After the fortifications of the Peter and Paul fortress were built in 1703, yet another defensive outpost of the city was set up in the estuary of the Neva. The building of the shipyard, which later became known as Admiralty, was used for the purpose.
As a fortress, the Admiralty played an important part in the subsequent building up of the city center.
One of the most imposing structures in St. Petersburg is the Admiralty, the centre of the Naval Department of Russia. The front of this gigantic building is half a mile in length, and from its finely decorated tower rises a slender shaft of gold which is one of the first objects visible on approaching the city.
John Stoddard, Saint Petersburg, 1910
At first only foreign masters from Holland, England and Italy managed shipbuilding at the Admiralty, but eventually they were replaced by Russians. When first opened, Admiralty employed 1,000 people, but this grew to 4,700 by 1711 and to 10,000 by 1715. Affiliated with the Admiralty were many other factories and workshops, which produced the materials used in shipbuilding, including lumber, bricks, rope, wax, tar, shingles, and gunpowder bags.
Peter the Great Celebrated New Ships Launched at the Admiralty
Peter the Great loved to celebrate the launching of new ships from the Admiralty. On those occasions, parties were thrown for as many as 20,000 people to honor shipbuilders and seamen. Peter delivered speeches and reminded his citizens of their common enterprise.
Who among you, my brothers, would have dreamed 30 years ago that we would be here together, on the Baltic Sea, practicing carpentry in the dress of foreigners, in a land won from them by our labors and courage, erecting this city in which we live; that we would live to see such brave and victorious soldiers and sailors or Russian blood, and such sons would have visited foreign countries and returned home so bright; that we would see right here so many foreign artists and craftsmen, or that we would live to see the day when you and I are respected by foreign rulers?
Speech at the launching of the ship Ilya Prorok, Peter the Great, 1721
According to the rules of military engineering of that time, it was prohibited to build up the area around a fortress so that the enemy could not approach its walls under cover of the adjacent buildings. Therefore, no buildings were constructed in the area adjacent to the Admiralty. This explains why the expanses of the Palace Square, and Decembrists’ Square have remained open, as had Admiralty square with its garden laid out in the 1870s.
Admiralty At Night:
However, in November 1705, an earthern fortress was built on the site of the future Admiralty. Then it was repeatedly reconstructed: he pise structures were replaced with stones ones, and the stone ones were rebuilt in their turn. In 1738, the main building was rebuilt according to the design of the architect Ivan Korobov, and a tower was raised, crowned with a golden spire. At the beginning of the 19th century a decision was taken to rebuild the Admiralty yet again, and the architect Andryan Zakharov was commissioned to do the job.
Admiralty Building Architecture
It took from 1803 to 1826 to construct the modern building of the Admiralty. The cubic tower above the building dominates the architecture of the squares adjacent to the Admiralty and can be seen in the distance along the three thoroughfares which converge on it. The main façade, 407 meters wide, is divided into six and twelve column porticos. Zakharov retained the former planning of the building and the old spire with a weather-vane shaped like a caravel, which rose above the city at the height of 72.5 meters. It is cut from gilded sheets of brass, is 193 cm long, 158 cm high and weighs 65 kg.
When, in 1704, Peter the Great founded his beloved Admiralty, as the first building on the mainland then designed for such purposes as this, and not for residence, it was simply a ship yard, open to the Neva, and inclosed on three sides by low wooden structures, surrounded by stone-faced earthworks, moats, and palisades. Hither Peter was wont to come of a morning, after having routed his ministers out of bed to hold Privy Council, at three and four , to superintend the work, and to lend a hand himself. The first stone buildings were erected in 1726, after his death. In the early years of the present century Alexander I. rebuilt this stately and graceful edifice, after the plans of the Russian architect Zakharoff, who created the beautiful tower adorned with Russian sculptures, crowned by a golden spire, in the centre of the immense facade, fourteen hundred feet long, which forms a feature inseparable from the vista of the Prospekt for the greater part of its length, to the turn at the Znamenskaya Square. On this spire, at the present day, flags and lanterns warn the inhabitants of low -lying districts in the capital, of the rate at which the water is rising during inundations. In case of serious danger the flags are reinforced by signal guns from the fortress.
Scribner’s Magazine, July 1892
Admiralty Interior Decoration
The building is decorated with 56 large sculptures, 11 reliefs, and 350 moulded ornamentations by eminent Russian sculptors of the time. The sculptures on the façade are based on a common theme – the glory of the Russian Navy. The building is really an example of a synthesis of architecture and sculpture. Plastic decoration (sculptors Demut-Malinovsky, F. Shchedrin, I. Terebenëv, S. Pimenov, A. Anisimov) celebrates the greatness and power of Russia as a maritime power. On the sides of the arch Tower-2 sculptural groups (nymphs, supporting the celestial sphere) over arch relief figures of geniuses Fame, at Attica high relief of the lower tier "Institution in Russia» (sculptor Terebenev), on the base of the Tower parapet sedentary figures generals (Alexander the great, Pyrrhus) and heroes of the Trojan war (Achilles and Ajax), on the parapet of the 2-nd tier Tower 28 allegorical figures (seasons, floods, winds, etc.). The Spire of the tower is crowned by a gilded weather vane called the "korablik" (length: 192 cm, height: 158 cm, weight: 65.2 kg ), whose image has become a symbol of Leningrad (placed on the Medal «for Leningrad Defense»). The original design of the main stairs, halls, and libraries has been preserved intact.
When in my room I write or read,
No lamp or candle do I need,
In streets deserted mansions sleep,
And over their clearly etched outlines,
The Admiralty Needle shines...
A high relief above the archway of the main entrance, devoted to the founding of the Russian Navy by Peter the Great, depicts the god the sea, Neptune, handing over to Peter his trident, the symbol of his power over the sea. Standing next to the tsar is the goddess of wisdom, Minerva, who is appealing to Russia, a young woman sitting under a bay-tree. Russia is resting on the club of Hercules (the symbol of strength) and holds the horn of plenty which is touched by the god of commerce, Mercury, who is standing on bales of goods. Above this high relief, at the corner of the tower stand the military leaders and heroes of antiquity, Achilles, Ajax, Pyrrhus, and Alexander the Great.
Admiralty in History - 1917, Petrograd, Revolution: