Imágenes de páginas
PDF

210

SOME ACCOUNT OF THE CITY OF ST. PETERSBURGH.

St. Petersburqh, the modern capital of the Russian Empire, is situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea, at the head of that part of it which is called the Gulf of Finland. It is the most northerly metropolis of Europe, being placed in the high latitude of nearly sixty degrees. It is a noble city, and one, the sight of which well rppays the task of visiting it; and its beauty is the more remarkable, on account of the quickness of its growth, which occupied a shorter space of time than has been needed for the erection of many single buildings. Without doubt, it is now entitled to rank among the finest cities of Europe, and in some respects it must bo allowed to surpass them; yet, scarcely more than a hundred and thirty years have elapsed since the ground on which it stands was covered by only the miserable huts of a few poor fishermen

FOUNDATION AND HISTORY

This modern capital of Russia was founded by Peter the Great, whose name, indeed, it bears. The grand object of that celebrated monarch was to make his subjects a commercial people; for he was fully sensible of their low rank in the scale of civilised Europe, and well knew that nothing would more strongly conduce to their improvement than that intercourse with other countries which is consequent upon traffic. But, to the attainment of his object, a free and uninterrupted communication with the ocean was essential; and this the Russians had not. The sea which bounded their territory in the cold regions of the north, was shut up during half the year, besides being far distant and difficult of access at all times: and the Baltic was in the hands of Peters most powerful enemies, the Swedes, whose troops were masters of the provinces on its shores, while their ships swept its waters in triumph. The Czar resolved, however, to gain a footing upon this sea, and it was not long before he accomplished his purpose.

At the beginning of the 18th century, he commenced a war against Sweden, and in the course of two years his efforts to drive her troops from the provinces of Ingria and Carelia, on either side of the Gulf of Finland, were attended with considerable success. One of his exploits was the capture of a fortress on the north bank of the Neva, near to the spot where St. Petersburgh now stands; and when this was accomplished, the czar called a council of war with a view to determine whether he should strengthen the fortifications of this new conquest, or look out for another position more extensive, and less distant from the sea. The latter course was adopted, and the choice fell upovi one of the islands, formed by the branches of the Neva, at the spot where that river empties itself into the Gulf of Finland. The fortress which thus arose was, named St Petersburgh; and from this beginning sprang the present capital of the Russian empire.

The difficulties encountered by Peter in his attempt to erect a city on the spot which he had selected, were extremely great, and would certainly have deterred a less obstinate man from persevering in it. The situation was highly unfavourable: the banks of the Neva, and the islands at its mouth, were covered with brushwood and swamps, while the country around was little else than an immense marsh. But the czar's resolution was taken, and he adhered to it with his characteristic pertinacity. Orders were issued for the gathering of workmen from all parts of his empire; Russians, Tartars, Cossacks, Calmucks, and peasants of various races, in number many thousands, all repaired to the chosen spot to execute the designs of their despotic master. How Peter contrived, with such a motley crowd of unskilful labourers, to succeed in the accomplishment of his scheme, is a matter of considerable wonder. The poor men suffered severe privations; throughout their heavy task they were wholly unprovided with the necessary tools, not having even those which wo regard as requisite in the simplest operations of labour,—the common spade and pickaxe. "Notwithstanding which," says a contemporary writer, "the work went on with such expedition that it was surprising to see the fortress raised within less than five months, though the earth, which is very scarce thereabouts, was, for the greater part, carried by the labourers in the skirts of tbeir clothes, and in bags made of rags and old mats; the use of wheelbarrows being then unknown." "Within th is fortress a few v, ooden habitations were erected;

and on the adjacent bank of the river a small hut of the same material was built for the residence of the czar himself.

