St. Petersburg once used to be the capital of the Russian Empire for over two centuries, on the front line of the Soviet struggle to repel the Nazi forces during the Second World War and the birthplace of the Bolshevik Revolution. It’s no surprise, then, that a huge number of monuments in St. Petersburg celebrates great victories and commemorates those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Two events in particular – the 28-month Siege of Leningrad (1941-1944) and the victory over Napoleon’s invading armies in 1812 – have a particular resonance in Russian history, and each has inspired several public monuments in the city. Other memorials commemorate naval tragedies and those who suffered during the bloody repressions of the Soviet era. We are exploring one of the historical monuments in St. Petersburg for you:
List of Monuments in St Petersburg
1. Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood
This historic religious monument in St Petersburg was built on the location where Alexander II was fatally wounded and is an absolute sight to behold. After initiating several reforms in Russia never taken before, Alexander II was subject to many assassination attempts. The one which succeeded was at the location of the church we see today, when he was mortally wounded by a bomb thrown at him. This imposing cathedral was funded solely by the imperial family and private donors, and is one of the most stunning structures in all of St. Petersburg. The architecture is unlike the Baroque and Neoclassical styles predominant throughout the buildings of that period, and was actually built in classical Russian architecture. The interior and the exterior of the church are so emphatically detailed with mosaics that is actually one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world. During the wars and the revolutions, the church was significantly damaged. After 3 decades of restoration, it was opened again in 1997 in all it’s historical grandeur, and today serves as a museum of mosaics and is one of St. Petersburg’s top attractions.
Address: Griboyedov channel embankment, 2Б, St Petersburg, Russia, 191186.
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2. Monument to Catherine the Great
Located on Ostrovsky Square in St. Petersburg, the Monument to Catherine II was established in honor of Empress Catherine II in 1873. Under decree of Alexander II, the monument was created a century later. This is evidenced by the inscription at the base of the monument: «To Empress Catherine II during the reign of Emperor Alexander II. The Monument to Catherine II is a sophisticated sculptural composition and placed on a high pedestal, made of granite of Serdobol. At the base there are eight prominent people of her era — P. Rumyantsev, G. Potemkin, A. Suvorov, I. Betskoy, A. Bezborodko, E. Dashkova, A. Orlov and G. Derzhavin. All figures, including twice surpassing the others in size, the statue of Catherine, are made with astonishing portrait precision. This ancient monument in St Petersburg was directly made by sculptor M. Chizhov.
Address: Ostrovskogo Square, 1, St Petersburg, Russia, 191023.
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3. Monument to Nicholas I
Between the Mariinsky Palace and St. Isaac’s cathedral in St. Petersburg, the Monument to Nicholas I, located on St. Isaac’s Square and was set in 1859 by the project of Auguste de Montferrand. After the death of the emperor, the construction of the monument started in 1856, and the monument was opened on June 25 (July 7) 1859. The monument is a 6-foot equestrian statue of Nicholas I which was built by architect P. Klodt, standing on a pedestal. The emperor is depicted in the dress uniform of the Life Guards Regiment. This famous monument in Russia is quite different to the ‘Bronze Horseman’ statue of Peter the Great in the same city, arguably with not as a dramatic pose perhaps. With its red granite plinth inset with bronze reliefs, the monument seems to reflect on the subjects life and times rather than showing them in an heroic pose.
Address: St Isaac’s Square, 11, St Petersburg, Russia, 190000.
