The Mystery and Majesty of St. Petersburg, Russia
by Roy Witman © 2008
With its long and regal past, St. Petersburg, Russia
has seen and survived many of the world's tragedies.
Through it all, this majestic city has retained her
elegant appearance as well as her vibrant spirit.
Today, St. Petersburg offers some of the most dramatic
architecture in the world. Here are just a few of the
amazing sites you'll encounter upon visiting this
The Hermitage/The Palace Square/Winter
All parts of the same complex, The Palace Square
is the main gathering place for most official
performance and city-sponsored festivals. Its primary
architectural masterpiece is Winter Palace.
Commissioned by Empress Elizabeth from 1754-1762
who wanted to show off her court. Grand in nature,
this structure is graced with decorative columns, gold
tracery and huge bronze figures that keep lookout
from their positions on the roof. Unfortunately, the
death of Elizabeth occurred before Winter Palace was
The Palace has seen its share of discord through
the years. It was used as a hospital during World War
I. It has been occupied by the Provisional Government
and the Bolsheviks and took damage courtesy of
Nazis air strikes in World War II.
Several rooms within the complex were set aside
to house unique and historical objects. These rooms
have been titled as the Small Hermitage, Old
Hermitage, Hermitage Theater, New Hermitage and
other names over time. Today, the are collectively
referred to as the State Hermitage.
The other “point” of interest in Palace Square is
the Alexander Column. This bronze figure
commemorates the victory of Russian over Napoleon
in 1812. The angel atop the column is said to be
Emperor Alexander and the snake trampled under his
foot, Napoleon. At almost 156 feet tall, this is the
biggest one-piece monolith in the world. It stands,
amazingly, without support clamps.
Although tours are conducted year round, the
Palace Square and its accompanying buildings are
especially popular during warmer months.
One of the first buildings built in St. Petersburg
(formerly Leningrad), The Admiralty was originally
constructed to be a dockyard. Evolving through two
renovations after its initial construction, this “H”
shaped building was designed in Russian Empire
style with rows of white columns and plenty of statues.
The gilded spire and weather vane are St. Petersburg
landmarks in their own rights. Today, The Admiralty
houses the Higher Naval Engineering School.
Saint Isaac's Cathedral
Built in honor of the Romanov family in 1710, St.
Isaac's Cathedral is an honorarium to their patron
saint. Forty years in the making, massive solid marble
monoliths each weighing 114 tons were used in the
design of this structure. However, history has not
been kind to this beauty.
Sustaining destruction by fire, floods and the
incompetence of architects, sections of the Cathedral
had to be rebuilt as many as four times. In the end, St.
Isaac's is a luxurious accomplishment that is truly
grand in nature. It is reported that nearly 88 pounds of
pure gold and 1,000 tons of bronze were used in its
construction as well as semi-precious stones, granite,
marble and other exceptional materials.
There's little wonder as to why it took 16 years to
decorate the interior. With reportedly over 380 works
of art, sculptures, paintings and mosaics, this
cathedral is a masterpiece all to itself.
St. Petersburg is home to dozens of cathedrals
and palaces just waiting to be explored. When
planning your next cruise vacation, consider an
itinerary that includes a stop in this majestic city!
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