But an event soon occurred which brought much joy to Peter, and gave him fresh spirit to proceed in his undertaking. "Five months" says a writer in the Family Library "had scarcely elapsed, when a report was brought to the czar that a large ship, under Dutch colours, was standing into the river. It may be supposed that this was a joyful piece of intelligence for the founder. It was nothing short of realizing the wish nearest his heart—to open the Baltic for the nations of Europe to trade with his dominions: it constituted them his neighbours; and he at once anticipated the day when his ships would also tioaj on his own waters; would beat the Swedish navy, and drive them from a sea in which they had long rode triumphant with undivided sway. No sooner was the communication made, than the czar, with his usual rapidity, setoff to meet this welcome stranger. The skipper was invited to the house of Prince Menzikoff; he sat down at table; and, to his great astonishment, found that he was placed next the czar, and had actually been served by him. But not less astonished and delighted was Peter, on learning that the ship belonged to, and had been freighted by, an old Zaardam friend, with whom he had resided, Cornelius Calf. Per mission was immediately given to the skipper to land his cargo, consisting of salt, wine, and other articles of provi sions, free of all duties. Nothing could be more acceptable to the inhabitants of the new city than this cargo, the whole of which was purchased by Peter, Menzikoff, and the several officers; so that Auke YVybes, the skipper, made a most profitable adventure. On his departure he received a present of 500 ducats, and each man of the crew 100 rix-dollars, as a premium for the first ship that had entered the port of St. Petersburgh. In the same year another Dutch ship arrived, with a cargo of hams, cheese, butter, gin, &c, and received the same premium: and the third was given to an English ship which entered the port in the first year of the building of the city."

A church was erected after the citadel; and priests were ordered to attend from Moscow. Merchants, mechanics, and tradesmen of various descriptions, were likewise di rccted to repair to the new city; and no means were neglected of hastening its improvement. At the end of twelve months it had reached a respectable size, and is said to have contained huts and houses to the number of thirty thousand. The price of this success was dreadful; it is said to have included the sacrifice of a hundred thousand lives. By degrees, however, matters went on more prosperously, and the progress of the city became rapid in proportion. In the year 1709 the first edifice of brick was built; and five years afterwards the czar ordered that all houses thenceforth erected should be constructed of the same material. At the same time the nobility and principal merchants were commanded each to have a residence in St. Petersburgh; and every vessel navigating to the city was required to bring a certain quantity of stone for the use of the public works.

At one period of his life Peter had fixed on a regular plan for the arrangement of his new capital; but he never carried it into execution. He continued, however, till the day of his death, carefully to watch over the progress of the city; omitting no measures that might conduce to its improvement. His successors followed in the same path; and, among them, Catherine the Second is especially distinguished for the zeal which she displayed in following out the designs of the great founder.

SITUATION AND EXTENT.

St. Petersburgh is built partly on the banks of the Neva, and partly on some islands at its mouth; its circumference is very extensive, somewhat exceeding eighteen English miles. The most important division is that seated on the left bank; it includes the district which is called the Admiralty quarter, and which contains the naval establishments, together with the palaces of the emperor and the principal public buildings. On the right bank stands the more ancient part of the city, presenting pretty much the same appearance as in the days of its groat founder; a is intersected with canals, and has narrow streets, with houses chiefly of wood. Altogether it possesses considerable resemblance to a Dutch town; and Peter indeed professedly built it in imitation of Amsterdam*. The islands which St. Petershurgh occupies are five in number,—two large, and three smaller ones: the former are—the island of St. Petersburgh, on which Peter originally built his fortress, and Vassileiostrow or the island of Vassilei; the latter, it is unnecessary for us to particularize.

The whole of this capital is intersected with numerous canals, which, with their bridges and granite quays, contribute much to its beauty. But these channels do not serve the purpose of ornament only; besides their use as drains, they afford a receptacle, to a certain extent, for the accumulation of waters which a long-continued westerly wind froduces at the head of the Gulf of Finland. We have efore observed that the original site of this metropolis was little better than one vast morass; in the lapse of years its features have of course been much changed, but the level of the city is still so low as to render it constantly liable to inundation. Indeed, on more than one occasion, it has been threatened with a total submersion; in the year 1796, the water rose seventeen feet above the level of the river. Many of our readers probably recollect the inundation of 1824, which accompanied the tremendous storm; the loss of life and property then incurred was considerable.

