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The Hermitage | The Russian Museum | Peter and Paul Fortress | St.Isaac's cathedral | Savior on the Spilt Blood | Yusupov palace | Smolny cathedral | The Kunstkammer | Peterhof | Pavlovsk | Pushkin | The Cruiser Aurora | Ethnography museum | Central Naval museum | Kazansky cathedral | Alexander Nevsky Lavra | Neva river boat trip | St.Petersburg Zoo | Other museums

 
ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL
 
Peter and Paul Fortress was founded by Peter I in 1703. Besides the ancient fortifications, on the grounds of the fortress one can visit the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral of the early XVII century (architect D.Trezzini) with the burial vault of Peter the Great and other Russian tsars, the museum in Trubetskoy bastion prison, expositions: "The History of St.Petersburg", "The History of the Imperial Mint", "Pechatnya" (Printing Workshop), museum on cosmonautics and missilery; excursion route "Panorama of the Neva" - over the roofs of the fortress' bastions and curtains. By booking beforehand, the collection of open furniture storage is available.
Open: 10:00 - 18:00
Closed on WED and on the last TUE of every month.


A unique monument, a wonderful creation of a man - St. Isaac's Cathedral is on the Nevsky prospect in the centre of St-Petersburg. It is the biggest construction in the city. The Impression of grandeur, richness and majesty, created by it, corresponded the purpose the main cathedral of the capital of Russian Empire of 19th century. Its decoration includes sculpture, painting polished stone, gifting, mosaic, stained-glass windows.
For creating the bas-reliefs I.P.Vitaly, F.G.Lemere, P.K.Klodt, A.V.Loganovsky and others were invited. To define the quality of presented works a consisted of the Professors of the Academy of Arts. It gave the conclusion on each sculpture before sending it to the casting workshop.
I.P.Vitali designed almost all sculptures, including those that had the important places on the facades: twelve sculptures of the Evangelists and apostles above the pediments, groups of genuflected angels with lamps on the attic corners, statues of angels above the corners pilasters, three big bronze doors, Bas-reliefs on two grand pediments - "The meeting of the Emperor Feodosy with Isaac Dalmatsky' and "The workship of Sorcerers".
The bas-relief of the East pediment is designed by the sculptor Lemer on the subject "Isaac Dalmatsky stops the Emperor Valent". Isaac offers the Emperor to stop the persecution of the Orthodox peasants, foretelling him the soon death in contrary.
The other work of Lemer - the bas-relief on the North pediment - is built strictly symmetrically. All composition was divided into two part, united by the figure of Christ. Having underlined its significance in the figure more detailed than others and used the principle of bringing out separate details from the plane of timpanum of pediment. The figure of the Christ is the strongest, as if it goes up.
The bas-reliefs of pediments really belong to the best works of decorative sculpture of 1840's. They have an integrity of the composition, strong plastics, grand images. It makes them close to the best samples of the monumental decorative sculpture of their time. But the works of Vitali have more concrete and various images, the works of Lemer are more idealised.
The setting of the bas-relief was very difficult. They could damage the ledges. To avoid it the bas-reliefs were put into a strong iron armature, fixed in timpanum of each pediment with the help of numerous U-shaped iron hooks of the metal construction of timpanum. Thanks to this system the bas-reliefs, each of which weighs eighty tons, hang free, not resting against the ledges.
On the pediment's corners there are the statues of apostles and evangelists. According to its meaning in the whole architectural composition of the Cathedral the status of apostles and the angels with torches should soften the contrast between the vertical of the dome and the low part of the building making a soft passage. Considering the place of the sculpture, Vitali designed its form giving the sharpness to the contours and the statics to the position of the figures, that created the impression of big majesty and strength within the rude decoration and special unfinishing of sculptures.
