There are so many reason to visit St Petersburg. Some people come in search of culture, others seek inspiration from its literary associations. For some, it’s the architecture that’s top of their list, while others simply come to experience a different way of life.
One thing that’s certainly not in short supply in St Petersburg is history. The city may only have been founded in 1703, but the last 300 or so years provide a fascinating insight into the changes which have shaped this incredible city.
Here, we look at the legacy left behind by Catherine I, who ruled Russia from 1725 to 1727, and Peter II (1727-1730)…
The first female ruler of the Russian Empire, Catherine I enjoyed only a short time on the throne, during which she continued the policies and projects of her husband, Peter the Great, many of whose grand ambitions for St Petersburg did not come to fruition until after his death.
Catherine ordered a wax figure to be made of Peter the Great based on his death mask, which was moulded just a few hours after he died. Today, this wax figure can be viewed in the Hermitage.
Peter had given Catherine an estate and hunting grounds to the south of St Petersburg. Here, a small stone Palace was built called Tsarskaya Manor. This was eventually transformed into the grandiose palace and park ensemble of Tsarskoye Selo, which today is visited by millions of tourists every year.
Catherine had another palace and park, located on an island off the coast of the Baltic Sea, named Ekateringof in German style (meaning Catherine’s Court). Unfortunately, this wooden palace burned down in 1924, but its name is still preserved in the Kateringof Park near Narvskaya Metro Station.
In 1727, the first ‘floating’ (pontoon) bridge spanning the Neva appeared. It was called St Isaac’s Bridge, and was located in front of the present site of the Bronze Horseman monument.
On the whole, Catherine’s reign didn’t leave many notable traces in St Petersburg. There are no individual monuments to her, but her image does appear in a sculptural group entitled ‘The Tsar’s Walk’, which depicts Catherine together with Peter the Great and two hunting dogs. You can find this sculpture near the National Congress Palace in Strelna.
Catherine’s successor was Peter the Great’s grandson, Peter II. During his short reign, the Imperial Court relocated to Moscow so that the young Tsar could indulge his passion for hunting. As a result, the development of St Petersburg came to a virtual standstill, and many prominent citizens abandoned the city. With the absence of the Court and many of its affluent residents, the city – not yet even 25 years old – quickly fell into disrepair and its inhabitants gradually began to depart.
Peter II left little trace on the city, but one significant building is worthy of mention. It stands at 11 University Embankment, near the Twelve Colleges and the Menshikov Palace, and was built as the Palace of Peter II, although the young Emperor never lived there. Hoping to marry his daughter Maria to the Tsar, Prince Menshikov did everything he could to protect the under-age Emperor, and this palace was built for him on Menshikov’s own land. The building had not been finished at the time of Peter’s untimely death, and was only completed in the middle of the eighteenth century. Today it houses the philological and oriental departments of the St Petersburg State University.
St Petersburg – the ‘Venice of the North’ – is worth visiting at any time of year, with its amazing architectural heritage from the earliest days to the modern era. To experience it for yourself, why not join one of our fantastic escorted trips? Visit St Petersburg with RNTO, and we’ll be with you every step of the way!