GENERAL APPEARANCE. There is scarcely a single subject on which the judgment of travellers approaches so nearly to unanimity, as the magnificence which characterizes the general appearance of St. Petersburgh. "It is not possible," says the late Bishop James, " to give an account capable of portraying faithfully the surprise and astonishment generally experienced by the stranger who, after the wild country he has just quitted, enters the city of Petersburgh: its effects would be stupendous even without the aid of this contrast: whatever beauties may have been shadowed out by imaginary anticipation, every idea falls short of the excellence of the original; and every former relation one has heard seems to describe it in terms of admiration far too cold. It is a city of new-built palaces, where (he residences of individuals vie with the effusions of imperial magnificence; and where the buildings destined for public works hold a rank of ostentation still more striking, and are of a magnitude well agreeing with the mighty concerns of this vast empire."

A more recent traveller, Mr. John Barrow, jun., speaks to the same effect, though in simpler language. "My first impression," he says, "on landing, was that Petersburgh was a city of palaces, and unquestionably the most splendid and magnificent in the whole world. lis massy and regular buildings, apparently of stone, overwhelm one with wonder, by their extent and magnitude. Nothing that I had yet seen—and I have seen the principal cities of Europe—seemed to be deserving of a comparison; nor, to say the truth, was this, my first impression, obliterated by subsequent and closer examination.'

It seems, indeed, to be generally admitted, that in the number, the immensity, the solidity, and the elegance of its public buildings, St. Petersburgh surpasses every other city of Europe; they have been skilfully grouped together in masses, and their concentrated effect is overwhelming. But, on the other hand, this excellence is only partial, and confined to particular districts; and, taken as a whole, the Russian capital is pronounced decidedly inferior to London or Paris. Its public edifices are not, individually speaking, equal to those of our own metropolis; and it cannot be said to possess a single building fit to be compared with St. Paul's, Westminster-abbey, Greenwich-hospital, or perhaps Somerset-house. The Cathedral church of Cazan is far inferior to St. Paul's; "indeed," says Mr. Morton, "no comparison can be instituted between them. Where shall we find," continues the same writer, "in St. Petersburgh, an edifice equal to our venerable Westminster abbey? The convent of St. Alexander Neuskoi cannot be put in competition with it. The Post-office, in St. Martin's-legrand, is a striking and elegant piece of architecture: so, in a less degree, is the Bank of England; while the Postoffice of the Russian metropolis has nothing in its exterior to recommend it; nor has the Assignation Bank; which, on the contrary, is a mean building. The Winter Palace is an immense structure, but cannot, in my opinion, be compared, as to its beauty, with Somerset-house. The only edifice to which we have nothing similar is the palace of the Etat Major; this is certainly a most splendid and magnificent pile of building; but I venture to ask whether its greatness be not the principal cause of the admiration it excites." • See the Saturday Maga,jne, Vol, IV., p. 34.

THE NEVA. The Neva forms a very prominent feature in St. Petersburgh, and the Russians have carefully availed themselves of the advantages which it offers for the improvement of their capital. This river runs from the Lake Ladoga into the Gulf of Finland; its length scarcely exceeds thirty-five miles, and its breadth, as it flows through the city, varies from 300 to 400 yards. Its appearance is very different from that usually presented by a stream flowing through a large metropolis; its waters are perfectly pure, and of a beautiful transparent blue colour. There is no permanent bridge established over it; for its depth, and the rapidity of its current, prevent the erection of piers sufficiently strong to withstand the vast masses of ice which come floating down in winter from the Lake Ladoga, while the lowness of its banks forms an obstacle to the application of the suspension principle. There are, however, three ponton bridges, by which the communication is maintained between the northern and the southern districts of this capital; of these the principal is the Isaac Bridge, which stretches across from the island of Vassilei to the centre of the Admiralty Quarter, opening directly into the space containing the statue of Peter the Great. It is composed of twenty large-decked boats, well fastened to each other, and firmly anchored; over these is a thick flooring of planks. Its length is 1050 feet, and its breadth 60; and it has two drawbridges for ships to pass through. When the ice makes its appearance, one end of this chain of boats is loosened; the whole line then swings over to the opposite side of the river, ami there remains till the close of the winter-season.

But if the Neva can boast of no beautiful bridges, it certainly possesses a far more rare attraction in the noble quay which lines its left bank for the distance of two whole miles. This is built on piles, and its height is ten feet above the ordinary level of the water, which is here from eight to ten feet deep; it has a good foot-pavement, and a parapet two feet and a half high towards the river. At stated distances are double"(lights of steps communicating with the water, and furnished with seats for the accommodation of passengers. The whole of this stupendous work is composed of hewn granite.

It is a matter of regret that this superb quay should be interrupted about the middle of its length by the buildingslips of the Admiralty, which cut it completely in two, and obstruct all view of the one portion from the other. The part immediately above the Admiralty is fronted by the Winter-Palace of the Emperor, and the Hermitage, and bears the name of the Russian Quay; the part below that structure is called the English Quay, because the houses in it, which are among the largest and the best in the city, were originally built and inhabited by English merchants. They are still, for the most part, occupied by our country men, and in one of them our late ambassador used to reside. We have given a representation of it in page 216, and our readers will at once perceive how great an ornament it must be to the city. The view which it commands is very pleasing; for the extensive commerce carried on at St. Petersburgh, gives the Neva a bustling appearance. Even when its waters are frozen, it affords an animated picture; indeed, it is, perhaps, in the winter-season that the river presents its gayest picture, for nothing can be more lively and diversified than the scenes which it then presents. The ice is covered with groups of persons, engaged in different sports and occupations; and the celebrated "hills" which are erected on its surface, afford a highly-popular diversion to the inhabitants. An imitation of these machines has at various times been exhibited in England, under the title of " Russian Mountains;" we shall shortly describe the originals as used on the Nevat.

A scaffolding is raised in the river about thirty feet in height, having a platform on the top, which is approached by a flight of steps. From this summit a sloping frame of boards leads down to the level of the ice; and on this are laid large blocks of ice, the interstices of which are filled with snow. Water is then poured over the whole surface from the top to the bottom; and this, freezing, gives it the appearance of a solid compact pavement. There are generally two of these "hills" or "mountains" placed parallel to each other, at a distance of ten or twelve feet, and having their starting-places at opposite ends. At the bottom of these inclined planes the snow is cleared away for about 200 yards, and the sides of this course, as well as those of the scaffolding and platform, are protected t>v

t See also Saturday Magatint, Vol, III., p. 237.

158—a

planks. Upon these icy rail-roads, sledges of corresponding size are placed; and the amusement consists in walking up the stairs to the top of the tower, and then getting into the sledge, which, gliding down the hill, acquires such a velocity in the descent, as to carry its inmates to the further end of the course.

The amusement is rather a dangerous one, and to an unskilful person, attended with a considerable risk of breaking his bones, if not his neck. "A young English friend," says a late traveller, "offered to procure me a ticket for some private Russian mountains, but as I had not the opportunity of becoming practically acquainted with the sensation which a descent from them produces, in consequence of my being on the eve of departure for the south, I requested him to endeavour to describe it to me. He hesitated for a few moments, and then said, 'If you can form any idea of what the sensation must be while descending into the street, upon being suddenly flung out of a two-pair-of-stairs window, you will know how one feels in descending the Russian mountains.'"' The writer adds, that he felt no wish to try the correctness of the description.

STREETS AND SQUARES.

Thk streets and squares of St. Petersburgh are on a scale of magnificence unknown to European cities of greater antiquity; and the large space which they occupy, contributes much to increase the surface occupied by this metropolis. The streets are generally broad, their width varying from 60 to 200 feet; and some of them are of an immense length. They are very regular, running, for the most part, in straight lines; but, as they intersect each other at different kinds of angles, their appearance is devoid of all formality. The three sides of the Admiralty, which front the land, open into large clear spaces, bounded by noble edifices; from one of these squares issue the three principal streets. These are called, in common with several other thoroughfares, Perspectives, "because," says Captain Jones, "from all points of view they afford a prospect of the Admiralty's gilded spire, from the square before which they branch off as from one common centre, much in the fashion of the sticks of a fan." Dr. Granville says it is not on that account that they are so called, for there is more than one street, bearing the same name, which is not situated so as to present that great edifice at either of its extremities, but from their analogy to those extensive avenues, which lead to the country residences of the great in Italy, and each of which is called Vista, or Prospettiva.

The favourite of these three streets is that called the Nevskoi Perspective, which is more than two miles and a half in length, and about twice as broad as Regent Street in London. It is, however, far inferior in its general appearance, to that celebrated thoroughfare; its shops will not bear a comparison with those of its English rival, and the little trees which have been recently planted at its sides, and which one of our countrymen likens to " rows of mops," must greatly disfigure its beauty. One convenience it has, which an Englishman will duly appreciate, from its rarity in the streets of continental cities, namely, a good pavement for foot-passengers. This is an improvement which originated with the late Emperor Alexander, who was so much struck with the accommodation afforded by the pavements in London, that, on his return to Russia, he issued an order for introducing them, in what we may call the "court end" of his own capital. The inhabitants were commanded, each to pave the space before his house, within a stated time; and those who were remiss in their obedience, and neglected to perform this piece of work, had it done for them by the police,—of course with some increase of expense.

There are several bazaars at St. Petersburgh; the chief of them is in the Nevskoi Perspective. It consists of an extensive pile of building, in the shape of an irregular triangle, furnished with a court inside, and having an inner and an outer range of shops two stories high. An arcade runs before those which are exposed to the open air, and affords a convenient shelter in unfavourable weather. The shops are 340 in number; and those in which the s.ime description of articles is sold, are placed together. The tradesmen have no residence here; at night they lock up their goods, and leave them under the care of dogs, who well discharge the trust reposed in them.

HOUSES, AND MODE OF WARMING THEM. The houses of this capital, like those of Amsterdam, are mostly built on piles, for the soil is too marshy to afford a

firm foundation. A few only of the wooden dwellings of Peter's days now remain; and these are confined to the more ancient and less-frequented parts of the city. The greater part of the houses are built of brick, and faced with stucco, so as to resemble stone; but the durability of this composition is materially affected by the extremes of heat and cold which characterize the climate of this metropolis, and it generally requires repairing at the end of two years. The fronts are usually decorated in a gay style, being coloured with yellow, and having their roofs formed of thin iron or copper plates, which are painted of a black, a red, or, as is more frequently the case, a -green hue.

The practice is very common for the basement of private mansions to be converted into shops; otherwise, this portion of the building is appropriated to the residence of the servants: for its small elevation above the level of the pavement, renders it unfit for the use of the master. The interior is generally arranged on a grand scale, but has not an air of much comfort; nor is its furniture characterized by that solid magnificence which we are accustomed to look fur in the houses of the great and the opulent in our own country. "The rooms," says Mr. Morton, "are almost universally destitute of carpets; and when this is not completely the case, one room alone can boast of tha* distinction. The furniture is rude indeed, when compared with the elegant articles to be procured in London; and instead of the beautiful lustres of this country, you generally find in the mansions of the nobility at St. Petersburgh, a lamp of tin, japanned or painted, and gilt, suspended from the ceiling: even the apartments of the Imperial Palace, which the public are allowed to see, although they contain many valuable articles, appear unfinished, from the want of carpets and draperies."