Vitali's work on the figures of apostles was controlled by Montferrand, the Committee and Synod. The architect explained the character of each of the apostles and necessary details.
The statues were supposed to place on a big height and it was very important to place them and it was very important to place them correctly. It was managed. Clearness and strict lines define the forms of statues. The details are shown so that they don't flow together with the figures from any point of view.
The figures of apostles are perceived on the background of sky from the low position, (they are placed on 30 meters height), so their propositions are thoroughly thought. The ratio of a head and common height is 1:6. The statue should not loose its monumentality because of its proportions, so the sculptor enlarged the width of shoulders (1:3) and made the stretched forward hands bigger. The loose-fitting clothing of the apostles lay with big heavy folds, which clarify the moving of the figures by their lines. The elaborating of the material texture got less attention than the bas-reliefs of pediments. In whole design of all sculptures Vitali followed the traditions of Russian Classicism. But the attention to the effects of chiaroscuro, aspiration to the transmission of temperament of some faces picks out the statues of the apostles among the works of other sculptors of that time. Besides, the figures of apostles possess great dynamics. Energetically gesting the personages seem to step forward, including the heads and turning them to spectators. These features tell about the aspiration of Vitali to step back from the academic traditions, to overcome the idealisation in the treatment of people's images.
On the top of pediments there are the sculpture groups of evangelists - the authors of the Gospels. These groups differ from the static classical statues decorating the pediments. Four evangelists are designed standing. Near them there are sitting figures of angel, bull, eagle and lion, meaning the countries of the world and symbolising the disseminating of Christianity. Dynamic and complex in moving, these fantastic creatures turned to the evangelists as if listening to them. So each group represents a small scene, an original dialogue between two actors: St. Mark and a lion- on the West pediment, St.Matvey and an angel - on the South one, St.Ioann and a eagle - on the North one, St.Luka and a bull - on the East one. Together with the statues of the apostles, placed on the low corners of the pediments, these groups compose an integrity, plastically strong and expressively finishing the composition of the porticoes.
The bas-reliefs of three big two-shuttered doors were created by Vitali with the assistance of the sculptor R.Zaleman on design of Montferrand. The doors are made of electroplating and cast panels on the oak base. They are turned by the hinges, which hooks are put into the granite stones specially made during the building of the walls. Each panel weighs 10 tons and opens with the help of cogged mechanism built into the thick wall.
The composition of doors is four-levelled and consists of rectangular bas-relief panels put into the caissons. The project of decorating three outer doors of the cathedral was designed by Montferrand in1840-1841. The doors of the main, West entrance are decorated by the figures of Peter and Paul apostles made more expressive, plastically and generally. The multifigured compositions of the South doors on the subject of the life of Alexander Nevsky and the Grand Duke Vladimir Kievsky are very interesting. The fight of Alexander Nevsky and the Swedes is designed by Vitali in realistic manner. By the composition all three doors remind of the famous doors of Florentiysky baptistery.
The sculptures placed on the balustrade are made by the sculptor I.German. They are not so professional as the works of Vitali, F.Lemer and others. Twenty four angels with the wings raised a but and slightly bent heads, put in rhythmical sequence above each column of the drum, underline the vertical division united the colonnade and the ribbed dome. By their silhouette clearly seen on a heaven background the figures of angels stress the striving of the construction for height.

