St Petersburg Bridges
There are hundreds of bridges in Saint Petersburg, they are all different and yet alike in something. There are long and short, wide and narrow bridges, modest and ornate bridges, bridges across the broad Neva, the still canals, the serenely flowing Fontanka and the winding Moika. They make an organic part of St. Petersburg which cannot be pictured without them.
Peter the Great permitted no bridges to be built over the Neva River in St. Petersburg, since he feared that they would obstruct shipping traffic. The first bridge was built in 1727, after Peter’s death. It was a floating bridge, its deck mounted on anchored barges – it was really a pontoon bridge. It connected the Decembrists’ Square with the area of the Alexander Menshikov Palace.
For boats passing along the Neva the bridge swung open in two places. A toll was charged for the use of the bridge. Pedestrians paid one kopeck, the charge for a cart was two kopecks, for a carriage drawn by two horses five kopecks, for driving a flock of sheep or goats over the bridge the charge was two kopecks for every ten animals, and one rouble was charged for opening the bridge for a vessel.
Laundry Bridge. Early 19th Century. Vorobyev, watercolors.
Only carriages from the Royal Palace, palace messengers, participants in official ceremonies, and fire brigades were given free passage over the bridge.
Permanent bridges have been built in St. Petersburg only over the canals, the Fontanka, the Moika, the Ligofka, &C., which are called canals, and have been worked into the shape of canals, but which, in reality, are small arms of the Neva. Most of these bridges were built by the Empress Catherine. They are of stone, very solid, are all constructed after the same model, and are, absurdly enough, provided with gates and doors, for the apparent purpose of impeding the progress of pedestrians. There are upwards of thirty of them, but they are much too narrow for the increased traffic of the city, and the tide of equipages rolling through the streets generally finds itself reduced to a more moderate pace on arriving near a bridge. Policemen are therefore stationed at every bridge, to maintain order and prevent accidents; and whereas in Germany a man is liable to a fine of two or three dollars for driving too fast over a bridge, a coachman in St. Petersburg exposes not only himself but his horses too to be assailed by the cane of the policeman if he neglects to drive over a bridge otherwise than at a quick trot. Some new bridges, and among them several elegant suspension bridges, have been added of late years, and of these there may also be about thirty, still the number is felt to be too small for this city of many islands.
J. Kohl, Russia, 1844
The bridge toll was abolished in 1755. After the Blagoveshchensky Bridge was built the old pontoon bridge lost its importance and it was moved towards the Winter Palace, and later returned to its former site. In June 1916, the wooden pontoon bridge caught fire from sparks prayed by a passing tugboat and was completely burned up. However, to this day one may see the granite abutments – the old approaches to the burnt first bridge over the Neva – on University Embankment at the Menshikov Palace and on Decembrists’ Square by the monument to Peter the Great.
Bridge of Four Lions:
A talented Russian self-taught mechanic, Ivan Kulibin (1735-1818), lived and worked in the 18th century in St. Petersburg. He made the unique egg-shaped clock (on display at the Hermitage Museum), constructed the mirror lanterns – a prototype of lighthouse beacons, invented excellent prosthetic limbs, and an optical semaphore telegraph.
Three large and several smaller canals studded with bridges, some of cast-iron and many of granite, yield an air of gaiety to the town and promote the carriage of goods between its distant quarters.
Charles Elliott, Letters from the North of Europe, 1832
In 1776, Kulibin worked out a project for the construction of a gigantic one-span wooden bridge, 298 meters long, to cross the Neva. The height of the bridge would permit the passage of large sail boats under it. At that time the span of the largest wooden bridge in the world (over the river Limmat in Switzerland) was only 119 m. Kulibin built a model of his bridge, one-tenth of the full size, and the model was successfully subjected to the most rigorous tests. However, the project sunk into oblivion. In 1793, the model was placed in the Taurida Gardens (Tavrichesky Sad), serving as a small bride over a canal. In 1816, the neglected model fell into complete decay.
