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Although Saint-Petersburg is impossible to understand without the knowledge of its history, it is easy for the visitors to enjoy - not least for its magnificent architecture. Trying to create a majestic city, Peter the Great invited many European experts in Saint Petersburg, where they created a lot of architectural masterpieces of different styles. Despite the changing of epochs, all the architects imagined Saint-Petersburg as a complete architectural ensemble, with its panoramas of embankments, avenues and squares known all over the world.
Church on the Spilled Blood
A monument of Russian architecture and decorative art of the late 19th century was built on the site, where a terrorist from the revolutionary organization People's Will mortally wounded Tsar Alexander II on March 1, 1881, by tossing a bomb at his feet. The church with its unique decorations, both interior and exterior, including icons and panels made from majolica and mosaic created by the leading Russian artists of last century, has just reopened after 27 years of restoration.
St. Isaac's Cathedral
It is one of the world's most beautiful churches, the construction of which took architect Montferrand 40 years. Built as the principal cathedral of the Russian capital, it accommodates about 10,000 audience and is decorated with 50 paintings, 62 mosaics, marble sculptures of Russian and Italian sculptors, and the porticos, windows and magnificent dome adorned with 112 monolithic columns of red granite weighing up to 114 tons each. The cathedral is 101.5 meters high, and there is a wonderful view over St.Petersburg from the colonnade.
It is an outstanding example of the early 19th-century Russian architecture, erected on the site of a small stone church to hold the ancient icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which during the Soviet period used to house the Museum of Atheism and Museum of Religion. Built between 1801 and 1811, the cathedral has a beautiful colonnade, the bass-reliefs and impressive central dome, and the cathedral squares are decorated with statues to Mikhail Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly, the fountain and the cast-iron railing.
Alexander Nevsky Lavra
It is one of the architectural, religious and historic centers of St Petersburg, built on the place of the famous Glacial battle. Founded by Peter I in 1710, now Lavra contains five churches (including Trinity Cathedral with its beautiful iconostasis), the city museum of decorative sculpture and cemeteries, where outstanding St.Petersburg residents and cultural figures are buried.
The State Hermitage is one of the world greatest museums of art and culture, founded in 1764. The Hermitage, occupying the buildings of the Winter Palace and Small, Old and New Hermitages, comprises six departments: the Primitive Culture, the Culture of Antiquity, the Culture of the East, the History of Russian Culture, the Numismatics, the West-European Culture. There are over 350 halls in Hermitage, where museum's collection, including more than 3 million items, is being kept.
The largest museum of Russian art was established in 1895 and contains one of the finest collections, consisting of about 400,000 works from the medieval icons to Constructivist and Social Realistic paintings. Here is a unique collection of Old Russian icons, paintings by Great Russian artists, such as Rublev, Shubin, Kiprensky, Fedotov, Repin, Levitan, works of graphic art, decorative and applied art, folk art and numismatics, sculptures, as well as the world's finest collection of Russian avant-guarde of the XX century. The collection is organized in a clear chronological progression, thus providing a very good picture of the major developments in the history of Russian art.
Peter and Paul Fortress
It is the first structure of Saint-Petersburg, the construction of which began in 1703. It was built as a fortification during the Russian-Swedish war, but it was never used as a fortress; its bastions were turned into political prison cells, where the revolutionary-minded people (for example, Decembrists) were kept. The complex includes Peter and Paul Cathedral, which is the city's tallest building (the height of the spire is 121.8 meters) and contains the burial vault of Peter I and other Russian emperors, Museum of the History of St.Petersburg, the Boat house and the Old Mint. Formed in 1918 as a museum of the city, the Fortress holds about 840 thousand items, a unique collection of the maps of the St. Petersburg, genuine drawings of famous architects, household articles of the 18th - 20th centuries.
The Russia's first museum, which is also known as "Chamber of Curiosities", was founded in 1714 on Peter I order. It holds over 1 million articles (about 300 thousands items of ethnography, about 500 thousand items of archeology, and about 200 thousand items of anthropology), the famous collection of unique anatomical and biological formations household items, works of applied art and national costumes from Siberia, Asia, Africa, and North and South America.