Despite some overloading of the low part of the building by the bas-reliefs and the inequality of these works from the point of art the experts decorated it creates the greatest complex of monumental and decorative sculptures. Montferrand managed to resist the wish of Nikolai I to gild the sculpture of pediments. He was assisted by the Committee of the Academy of Art.
In 1893 Nikolai I asked the famous German architect Leo Klentse, came to Petersburg, to design the project of inner decoration of the building. In two years he presented a project where, according to his ideas of decorating the cathedral, he suggested to bring a number of serious changes into the existing interior: to take bring down the ledge and make new entablatures, to block up the bays on the facades and underdomed the pylons, built on walls, to make holes in cylindrical arches for better illumination of the interior.
Having got this project Montferrand criticised it sharply and made his own variant of decorating the interior. He considered alterations inside the cathedral, suggested by Klentse, not only unnecessary but inadmissible from the point of firmness of the building. "It is dangerous,- Montferrand said,- for the big dome to make, holes in the arches". Montferrand objected to enlist the services of foreign artists, because "the painting will be made by the gentlemen Brullov, Bruni and Vasin better than by any other artists", and he also objected to making the articles of metal abroad: "those founders can not do things better and cheaper in comparison with Russian founders".
The project of decorating the interior of St.Isaak's Cathedral was created by Montferrand in a new historical epoch. During that period in Russia the ideas of Romanticism and passion for historical past came to change the ideas of civilization, rationalism and educational activities. There was an interest to the historical science, new archaeological discoveries and research works. In the architecture there was the tendency of using the elements of different historical styles. It was also reflected in the interior design of St.Isaak's Cathedral. Henceforth it led to stylization and then to eclecticism - the whole mix of different stylistic features.
In St. Isaak's Cathedral three basic sources feeding the sculptor during his work on interior can be clearly traced. First of all it is Classicism, keeping its high level in Montferrand's creativity. According to its traditions and canons the decoration of wall and pylons covered by colored marble was made. The sticking out canalized columns and pilasters of light - pink and dark-red Tivdian marble define the basic tone of the decorative design.
In the preserved altar part Rinaldi Montferrand designed the iconostases of small altars - the wings of St.Alexander Nevsky and St.Ekaterina crowned by golden sculpture groups " The Resurrection" and "The Transfiguration", created by the sculptor N.S.Pimenov.
"The Resurrection" group crowning the iconostasis consists of five figures. The figure of Christ standing on the low pedestal is the compositional centre.
The figure of Christ was designed in the Classicism tradition, but design of the angels and two figures of Rome warrens placed lower by the sides of the group was influenced by the Baroque style. As a whole architectural form of the wing and supplements the preserved decoration made by Rinaldi successfully.
The second composition Pimenov made for the wing of Alexander Nevsky has the same qualities
Numerous works made by Russian sculptors - I.P.Vitaly, P.K.Klodt, N.S.Pimenov and others present the greatest complex of the monumental and decorative sculpture of the last century.
The decorative and monumental painting of the Cathedral is a unique monument of the epoch in decoration of which the Russian Painters brought a valuable contribution.
The Cathedral is a storehouse of 150 pictures and plafonds that are the best samples of Russian monumental painting of the mid-19th century.
Montferrand believed that painting should follow the subject's treatment and composition of the great Italian school of 17th century that corresponded to the huge sizes of the Cathedral. The painters who were invited by the sculptor took the terms. The orders were distributed in the following way: the upper arch of the dome, its side parts, four sails and the space under the sails on four pylons were given to K.P.Brullov; F.A.Bruni was asked to paint the arches and the attic on the ends of a big nave, P.Shamshin was given five pictures on the same arches; T.Markov was also given the painting a the arches and one big picture, V.P.Vasin was given the painting of the arches and the sails above the altars of the wings of St.Ekaterina and St.Alexander Nevsky; F.A.Riss was given the painting of the dome arches to the right and to the left from the main entrance. The artists T.A.Markov, K.Shteiben, Plusnar, N.M.Alexeev, F.S.Zavjlov, V.K.Shebnev, P.A.Nef, N.Nikitin, N.Mussini - were given the painting of the other parts of the Cathedral.
Together with the high-rank experts the less famous painters were brought to the great work - Markov, Rise and others. All these stipulated the inequality of the works.
The painters were put into the strict conditions defined not only the subject and the composition but also a definite type. The conditions were created by Montferrand according to the requirements of the Synod. The ready made designs were estimated by the Committee consisted of the representatives of the Synod, the Council of the Academy of Arts including Montferrand and were sanctioned by Nikolai I .
The great painter Brullov was given the most important and complex task - to paint the plafond of a big dome with an area of 720 square meters. It required the knowledge composition seen from below. The work on the plafond was held in very difficult conditions required great physical tension. But the complex and difficult task attracted Brullov.
The bright expressively of image paintings of St. Isaak's Cathedral was the result of not only a gift of Brullov - monumentalist, but also his tense five-year work on the preparatory studies and sketches. The work in a wet under built Cathedral sapped his health - the painter moved in Italy and died there in 1852.
Using different innovations in the decoration of the Cathedral - electroplastic sculptures, mosaic, Montferrand used also a stained-glass window, created the altarpiece with the image of Christ. The stained-glass window was made at the Munich manufacture, it differed by bright and deep colour. It was made by the expert M.E.Ainmiller.
The usage of various decorations, thought by Montferrand, should have been done with a great tact and restraint. But "The Instructions" of Tsar and Synod led to some breaking of the composition and to the overloading of decoration.
Using various decorative materials, especially the decorative possibilities of stone, Montferrand brought different sorts of marble into the interior, among them lazurite, malachite, porphyry, shale and others.
The picturesque paintings, mosaic panels, round sculpture; bas-reliefs combined with stone covering of the walls with gilded and painted bronze make the atmosphere of great solemnity, decorative richness and luxury interior. And the high-professional design makes this interior one of the best ones in the Russian architecture of 19th century.
The museum layout placed in the Cathedral is devoted to the building and restoration of the greatest monument of architecture and engineering and the peculiarities of the monumental and decorative furniture. From upper colonnade of the Cathedral that is 43 meters high the visitors can admire a beautiful panorama of the centre of Saint Petersburg.

Address: kanala Griboyedova Nab., 2-b   see map

ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - Exterior ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - Interior. Photo 1 ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - Interior. Photo 2 ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - Dome ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - Colonnade ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - Icon ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - Interior. Photo 3 ST.ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL

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