1802 THE PALACES AND TREASURES OF ST. PETERSBURG
Edward Saunders, lecturer
Despite the ravages of seventy years of communism, St. Petersburg remains one of the grandest and most impressive cities in the world. Famous for the magnificent collections of the Hermitage, the city boasts some of the finest works of architecture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as beautiful summer palaces outside the city.
St. Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 in an endeavour to create a window to the West for Imperial Russia. Architects, craftsmen, engineers and designers were summoned from all the centres of excellence in Western Europe to build the city. One of the earliest examples of outside influence is to be found in the Cathedral of Peter and Paul designed by Domenico Tressini, a Swiss-Italian. Subsequently many buildings, including some of the summer palaces, were created during the reign of the Empress Elizabeth, Peter’s daughter, in the mid-eighteenth century. Thereafter, Catherine the Great not only introduced the neo-classic style to the city, but was also responsible for acquiring works of art which now form a major part of the collections of the Hermitage.
In the nineteenth century, during the reign of Catherine’s grandsons, Alexander I and Nicholas I, St. Petersburg was further enhanced architecturally and artistically. While all development stopped in 1917, it is remarkable that the communist rulers left so many of the tsarist statues, buildings and works of art intact, making it possible to imagine being back in a city begun three centuries ago.
1. Peter the Great to Catherine the Great
2. The Hermitage
3. Nineteenth century St. Petersburg