Museum "Cruiser Aurora"
It is icon of the February Revolution - the cruiser Aurora, which is located near Petrogradskaya Embankment of the Bolshaya Nevka River. The 6731-tonne cruiser was the first ship in the fleet to side with the Bolsheviks: its forward cannon fired the historic blank shot at the Winter Palace - the first in a sporadic barrage that accompanied the "storming" of the building. Being converted into a training ship in early 1920s, the Aurora was declared a national monument in 1948 and later was opened as a museum.
Summer Palace of Peter I
It is a modest two-storey building - one of the first stone buildings in St.Petersburg constructed in 1710-14 to the designs of the architect D. Tresini. The palace preserved the original decor and the interiors. The exhibits include items that belonged to Peters the Great, and Catherine I, items of carved wood and glass, expensive fabrics, trellises, and paintings of the 18th century.
The first residential structure on Basil Island is this three-story building with its lavish interior decorations, which was the place where Peter's "assemblies" took place, Russian military victories were celebrated and foreign ambassadors and overseas guests were received. As an affiliate of the Hermitage, the museum exhibits the items of Russian culture of the first third of the 18th century, the genuine unique pieces of art and household objects of the Peter I epoch.
Built in 1785 by Antonio Rinaldi, it was a present of Catherine the Great to her lover Count Gregory Orlov. The palace, faced with green and grey marble, has been turned into an art gallery for the temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. The permanent exhibition, "Foreign Painters in Russia", presents works by painters and sculptors from European countries, who worked in Russia in the XVIII-XIX centuries. Another permanent exhibition, "The Gift of Peter and Irena Ludwig to the Russian Museum", is dedicated to post-war Russian and European painting.
This palace was built on the Moika Embankment in fascinating comfort for Princes Yusupov, the richest aristocratic family in Russia. The palace is noted not only for the refined luxury and exquisite taste of its interior decorations, but also as a historical site tied to the fall of the imperial Russia. Gala and residential rooms of the palace witnessed one of Russian history's moments of high drama - the murder of Gregory Rasputin in December 1916. Visitors are usually charmed by the perfect harmony of the palace interiors and breathtaking items of art collection (works by Rembrandt and Rubens, French tapestries and porcelain, and Venetian mirrors and wood carvings), and a beautiful white marble staircase, which leads to the private theatre, where many performances of famous Franz Liszt, Alexander Dargomyzhsky, Fyodor Chaliapin and Anna Pavlova took place.
Other beauty spots
A masterpiece of Russian landscape art, the Summer Garden was laid out on Peter I orders at the beginning of the 18th century. It is the most treasured public garden, which contains 89 sculptures of Italian masters.
30 kilometers west of St.Petersburg, there is Peterhof - an immensely luxurious royal estate, lying on the shore of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea), which is a perfect combination of several palaces and parks, Cascades and numerous fountains. The complex also includes the "Monplaisir" and "Marly" Palaces and the Hermitage Pavilion.
30 kilometers south of St.Petersburg, there is the summer residence of Paul I, who was looking for solitude in this quiet picturesque place, given to him by Catherine the Great in 1777. The center of Pavlovsk is dominated by the "Grand" Palace, where one can see the collections of paintings, furniture, bronze articles, silk fabrics, china sets brought to Russia as well as a large number of antique sculptures from Italy and gifts from European royal courts. The museum also displays an excellent collection of portraits by Russian artists and a number of Pavlovsk landscape paintings and drawings.
Tsarskoye Selo is the suburban residence of the tsars located in a small town Pushkin (24 kilometers south of St.Petersburg). It is a marvelous ensemble of palaces and parks, which is particularly famous for its impressive baroque Catherine Palace, the stunning Alexandrovsky Palace and the Lyceum (Litzei) - 19th century school for the elite, where the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin studied, and the park with its numerous pavilions, ponds and sculptures.