily Stasov completed the building of the cathedral. He kept its external appearance without any changes and performed the interior finishing in accordance with the views of later classicism. The architect arranged the entrance and erected a magnificent railing. This beautiful railing surrounds the square in front of the cathedral. Now an exhibition and a concert hall are located in the cathedral building.
In 1764 according to the Ukase of Catherine II the first Russian school for noble-born girls opened at the convent. It was called the Smolny Institute for noble girls. The Smolny Institute was established and initiated by Ivan Betskoy. He did a lot of things for the development of state schools and educational institutions of different levels. The education in the Smolny Institute was for girls from 6 to 18. It was a closed school. Only daughters of high ranked officials and military men were accepted. A lot of the Institute graduates became maids of honour at the courts of empress and great princesses. A seria of portraits of the Smolny first-year and second-year graduates is exposed in the State Russian Museum. They were painted by Dmitry Levinsky.
Between 1765 and 1775 to the north of the cathedral the building of the school for middle-class girls was erected. It was designed by Yury Felten. It was called the Alexander Institute. The building of the Alexander Institute was created in the early classical style. Between 1806 and 1808 to the south of the cathedral on the bank of the Neva the building of the Smolny Institute was constructed after the design of the architect Giacomo Quarenghi. It is a creation of the classicism in the prime of years. The architect combined strictness and laconic features of the classicism and the splendour and pomposity of the baroque.
The Smolny Institute functioned till August of 1917. In October the Petrograd Council of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies were housed in this building. Now the St Petersburg Mayory is situated in the Smolny.