As the winter of St. Petersburgh is extremely rigorous, the dispositions which the inhabitants are obliged to make, for keeping the interior of their houses warm, constitute a very important feature in their domestic arrangements. A Russian seldom waits later than the month of September, before he begins his preparations for this purpose. The windows of his house are fitted with double sashes, which are rendered almost air-tight by means of tow, putty, paste, and paper; the door at the principal entrance to the apartments is also made double, and thus the air contained in them is nearly cut off from all communication with the external atmosphere.

But his principal resource is the peetch, or stove, which is highly praised by some travellers, as an admirable contrivance for keeping the atmosphere of a room at an uniform temperature*. There is one allotted to each apartment; or if there be two rooms contiguous, it is so disposed as to warm both, by being fixed in the wall of partition. This stove is built of brick or stone, cased with white porcelain; it is of considerable size, rising to the top of the room, and thus presenting a very extensive surface for giving off the heat. The internal structure is very simple. It consists of a fire-chamber, in which the wood is burnt; this occupies, of course, the lower part, and is closed by an iron door. A system of tubes leads from this chamber, one of which, when open, serves to carry off the smoke and soot of the burning wood, while the others convey heated air all round the interior of the stove, after the combustion is completed, and the former tube closed. The air in these tubes communicates with that in the apartment, by means of a small door. One supply of fuel, when the fire is lighted in the morning, furnishes sufficient heat for the whole day, and even during the night.

PALACES

The royal palaces of St. Petersburgh are very numerous; but they are more remarkable for the magnitude of their dimensions, than the beauty of their architecture. At the head of them is the Winter Palace, which is the usual residence of the emperor. It is an immense structure, the front opposite to the Neva being no less than 721 feet in length; and- its appearance is very heavy, though its immense size necessarily gives it an imposing effect. One of its most magnificent apartments is the great hall of St. George, which is a hundred and fifty feet long, and sixty in breadth. It is surrounded by forty fluted Corinthian columns, having their capitals and bases of bronze richly gilt, and supporting a gallery decorated in a similar style

• The Russian servants have no regular beds found for them: tb»y have a shoob, or sheep-skin wrapper, and this serves them for clothing in the day and for a bed by night.

[graphic][merged small]

At the opposite extremity to the great entrance is placed the throne, which is raised on a platform of eight steps, covered with embroidered velvet. It is here that the emperor receives the foreign ambassadors in state; and the chapter of the military order of St. George is held in this room also.

Contiguous to this palace, and communicating with it and with each other by covered ways raised on arches, are 1 wo smaller buildings called respectively the great and little Hermitage. These constituted the favourite retirement of Catherine the Second, who lavished on them the treasures of imperial magnificence. Here she used to receive in private the principal members of her court. At these entertainments all ceremony was laid aside, and the empress enjoyed the freedom of private life; the attendance of servants was altogether dispensed with, one of the rooms being furnished with dumb waiters and tables, which ascended and descended through the Moor by means of springs. Catherine even drew up with her own hand regulations for the guidance of those whom she honoured ■with invitations; these were fixed in the galleries leading to the different apartments, and a copy of them is still preserved in one of the rooms. They are written in French, and some of them are curious; "Sit down, if you like, and where you please, without being told a hundred times," is one of the rules, and another requests the visiters to leave their dignity at the door, as well as their hats and their swords.

These buildings are now used as a depository for an extensive and valuable collection of paintings, books, and various other objects of interest. The pictures are arranged in a long suite of apartments, each room being appropriated exclusively to the works of one master or school. Among them is the celebrated Houghton collection, which was ourchascd by Catherine for 20,000/., as a nucleus for the intended imperial gallery. "The Russians," says Mr. Barrow, "lose no opportunity of putting an Englishman in mind th*t they once belonged to his country, and that Russia paid well for them." Among the many curiosities contained in this palace, is an extraordinary clock, known by the name of VHorloye du Paon, which was purchased in England by Prince Potcmkin, who presented it to Catherine. When the chimes begin to sound, a peacock turns toward the spectators and spreads his majestic tail; an owl rolls its eyes, and a cock crows; the cage turns round to the tinkling of small bells, and a •winged insect marks the seconds by hopping on a mush room which contains the machinery of the clock.

