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Bronze Horseman

We landed from the “Rocket” right at the Winter Palace and again went to Palace Square. At seven o’clock in the evening, it was also as light as in the day. On the way, we met the actor in the image of Peter the Great and the actress in the image of his wife — Catherine. For USD 3, we purchased photos of Russian tsars. We again went to Palace Square where we admired the coach of the Russian aristocracy.

From the Palace Square we crossed to the other side of Nevsky Prospect and slowly walked along the Alexander Garden. On the right, we saw the spire of the famous Admiralty, one of the symbols of Saint Petersburg. It is the Admiralty building that is considered the “heart” of Saint Petersburg because three main roads converge towards it: Nevsky Prospect, Gorokhovaya Street, and Voznesensky Prospect.

During our visit, the Admiralty was under renovation; therefore, we had no opportunity to examine it in all its glory. We were inspired only by the upper part of the building, which was open to protective materials. Nevertheless, the top was enough to understand the beauty and majesty of this 72-meter structure created in the early 19th century by the project of the Russian architect Andreyan Zakharov.

From the Alexander Garden, we went to the monument to Peter the Great. Literally, this monument is called the Copper Horseman, although in fact it is made of bronze. The Bronze Horseman has become the most beautiful monument I’ve ever seen. It impressed me with its magnificence.

In the mighty body of a horse rearing, there are prominent muscles. In an incredible way, the master was able to transmit the tension of motion in the metal. Peter the Great was stately and powerful. One feels that the zealous horse knows the power of the rider and submits to it.

Later, I learned the staggering details of the Bronze Horseman’s creation. It turned out that the stone on which the Bronze Horseman is installed is the largest monolith of all people ever displaced on our land. Fancy that! Such a stone is not in the Egyptian pyramids but in the centre of Saint Petersburg! In the 18th century, it was even given the name Thunder Stone.

The stone was found in 1768 at a distance of 21 km from the place of the proposed installation. The weight of the stone was 2,000 tons, after it was hewn — 1,500 tons. In those days, when there were no diesel locomotives, steamboats, and electricity, it was necessary to deliver the stone in a difficult way: 8 km — land and 13 km — water. How this could be done? I cannot explain this because I do not understand anything in technology. I know only the dates and numbers.

The stone was immersed in the ground under its own weight for 5 meters. When it was taken out, a pond was formed. It still exists today and is called Petrovsky. It took a year to prepare for the transfer of the stone and another year was needed directly for transportation. In this case, thousands of workers and shipbuilders were involved. A huge barge was built specifically for transportation by sea.

For two years, thousands of people worked only to lift and deliver one of the largest stones in the world for a pedestal under the next monument to Peter. For me personally, such an expenditure of manpower and time seems wasteful, since life is given for more important and more interesting things. However, in the 18th century, apparently, they had their own views on life.

It is clear that the matter was not limited to the delivery of the stone, as it was necessary to create a sculpture composition. In search of the master, Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, asked for advice from one of the leading thinkers of that era — the Frenchman Denis Diderot. Philosopher Diderot recommended the famous sculptor — his compatriot Étienne Maurice Falconet — to Catherine. Besides Diderot and Catherine the Great, Voltaire, the greatest philosopher of the 18th century, also took part in the discussion of the concept of the monument. The monument was supposed to represent the victory of civilization, reason, and human will over wildlife.

Étienne Maurice Falconet agreed and arrived to work in Saint Petersburg, where he was given a workshop and a room to stay near the Winter Palace. The model of the equestrian statue was fully completed in 1769, a year before the delivery of the Thunder Stone. It seemed that the creation of the monument would soon be completed. However, in reality, another 13 years passed before the opening of the monument.

The fact is that until 1770, Russia never produced monuments of this magnitude. There were simply no masters in the country and no technical readiness to qualitatively cast such a grand monument from bronze. Falconet proposed to call the master from France. They waited for him for two years. And when the master from France arrived, it turned out that he was not able to fulfil the requirements of the architect.

It was a bureaucratic moment. The project leader, the Russian aristocrat Betskoy, did not trust Falconet and in every way hindered the implementation of his ideas. It all ended with the fact that in 1778 Falconet left the unfinished project and went back to France. The opening of the monument to Peter took place only in 1782 without the presence of the author.

However, the monument was created and installed. Since then, the Bronze Horseman has become one of the most recognizable symbols of Saint Petersburg in the world. It is really great! Therefore, I would like to thank Catherine the Great, Diderot, Voltaire, Falconet, and everyone who tried so hard to create it!


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