guide de st. petersbourg: centre historique / place st.isaac
The square is named by St.Isaak's Cathedral.
Next to St.Isaak's Cathedral you'll see the monumental building with an eight-column portico which faces the Admiralty. It was designed by Auguste Montferrand in 1817-1820 for Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky. At the main porch are statues of lions on granite pedestals mentioned by the great Pushkin in his poem 'The Bronze Horseman'.
In the centre of St. Isaac's Square is a monument to Nicholas I. What is particularly interesting about it is that this equestrian statue sculpted by Pyotr Klodt has only two points of support.
Opposite the cathedral, on the bank of the Moika, stands the former palace which was built in 1839-1844 for Princess Maria, the daughter of Nicholas I (architect Andrei Stakenschneider). Today the former Mariinsky Palace is the seat of the St.Petersburg Council of city's Deputies.
The City Council deals with the problems of the city and its population of five million. Its 600 deputies are members of 20 commissions, including planning and budget, health care, culture, youth affairs, environmental protection commissions, etc. The most burning issues are discussed and settled at the sessions of the City Council.
You can get to the City Council by the Blue Bridge, the widest in St.Petersburg (about 100 m). Connecting the two banks of the Moika, it seems to be a continuation of the square. On the right-hand side is Neptune's Scale, a granite stele with Neptune's trident on top. On this stele, water levels during especially heavy floods are marked with copper strips. Among other buildings bordering St.Isaac's Square is the famous Hotel Astoria. Built by architect Fyodor Lidval in 1911-1912, it was Russia's best hotel of that period. Its retrostyle interior still appeals to guests.
Houses 13 and 14 overlooking the Moika are occupied by the Russian institute of Plant Breeding which bears the name of Academician Nikolai Vavilov, a prominent Russian scientist.
The institute has a unique collection of seeds of cultivated plants, 160,000 in all, which Nikolai Vavilov collected when travelling in all continents of the world from 1921 to 1940. After the end of the war the London magazine Nature wrote that Vavilov's collection was lost-simply eaten up during the siege. But that was not the case. Although almost starved to death, the institute staff did not touch even a single grain of rice or potato tuber.
The building at the corner of Bolshaya Morskaya Street (No. 23/8) is famous for the fact that the writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky lived there from 1848 to 1849. Here he wrote his short novel White Nights. You will see more places associated with Dostoyevsky when walking along St.Petersburg's embankments.
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