Among the gloomy courtyards of St Petersburg, a small mosaic courtyard is hidden from passers-by on Tchaikovsky Street. Mozaichny Dvorik is a monumental painting of the Malaya Academy of Arts. It is not included on the standard guides of Russia’s northern capital, and perhaps that is why the courtyard is so loved by locals for its unusual, iridescent vibe. Mosaichny Dvorik is the creative laboratory of Vladimir Lubenko, and it is decorated with a mosaic of colored glass – benches, curbs and small sculptures sparkle with new colors. The objects that fill the courtyard have different stories, but most are made in human shapes or as angels and lions. The works have a clear humanistic orientation and were made not only to be looked at, but to produce some thoughts.
Bronze Horseman on Senatskaya Ploschad is the most famous monument to Peter the Great in St Petersburg, the city that he founded and named. Built in the 18th century, by the beginning of the 19th century the Bronze Horseman was notoriously mentioned in the works of poets and writers of that time. Contrary to its name, the monument is made of copper. The sculpture was commissioned by Catherine II, and according to her plans Peter had to appear as a Roman emperor and a winner with a rod and sceptre in his hand. However, the French sculptor Etienne Falconet, who was invited to work on the monument, dared to argue with the crowned head and showed the world another Peter, without compromising his strategic talents as a wise ruler.
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 a solid stone. It was named after both the 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. The Alexander Column 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.
Mayor Kovalev’s Nose is probably the most unusual monument in St Petersburg. The sculpture is based on the character of a story by Nikolay Gogol and was immortalized in October 1995 on the façade of a house in Voznesensky Prospect. If one remembers the story, the nose of Mayor Kovalev had a habit of leaving its owner and strolling around the city by itself. The monument is made from a gray limestone measuring 60 by 35cm, at the bottom of which is an image of a nose made from pink Ukrainian marble, imported directly from the home-country of Gogol.
Today it is impossible to imagine the ensemble of the Arrow on Vasilevsky Island without these columns. Throughout the imperial period, the Rostral Column functioned as a beacon. Oil was poured in the bowls on top of the column and ignited at night. Now the beacons are lit only on special occasions, during the city’s major celebrations. The Rostral Column is featured on the 50 ruble banknote, alongside the image of the Neva river. At the base of the column there are statues of two old ladies. The name of the column comes from the metal image of rostrum, or the bows of ships featured on the sides of the column.
The monument of Chizhik-Pyzhik is an extremely popular monument among tourists of all ages. It was installed on the Fontanka Embankment near the water. Local residents immediately fell in love with the little hero, and soon the belief emerged that if you throw small coins onto a small platform near the bird’s legs their wish will come true. Chizhik-Pyzhik is the smallest monument in St. Petersbourg: with a height of only 11 centimeters and a weight of five kilograms. Due to its small size, the little monument has been stolen more than seven times.
St Petersburg is heavily decorated with many sculptures of various animals, birds and mythological creatures. There are 14 sphinxes in Petersburg, but the most noteworthy sphinxes are located on the Universitetskaya Embankment, opposite the entrance of the Academy of Arts. Only these sculptures were imported directly from Egypt. Scientists believe that their age is approximately 3.5 thousand years. The Russian traveller and diplomat Muravyov saw one of the sphinxes in Alexandria, and was so impressed by what he saw that he appealed to the Russian ambassador and expressed the need to purchase these sculptures for Russia. In the end, his appeal went to Nicholas I, who decided to purchase these unusual sculptures.
By Valeria Nikonova