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The most junior of the constructions on Palace Square is the Alexander Column – if we can speak in such a way of a monument which has stood here just short of two hundred years? The granite obelisk was built to honour Tsar Alexander I, who vanquished Napoleon. Look up to the top of the column? The bronze angel with the cross symbolises the peace which Russia's victory had brought to Europe. Boris Orlovsky, the sculptor, somehow gave the angel a face similar to Emperor Alexander. The column stands on a granite base which is decorated with bronze bas-reliefs. Now take a look at the railings around the column – they're decorated with twelve cannon-barrels. You can see the barrels are all drooped down – a symbol that war was over.
The Alexander Column was erected during the reign of Alexander's brother, Nicholas I. Nicholas placed the task of building his father's monument in the hands of French architect Auguste de Montferrand. Tsar Nicholas put one condition into the commission – the new column was to be higher than the Vendôme Column in Paris, which had been built to honour Napoleon's victories.
It took three years to dig out the solid piece of granite from the shores of the Gulf of Finland near Vyborg, and transport it to St.Petersburg. It was shipped along the Neva on specially-constructed barges to its new site. By that time the foundations had already been dug on Palace Square - 1250 six-meter wooden piles had been driven into the ground, with half-metre thick granite blocks on top of them. The erection of the column began on 30th August 1832 with a vast team of workers, in the presence of the Royal Family and the entire diplomatic corps of the city. Four hundred builders lifted the column using block-and-tackle apparatus, with the heavy pulling done by two thousand veteran soldiers of the Napoleonic campaign, all wearing their medals. At the moment when the column finally stood vertically, the delighted Emperor was heard to exclaim: “Montferrand! You have made yourself immortal!”.
The granite column is 47.5m high (154 feet), weighs 600 tonnes and is not fixed down – it's held in place entirely by its own weight alone. At first local citizens were wary of passing it, in case it fell over. By way of allaying their concerns, the column's architect Montferrand made a habit of taking his dog for walk around the column every morning. In fact he delighted in doing so until his death.
During the soviet era there was a continuous buzz of conversation regarding the idea of taking the angel off the top of the column. At first there was an idea of replacing the angel with an eleven-metre statues of Lenin. Later, they planned to put a bust of Stalin there. But the Director of the Hermitage Museum saved the angel – who remarked that after heavy rain, the image of Stalin would be seen upside-down in the puddles on the square. After that they gave up, and the angel with his cross remains atop the column.
St. Petersburg is known as Russian cultural capital. It is also called “Northern Palmira” or “Northern Venice” as it was founded on islands in the delta of the Neva River and has a lot of architectural masterpieces.
Nevsky Prospect is the main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. It is a real treasury of Russian culture. The street was planned by Peter the Great as beginning of the road to Novgorod and Moscow. It goes through the historical center of the city, firstly - from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station and then, after making a turn at Vosstaniya Square, to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
Life on Nevsky Prospect has always been the object of attention of writers. For example, it was described by Nikolai Gogol in his story "Nevsky Prospect". Fyodor Dostoevsky often employed the Prospect as a setting within his works, such as Crime and Punishment and The Double: A Petersburg Poem.
It is best to start your walk from famous Palace Square where you can visit one of the most prominent world museums – the Hermitage. In the center of the square you will see the Alexander Column, a very popular among tourists place. With Your Audio Guide you will listen to the history of the square and all its attractions (The New Hermitage, The Winter Palace, the Alexander Column and The General Staff Building).
During the tour you will walk through the Alexander Gardens, past the Admiralty, see a lot of historical houses – real architectural “pearls” - Wawelberg's Mansion Apartments, The Sivers-Treiberg House, The Chaplin Brothers House, Chicherin's House, etc. The chief sights of the Prospect include palaces, churches and cathedrals, shopping centers and department stores. Among palaces are the Rastrelliesque Stroganov Palace, the Anichkov Palace, The Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, Grand-Princess Yusopova's Residence and the Mikhailovsky, or Michael Palace.
Nevsky Prospect deserves the name "the street of religious tolerance". Religious buildings are presented by the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the picturesque Russian-style Cathedral of Our Savior on Spilt Blood – a place where terrorists exploded the Emperor Alexander II, the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, St.Catherine's Cathedral - the oldest Catholic Church in Russia, and The Armenian Church.
Nevsky Prospect is also the city’s central shopping street and the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife. For that You can visit the Art Nouveau Bookhouse,Elisseeff Emporium, half a dozen 18th-century churches, , an enormous 18th-century shopping mall “Gostinny Dvor”, a mid-19th-century department store “The Passage” and The Alexandrinsky Theatre, in the yard of which a monument to Catherine the Great is standing.
Your audio guide is glad to present you a wide audio tour of the Nevsky Prospeсt with map and descriptions. With this map, you will never get lost and you will always know what surprise awaits you ahead.