A similar contrast of old and new is presented in the matter of bridges. Two handsome bridges have been built across the Neva within the last twenty years, and a third is now under construction but an old wooden bridge of planks laid on anchored barges still stretches across the river right in front of the Winter Palace, and leads to such important points as the Exchange and the Customs House. This bridge, the planking of which has to be continually renewed, is often raised so high above the level of the banks in stormy weather that no traffic can pass over it. A number of other wooden bridges unite the different islands of the city.
St. Petersburg, George Dobson, 1910
The oldest of the existing bridges over the Neva is almost 150 years old. Construction began in the middle of the 19th century. The first to appear was the Nikolayevsky Bridge, then the Liteiny (Foundry), much later - at the beginning of the 20th century - came the Troitsky, later still - the Okhtinsky, the Dvortsovy (Palace) and the Circuit Railway bridges, and finally the Alexander Nevsky Bridge. Differing in construction and appearance, these bridges complement the general panorama of the embankments with their cast-iron openwork railings, massive stone abutments, and the silhouettes of their arched spans.
Fontanka River Bridges
The architectural aspect of the Fontanka River, besides its quays, is largely determined by the bridges. Suffice it to mention only one - Anichkov Bridge. But still there are Egyptian, Old Kalinkin, Lomonosov, Panteleimon, and others. Altogether, fifteen of them.
The Fontanka, the biggest southern arm of the Neva delta, has always been an important thoroughfare of St. Petersburg. Until the middle of the XVIII century in St. Petersburg embankments and bridges were built only of wood. The first stone bridge across the Fontanka River was constructed in 1769. It was named Prachechny (Laundry), because on the left bank of the palace was the laundry yard. That yard is long gone, but the bridge is still standing. Laundry Bridge is one of the rare examples of bridges in St Petersburg, where the granite as if turned into plastic mass from which the molded arches with keystones and parapets are curved in a smooth arc. It is believed that the architecture of the Laundry Bridge reflected the transitional period in Russian architecture, when in place of lush baroque came austere and restrained classicism.
Moika River Bridges
The Moika has played a special role in the history of the city. Peter the Great wanted for the city center to be on Vasilevsky Island, but it was not to be.
After returning to St. Petersburg, Empress Anna Ivanovna ordered construction of her Winter Palace on the Admiralty Island between the Moika and the Neva River. And it became apparent that the city center was not on Vasilevsky Island, but instead on the left bank of the Neva.
The Moika takes its source in the Fontanka River, near the Summer Garden, and flows into the Neva River. It is about five kilometers log. At the beginning of the XVIII century it was a stagnant river, flowing from the swamp, which was on the site of the current Champ de Mars.
The name of the river (Moika means Washing) has long been a subject of scientific dispute among historians of St. Petersburg. Many historians attribute it simply to the verb "to wash." There have been attempts to associate the name with the public baths on the banks of the river. In fact, the name comes from an ancient name of the river - Mya. The name Mya goes back to the ancient Izhorskaya Finnish name which means "dirty little river."
By decree of Peter I in 1715 the river banks were reinforced with wooden piles, and in 1736 by decree of Anna Ivanovna on both banks of the Moika began construction of wooden quays. Soon the river was a magnificent sight, a far cry from the swampy sight it had been just a few years ago. It was clean and deep.
Until the end of the XVIII century the river banks were strengthened only by wooden shields. But in the terrible flooding on September 10, 1777, many boards were blown to smithereens. After that, city officials decided to build a granite embankment, which was done in 1798-1810.
The world's first iron bridge - Green Bridge - was designed by the Petersburg architect W. Geste. The gentle arch span was assembled from cast-iron blocks, resembling inverted boxes. Many contemporaries questioned the strength of the construction of the bridge, but their fears proved unfounded: the bridge is still standing.
The architectural appearance of the first cast iron bridge can serve as a vivid illustration of how the new building material generates new architectural forms. Cast iron is almost five times stronger than granite - is it possible to give the arch completely different proportions, to make it much more flat, thin and graceful than the arch stone bridges of the XVIII century.