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4. Alexander Pushkin on Ploshchad Iskusstv (Arts Square)
You will see several statues of Russia’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin, in St. Petersburg but one of the most beautiful of them is probably that which stands in front of the State Russian Museum on Ploshchad Iskusstv. In 1957, the monument was created by sculptor Mikhail Anikushin erected to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg. In 1958, awarded the Lenin Prize for his work, Anikushin said of his subject: “Pushkin was a man of very vivid character, straightforward in his actions and clear in his thoughts, therefore I tried to get rid of all superfluous details… I wanted the monument, the figure of Pushkin to radiate joy and sunshine”. Anikushin went on to design another statue of the poet, which stands at the end of the platform at Chernaya Rechka Metro Station. By Russian craftsmen, this monument was the first in St. Petersburg to be designed and built exclusively. This top monument in St Petersburg was originally erected on the bank of the River Moyka not far from the Mikhailovskiy Castle but on the suggestion of Carlo Rossi in 1818 was moved to the center of the newly created Suvorovskaya Ploshchad.
Address: Iskusstv Sq., St. Petersburg Russia.
5. Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad
If you arrive in Saint Petersburg from the southern direction, Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad is the first sight you see on the way from Pulkovo airport. This unique monument in St Petersburg commemorates the great feat of Soviet people during the Siege and the glorious Victory in one of the most devastating wars of humankind. With a Petersburg Card, visit to the underground Memorial hall is free. This popular monument in consist of three main parts: “Square of the Victors”, featuring 26 bronze figures. These are Soldiers, Pilots and Civilians who defended the city. They are looking towards the Pulkovo Heights, where the defensive lines fighting the Nazis were located. The central part is a 48-m tall granite obelisk with statues of a Soldier and a Worker placed at its pedestal. They symbolize the united effort of the armed forces and Leningrad homefront in the heroic city defense. The open-air memorial hall is surrounded by a broken ring, which signifies lifting of the Siege, and has beautifully crafted sculptures in the middle. They create a very strong emotional impression of all the pain and suffering endured by Leningrad people during that tragic time.
Address: St Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, Russia, 196066.
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6. St. Isaac’s Cathedral
With stunning Russian-Byzantine architecture and a fully gold plated dome, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest orthodox basilica and one of the biggest churches in the world. This important landmark in St Petersburg serves as both a cathedral and museum today. This magnificent cathedral was completed in 1858, after 40 years of detailed work. The faade of the cathedral is adorned with intricate work, and massive granite columns, a total of 112 of which are used in the entire church. The gold dome at the top is surrounded by 12 statues of angels, which were made by a technology called electrotyping, which meant they are extremely light and thin yet sturdy. This was the first such use of electrotyping at that time. The interiors of the church, as you’d expect, are elaborately decorated with mosaics, along with a huge stained glass window of the ‘Resurrected Christ’ inside the main altar. In 1931, it was turned into the Museum of Religion and Atheism by the new communist regime. Though after the fall of USSR the church resumed it’s regular worship services, it is still used as a popular tourist museum today.
Address: St Isaac’s Square, 4, St Petersburg, Russia.
7. Peter and Paul Fortress
On May 27th , 1703 Peter and Paul Fortress was founded. This day also marks the beginning of the city’s foundation. As legend has it, Peter I chose a special place for the new fortress – it was a small Zayachy island (“Jenisaari” in Finnish), situated in the estuary of the Neva river. This location was perfect for maintaining Russian ascendancy in the Baltic Sea and becoming “the window to Europe” according to Peter’s strategy. The project of the citadel was designed by the Emperor himself with the participation of J.‑G. Lambert, a French engineer. This popular monument in St Petersburg is constructed in the shape of a hexagram – six curtains link six great bastions, named after Peter`s friends. The Fortress never took part in actual war actions, but served as the main political prison for a while, back in the XIX century. It was during the reign of Emperor Alexander I that it was first opened for visitors. The centerpiece of the Fortress is the magnificent golden-topped Peter and Paul Cathedral, which became a burial place of the Romanovs’ dynasty. Other main sights include the prison of the Trubetskoy Bastion, the Mint and Museum of the City’s History (“Komendantsky Dom”). Peter and Paul Fortress is included in the State Museum of History of St. Petersburg. It is one of the greatest historical museums in Russia, presenting the 300-years history, culture and day-to-day life of the Russian Northern capital. The free ticket is provided in the ticket office that works with organized groups, located next to the Cathedral facade.