At a short distance from the Hermitage is the Marble Palace, which stands also on the Russian Quay; we have

given a view of it in page 209, exhibiting the front, which looks into the Grande Millionne. Catherine gave- it to« one of her nobles, and, at his death, purchased it from hisexecutor for two millions of rubles; it was afterwards bestowed by Paul on Stanislaus Poniatowsky, the dethroned king of Poland, who died in it. "The stylo of architecture," says Coxe " is magnificent, but heavy: the front is composed of polished granite and marble, and finished with such nicety, and in a style so superior to the contiguous buildings, that it seems to have been transported to the present spot like a palace in the Arabian tales, raised by the enchantment of Aladdin's lamp." The exterior is chiefly remarkable for the ornaments of richlygilt bronze, which are scattered with profusion over its surface, and for the number of pilasters which are placed around its stories. The basement is of granite; and the upper portion of the structure is cased with marhleof a black-blue colour. The interior is splendidly fitted, up, though it is now in a somewhat neglected state the hall and staircase are lined with marble, as indeed: are many of the apartments. The roof is covered with) copper; and " so intense," says Mr. Barrow, "is the heat of the sun during the siTmmer, that the man who accompanied us over the building asserted he had frequently cooked his victuals there without the aid of a fire,—a fact which we saw no reason to disbelieve."

PUBLIC BUILDINGS.

One of the finest buildings in St. Petersburgh is the* Admiralty, which, as we before observed, stands on the left bank of the Neva; its wings extend down to the river, and terminate in a noble flight of granite st^ps, leading to the water's edge. This edifice presents a larger regular facade than any other building in Europe, for according to Dr. Granville, its principal front on the land side measures considerably more than one-third of an English mile in length. The most remarkable ornament of this building is its gilt spire, from which an admirable view of the city is obtained. The space enclosed between the three sides of this structure and the Neva, contains the dock-yard; and here the greater part of the ships in the navy are built. The chief station for the fleet is Cronstadt, an island about twenty-two miles from St. Petersburgh; and as the channel leading to it is very shallow, the vessels are floated down from the dock-yard on machines called camels. These are large wooden boxes, which, being filled with water, are sunk down under the ship, and fixed so as to embrace it between them; the water is then pumped out of them, and the ship, resting on this great empty vessel, is borne up by its buoyancy. The draught of wate$ being thus considerably lessened, the whole mass is enabled to float, where the ship by itself would touch the bottom.

The palace of the Etat Major, to which we have before alluded, is the building appropriated to the service of a branch of the military administration of Russia: it is in fact the palace of the Military blalf. It is an immense edifice; for the duties attached to this department are necessarily very extensive in a country where so vast an army is constantly kept on foot. It stands opposite to the Winter Palace, and presents the appearance of a crescent of lofty buildings, with an extensive wing projecting on one side, at right angles. The middle of the crescent is occupied by a colonnade of the Corinthian order; and in the centre of this is a lofty arch, reachin:* nearly to the upper part of the building, and sculptured with military trophies. One of the principal divisions of this vast institution is composed of officers of various ranks, who are constantly occupied in improving the general map of the empire, as well as the maps of the respective governments, both for civil and military purposes. These surveys are said to be extremely well executed; Captain Jones mentions one of St. Petersburgh and its environs, to the distance of five and twenty miles, in which every house, tree, gate, and wall, was correctly marked.

The Exchange, of which we have given a view in page 213, is situated at the eastern extremity of the Vassileiostrow, or island of Vassilei. This building, which was completed in 1811, after the designs of a French architect, though it was not opened until the year 1816, is extensive, and has an elegant appearance; but the engraving will convey a more conect notion of its exterior, than any detailed description. It looks directly on the river; the semicircular space in its front being terminated by a granite quay; and on each side of it rises a tall column, ornamented with appropriate emblems. The interior consists of a single hall, one hundred and twenty six feet in length and sixty-six in breadth, in which the Russian and foreign merchants meet daily at three o'clock.

