The ensemble of Palace Square In front of us there is a view of Palace Square which is considered to be the citys main square and gives an excellent example of how different architectural styles can be combined in a most elaborate and aesthetically pleasing way. On the northern side of the square stands the earliest and most celebrated building on the square, the picturesque Baroque Winter Palace of Russian tsars, which gave the square its name. It was built between 1754 and 1762 by Italian architect Rastrelli. Rossi made a huge impact on the architectural appearance, bringing the ensemble to its logical onclusion.
Across the square, on the southern side, Rossi built the classical yellow- and-white General Staff Building to emphasize the nature of the main central square of St. Petersburg. The building encircles the Southern side of the square and combines a central arch designed as a Triumphal with chariot of victory on the top. On the eastern side the building of the former Royal Guards’ General Staff tastefully closes the panorama of Palace Square, while on the West the square borders with the Admiralty and the Admiralty Garden. In the middle of the square the Alexander
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Column creates an important focal point for this great architectural ensemble. Although the adjacent buildings are designed in the Neoclassical style, they perfectly match the palace in their scale, rhythm, and monumentality. Especially spectacular view of the Palace facade opens from Bolshaya Morskaya street leading to the Arch of the General Staff Building. The Square size is almost double the size of the Red Square in Moscow and is about 5 hectares. Also the Palase Square is enrolled to the UNESCO world heritage list.
The Alexander Column This is the monument to the Russian military victory in the war with Napoleon’s France. It was named after Emperor Alexander l, who ruled Russia between 1801 and 1825 (during the Napoleonic Wars). The column is a terrific piece of architecture and engineering. It was designed by the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand and built between 1830 and 1834. The body of the column is made of a single monolith of red granite, which stands 25,6 meters high and about 3,5 meters in diameter.
The monument is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross (the face of the angel is said to be modeled on the face of Emperor Alexander l). It is a terrific feat of engineering that this enormous column, weighing an incredible pounds (600 tons), was erected in under 2 hours without the aid of modern cranes and engineering machines. The pedestal of the Alexander Column is decorated with symbols of military glory. The monument is particularly impressive on a sunny evening shortly before dusk, when the last beams of sunlight are reflected in the polished red granite of the column.
The Winter Palace It was built between 1754 and 1762 by Italian architect Rastrelli. Until 1917 Winter Palace was the main residence of the Russian Tsars and afterwards of the Provisional Government. Many visitors also know it as the main building of the Hermitage Museum. The green-and-white three-storey palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture and boasts 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows and 1,057 elegantly and lavishly decorated halls and rooms, many of which are open to the public. The Winter Palace was built for Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the palace’s completion and only Catherine the Great and her successors were able to enjoy the sumptuous interiors of Elizabeth’s home. Many of the palace’s impressive interiors have been remodeled since then, particularly after 837, when a huge fire destroyed most of the building. This is the cultural heritage object of federal importance and UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the historical center of St. Petersburg. Today the Winter Palace together with four more buildings houses the extensive collections of the Hermitage.
The other four buildings of the main museum complex are: Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre. The State Hermitage Museum The Hermitage Museum is the largest art gallery in Russia and one of the largest and most respected art museums in the world. The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from the Berlin. Today the Hermitage boasts over 2. 7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe).
The Hermitage collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, a unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works etc. The experts say that if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you’d seen them all. The Building of the former Royal Guards’ General Staff On the east the Palace Square ensemble is closed by the facade of the former Royal Guards’ General Staff Building. It was built in the Late Classical style by the architect A. Briullov between 1837 and 1843.
At the beginning of XIX century there were a lot of plans and projects of the building. So in the 20s, for instance, it was supposed to be a theater. Also it was held a design competition which was attended by such famous architects as Stasov, Rossi, Montferrand, Tone, Briullov. But finally none of the projects have been approved. Then Alexander Briullov proposed building project for Royal Guards’ General Staff. The same year the construction was started. The task was to close the giant perimeter, combining incompatible- Rastrelli’s baroque building with a classical building of Rossi.
And he found a solution by creating a 4- storey building, which is also elegant and harmonious, but neutral. The Building of the former Royal Guards’ General Staff is a magnificent monument of classicism. The General Staff Building On the southern side of the Square stands this spectacular, crescent-shaped neoclassical building, which was designed by Carlo Rossi and completed in 1827. It is mostly famous for its central triumphal arch. This arch is the symbol of the triumph of Russia and commemorating the Russian victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812. The total length of the building is 580 meters.
Before the Revolution 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 eastern wing was transferred to the Hermitage Museum in 1993. During the last 20 years many concerts, annual sport and public events take place in the Palace Square such as parade on the City Day, the annual International Race, usicians’ concerts. Also six years ago paid rink with artificial ice was built here at the Palace Square, but due to the limited access to parts of the Square and the approach to the Alexander Column, a year after it was closed.
The Admiralty On the West side of the square we can see the Admiralty and the Admiralty Garden. The original Admiralty was one of the first structures in St Petersburg and was created in 1704. 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 Peter I himself who was an expert in shipbuilding). Military products include naval warships such as nuclear and diesel-powered submarines and large auxiliaries. From its foundation through 1917 the shipyard built 256 ships.
During the war it was necessary to protect the shipyard, so in 1706 the Admiralty was also fortified to be an extra defense for the newly acquired territory of the Neva delta: it was a fortress with the earthen wall, 5 earthen ramparts and a deep moat. There were 2 dug channels along the both sides of the whole building. The forest around the building was cut down in order to provide better field of view. The building was reconstructed several times. During the first reconstruction in 1711 the spire was installed over the gate.
It was topped by a golden weather-vane in the shape of a small sail warship (Korablik). The prototype of the small sail warship crowning spire of the Admiralty was the first Russian naval ship called Eagle, built by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. On the spire under the ship there was a gilded ball with the samples of all gold coins minted in St. Petersburg since its foundation. However, the secret way of opening this ball is lost forever. The original ship was on the spire until 181 5 and during the repair was replaced by another one. And the original ship was lost.
During the second reconstruction a stone tower with a 72 meters high spire was erected. 17. 8 kilograms of pure gold were used for spire gilding. Here the second weather-vane ship with the weight of 65 kilograms, covered with two kilograms of pure gold was installed. It was there for 71 year and then at the next spire repair was removed and replaced with replica. The second ship was placed at the exhibition at the Naval Museum. At the beginning of the XIX century old building of the Admiralty happened to be in the heart of the capital and did not fit to the place and wasn’t in harmony with the Winter
Palace and other architectural ensembles. So in 1806 according to the decree of Alexander I the architect Zakharov started designing new building of the Admiralty. And he coped perfectly with his task: maintained the original plan of the building, but turned it into a marvelous example of the Russian Empire style, with rows of white columns, wonderful relief detail and numerous statues. Shipyard buildings were destroyed and replaced by a boulevard (now Alexander Garden). Admiralty is a complex of buildings along the river embankment, which formerly housed the Naval
Military Training Schools, Ministry of the Navvy, Navvy Staff Office, School of Naval Architecture and Dzerzhinsky High Naval Engineering School. In October, 31st 2012 the Navvy General Staff officially moved to the Admiralty. The same day St. Andrew’s flag (white background with two blue diagonal bands, forming a slanted cross) raised over the building that officially symbolizing the presence of Navy Command Headquarters here. The gilded spire of the Admiralty (and particularly its weather- vane korablik – “the little ship”) is another of St. Petersburgs famous landmarks.