Address: St Petersburg, Russia, 197046.
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8. Winter Palace
The Imperial Palace of St. Petersburg and the residence of the Tsars. Today it is the main building of the Hermitage Museum. The Winter Palace is the single most popular building in St. Petersburg. It has the richest of imperial histories and still holds all of its grandeur from its glory days. The palace design we see today was completed in the 1760s in the Russian Baroque style, and is a piece of genius by the architect Bartholomeo Rastrelli, who’s magnificent works are seen in many imperial buildings of St. Petersburg. This beautiful monument in St Petersburg is in the shape of a square, with a courtyard in the center. Inside, it has nearly 1500 rooms, the Hermitage collection was always housed in the Winter Palace, however today it has become the primary reason for the millions that visit the palace every day. The banquets, rooms, galleries and the intricate architecture inside this massive palace just cannot be missed. The imperial glory of the Winter Palace was restored after the fall of the communist regime, and you have not visited St. Petersburg without visiting the Winter Palace.
Address: Palace Embankment, 32, St Petersburg, Russia.
9. Mariinsky Theatre
The Mariinsky Theatre formally opened in 1860, and is home to the internationally reputed Mariinsky Ballet, Opera and Orchestra companies. The Mariinsky Theatre is one of Russia’s most historic opera and ballet theatres, right alongside the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. This historical landmark in St. Petersburg became St. Petersburg’s prime theatre after the structural integrity of the Bolshoi Kamenny was thought to be failing. The Opera Company of the Mariinsky has become one of the most reputed in the world, especially since Valery Gergiev took over in 1988. Setting up ties with famous opera companies around the world, the exposure of the Mariinksy has grown exponentially, and it has added many dimensions to the company. Many international opera festivals are held here, such as Stars of the White Nights festival, which hosts the premieres of the companies performances for the upcoming season. A second stage was added to Mariinsky Theatre in 2013, a 2000 seater which cost a staggering EUR 500 million!
Address: Theatre Square, 1, St Petersburg, Russia, 190000.
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10. The Alexander Column
The Alexander Column was erected on Dvortsovaya Ploschad in 1834 by the architect Auguste Montferrand. With a height of 47.5 meters, it signified the victory of the Russian army over Napoleon and France in 1812. The Alexander Column is the tallest column in the world, and is made of solid stone. It was named after both Emperor Alexander I, who defeated Napoleon and the Pharos lighthouse in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and embodies the ultimate level of human achievement. This iconic monument in St Petersburg is made of red granite processed in St Petersburg and weighs 600 tons. It is not dug firmly into the ground but is held on its weight solely by exact calculations.
Address: Palace Square, St Petersburg, Russia, 198324.
11. Hermitage Museum
A monumental museum situated across 6 buildings on the Palace Embankment. It is one of the largest and oldest museums of art and culture in the world, with a collection of over 3 million items! The Hermitage Museum is one of Russia’s most important museums. It is home to one of the biggest collections anywhere in the world, and has a long history since it was established 1764 by Catherine the Great.The museum has several exhibitions dedicated to various styles and eras, such as the Italian Renaissance, the Italian and Spanish fine arts, the Impressionists and post-Impressionists and so on. The museum has acquired over the years several paintings of the greatest artists ever known to man – Rembrandt, Raphael, Anthony van Dyck, Holbein and of neoclassical, modern and post-Impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Matisse among several others. The museum’s collection is so huge that it is spread across 6 buildings on the Palace Embankment, of which 5 are always open to the public. And even then, it is only a small part of the collection that is displayed at any given time. This monument around St. Petersburg is an absolute must, regardless of whether art is your thing or not. The entry is free for everyone on the first Thursday of every month. On other days, foreigners have to pay more than locals.
Address: Palace Square, 2, St Petersburg, Russia, 190000
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