The Bronze Horseman

Saint-Petersburg Guide
This magnificent work of monumental art, majestic and full of expression, may be observed from different spots. It produces a strong impression wherever you look at it from.
Let's take a tour of this remarkable architectural creation!

To Peter the First from Catherine the Second
Year 1782

After Pushkin wrote his The Bronze Horseman, the monument commonly went under this name in literature and everyday life.
Etienne Falconet worked at the Bronze Horseman for twelve years. A sand hill with a plank ramp were built under the windows of his studio. Expert riders took the best horses in the royal stables, Brilliante and Caprice, up the ramp at full gallop and held them in a rearing position while the sculptor was making sketches.
When the statue was being cast, the mould cracked and the molten metal began to pour out. The workshop caught fire. Falconet ran out of the foundry, certain that the results of so many years of work were lost irretrievably. The work was, however, saved by the foundryman Yeme-lian Khailov, who managed to close up the crack with clay. He was badly burned, but the casting was saved.

The most famous monument to Peter the Great:

- Cast 1768-1770.

- Unveiled 1782.

- Sculptor E. Falconet.

- The head of the horseman is by the sculptor’s pupil M. Collot and the snake under the horse’s feet, by F. Gordeyev.

- Height 13.6 m.

- The French philosopher, Denis Dedirot, editor of the Encyclopedie, helped to find a worthy sculptor. He suggested the project to Etienne Falconet and the sculptor came to Petersburg in 1768 with his pupil Marie Collot.

- Ten months later the design was approved; the bronze Tsar on his proud steed has galloped up a cliff and stopped on the edge of a precipice.

The Senate Square
The monument is in focal point of the Senate Square

Falconet decided to put the Bronze Horseman on a natural stone instead of a common pedestal.
They looked for a suitable rock for a long time. It was found by a peasant, Semyon Vishnyakov, in the forest, at a distance of more than ten kilometres from the city. At one time, it had been split by lightning and was known among the people as the Thunder-stone’. .
The rock was about 13 metres long and more than 6 metres high. It weighed approximately 1,600 tons. With the help of levers and windlasses, it was hoisted on a platform and hauled along chutes lined with sheets of copper, on thirty cooper balls—prototypes of the ball-bearing—to the Gulf of Finland, and from there, on a barge constructed specially for the purpose by Russian shipbuilders, to St. Petersburg. The journey took more than a year. To commemorate this titanic effort, a medal was issued bearing the inscription Epitomy of Enterprise’ and the date, January 20, 1770’.

Interesting facts

- The monument is on Senate Square by the Neva

- It is right across from the Hermitage.

- In 1837 the poet Vasily Zhukovsky published Alexander Pushkin’s long poem The Bronze Horseman in which a hapless mam is contrasted with the ruthless bronze tsar. The poem became famous overnight and the statue became known as the Bronze Horseman.

- Pushkin verse from the poem well described the iron will of Tsar Peter the Great:"How terrible he was in the surrounding gloom!...what strength was in him! And in that steed, what fire!".

- Although undisputably a grand master of sculpture, Etienne Falconet proved to be a very difficult person and made a number of power enemies in the court of Catherine the Great.

- Falconet left for Paris before the unveiling of the sculpture
Saint Petersburg in three days
So much to see, so little time? We understand. If you only have three days in our city, we suggest you see at least the following landmarks:

- The State Hermitage Museum should be on the agenda of any visitor to Saint-Petersburg. One of the largest art museums in the world, the Hermitage Museum is in the top 10 most visited museums in the world. Plan for at least a three hour visit - and that will only scratch the surface.

- The Mariinsky Theater is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera and Mariinsky Orchestra. Attending the Saint Petersburg ballet is a truly magical event.

- St Isaac's Cathedral one the finest cathedrals built in Europe in the 19th century, is a unique phenomenon in Russian architecture. Its golden dome, like the spires of the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Admiralty, is seen from afar.

- No visit to Saint-Petersburg is complete without visiting its royal environs. A hydrofoil will take you to Peterhof - a complex of palaces and gardens laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the "Russian Versailles".

- Saint-Petersburg Metro is not just a fast transportation system - it is a work of art in and of itself.