At last I will be sharing my many Russian postcards! This first post of the week is devoted to Saint Petersburg. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, Saint Petersburg was the Imperial City of Russia basically until the Revolution (when Moscow became the capitol. I’ve planned a Moscow post for later this week.) A young city for Europe, it shines as Russia’s cultural jewel. With both disdain and respect, Dostoyevsky called it, “The most abstract and intentional city in the world.”
A few postcards of the Peterhof, the palatial complex initiated by Peter the Great at the heart of his city:
From 1895-1905, Tsar Alexander III commissioned the building of the 16th-17th century Russian style Peter and Paul Cathedral at the Peterhof. It was then closed in 1938, I presume out of Soviet suppression of religion. During the WWII German occupation (Siege of Leningrad 1941-1944) it was damaged and used for storage. Renovation began in the 1970’s, proceeding through the ’80s. The Cathedral was finally reconsecrated in in the mid-1990’s.
Boasting eleven chandeliers, the Throne Room is the biggest hall in the palace. Just discernible against the far wall behind the throne is a painting of Catherine the Great on her horse. The throne itself is said to have been Peter the Great’s. And it is certain that a throne in the adjoining room belonged to Nicholas I.
Designed for Empress Elizabeth’s smaller receptions.
Also designed for Empress Elizabeth–lots of cherubs and springtime motifs.
Now onto The Hermitage, the arts and culture complex founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. In fact, The Hermitage is home to the largest collection of paintings. This incredible museum occupies six buildings along the Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace.
The Leonardo da Vinci Room is home to the master’s Benois and Litta madonnas.
Italian sculptor Carlo Rastrelli began designing this bronze monument before Peter the Great’s death in 1725. (Ex-pat Carlo was the father of Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, architect of the Peterhof Grand Palace and the Winter Palace.) C. Rastrelli cast this monument between 1745 and ’47, then it sat in a warehouse until 1800.
The pedestal is made of green, red and white Karelian marble with a bronze relief on either side–one depicting the Battle of Poltava (Peter the Great’s victory over Sweden in 1709), the other the Battle of Hangö (“Gangut” in Russian. Another Russian victory over Sweden, 1714).
The statue was removed from its pedestal and stashed away so the Germans would not destroy it throughout the Siege of Leningrad (1941-44).
…Remember, the city was called Saint Petersburg, then changed to Petrograd in 1914, then to Leningrad in 1924, then back to St. Pete in 1991. As a 1985 postcard, the print says “Leningrad” and USSR. And don’t you love the super-Soviet stamps?