Italy is famous for its outdoor fountains and sculpture. Paris, too, has its Arc de Triomphe and dozens more. But St. Petersburg, Russia is no slouch when it comes to monuments. Tourists flock to this ‘Venice of the North’ in part because it has dozens of noteworthy sights for those who love to stroll around a city.
The Bronze Horseman, one of many tributes to the city’s founder, Peter the Great, stands in Senatskaia Ploschad. It sits near the Admiralty facing the Neva River, not far from St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
Sponsored by Catherine the Great as a tribute to Tsar Peter, it shows the founder of St. Petersburg atop a horse, in Roman style. With a pedestal made from a single block of red granite molded in the shape of a cliff, it is one of the cities must-see outdoor attractions.
The Alexander Column is another monument to one of Russia’s rulers, in this case the Tsar who opposed Napoleon in the early 19th century. Almost 156 feet/47.5 m tall, it is topped with an angel holding a cross. Interestingly, like many aspects of St. Petersburg, the style of the cross is not Russian Orthodox, but Protestant. Designed by the architect of St. Isaac’s Cathedral it is one of the city’s finest outdoor sights.
Catherine the Great
Unveiled in 1873, this outstanding work depicts the woman who almost single-handedly led Russia into the modern European world. She is surrounded by several figures who helped carry out her plans. There are images of General Suvorov, Prince Potemkin and Ekaterina Dashkova, the first woman to chair the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Located just off Nevsky Prospekt, not far from Anichkov Palace, it shows the great woman in a contemplative pose, holding her scepter and an olive wreath. The pedestal is intricately carved and adds to the effect of this fine monument.
But not all monuments in St. Petersburg are dedicated to its rulers. Among this city of culture is a great statue of the famed writer Dostoyevsky, erected only in 1997. The sculpture is located in Vladimirskaya Ploshchad, across from Vladimir Cathedral in the neighborhood where the great author began and ended his career.
Though a recent work, it is (unlike many modern sculptures) recognizable and a tribute to a giant of literature. Seated, observing his surroundings, the statue shows him relaxed, but concentrated as befits the subject.
Siege of Leningrad
Last, but far from least on our list, is the superb monument to those who withstood the 900-day Siege of Leningrad during WWII. St. Petersburg was renamed Leningrad after the Bolshevik Revolution, then reverted to its historical name after the dissolution of the Soviet system.
At the center is an obelisk that serves as the focal point of a ring lit with gas torches. Unlike many outdoor monuments, this one has an interior as well. In an underground memorial hall there is an exhibition that provides a wealth of sights and information about that historic period of St. Petersburg’s past.
There are numerous sculptures, a documentary and English-speaking guides that add to the experience.
One could easily spend a week or more just walking and viewing St. Petersburg’s impressive list of monuments. The Narva Triumphal Arch, the Moscow Triumphal Gates and even the humble statue of the ‘Tsar Carpenter’ and many more are all worth a visit in this city dedicated to culture.