It would be impossible for us to give a detailed account of all the public edifices in this metropolis; nor is it necessary that we should do so; for they are nearly of the same general character, presenting few distinctions worthy of notice. We may simply mention the buildings belonging to the Academies of Sciences and the Fine Arts, together with the Senate House (the side of which is represented in our engraving, fronting the commencement of the English Quay) the Citadel, and the Colleges of the Holy Synod, now forming part of the University, as among the most interesting, after those which we have described.

STATUE OF PETER THE GREAT.

One of the greatest ornaments of St. Petersburgh is the celebrated statue of its founder, which stands on a gigantic pedestal in the open space between the front of the Senate House and the side of the Admiralty. This monument is the work of the French artist Falconet: it has obtained a high reputation, and the Russians think it the finest of its kind in existence. The monarch is represented in the attitude of mounting a precipice, the summit of which he has nearly attained; his head is uncovered and crowned with laurel, while his right hand is stretched out, as in the act of giving benediction to his people.

But the granite mass, which composes its pedestal, is unrivalled, and would have been still more remarkable, had the sculptor been content to leave it as he found it. It forms the remnant of a huge rock, which lay in a morass about four miles from the shore of the Gulf of Finland, and at the distance of about fourteen miles by water from St. Petersburgh. "I found the rock," says the engineer employed, "covered with moss; its length was forty-two faet, its breadth twenty-seven, and its height twenty-one feet." Moreover there was a convenient crack in one part of it which would enable the artist to break off a portion of the mass, so as to give the remainder the steepness of surface requisite for the position of the horse. "The expense and difficulty of transporting it," says Coxe, "were no obstacles to Catherine the Second; the morass was drained, the forest cleared, and a road formed to the Gulf of Finland! It was set in motion on huge friction-balls, and grooves of metal, by means of pulleys and windlasses, worked by five hundred men. In this manner it was conveyed, with forty men seated on the top, twelve hundred feet a day, to the shore; then embarked on a nautical machine, transported by water to St. Petersburgh, and landed near the spot There it is now erected." Six months were consumed ia

this undertaking, which was certainly laborious in the extreme; for the rock weighed fifteen hundred tons. Iq its natural state the stone would have been a magnificent support for the statue; but the artist, in his attempts to improve it, chiselled away half its grandeur. The inscription is very good, being characterized by a simplicity completely at variance with the monument itself. "To Peter The First: Catherine The Second," is, together with the date of erection, all that is written; and this is marked on opposite sides of the pedestal, in Latin and Russian.

[graphic][merged small]

RELIGION.

The established religion of Russia is that of the eastern or Greek church; but all other forms of worship are tolerated. Previous to the tenth century the inhabitants of this country were pagans; and the first person of distinction, converted to Christianity, was the grand princess Olga or Elga, who, in the year 953, was baptized at Constantinople, by the Greek patriarch. When her grandson, Vladomir, became ruler, he was strongly urged by the respective professors of various creeds to adopt their religion: he seems to have determined upon embracing Christianity, but, before deciding which form of it to in" troduce in his dominions, he sent certain deputies into different countries to examine into the subject. The "Report" of these "Commissioners" is a curious document: "The religion of the Bulgarians" they say, "appeared to us extremely contemptible. They assemble in a shabby mosque, without deigning to put a girdle round their bodies. Having first made a slight nod, they seat themselves on the ground, and wag their heads from side to side like fools. Their religion fails to impress the heart, or to raise the soul towards God. The service is much better performed at Rome, but still with less order and magnificence than among the Greeks. On arriving at Constantinople, we were so struck with the magnificence of the church of Santa Sophia, which the great Justinian caused to be built in honour of the Eternal Wisdom,—with the perfume and the light which are shed by the tapers,—with the beauty of the prayers and the harmony of the chanting, that we thought ourselves transported into the celestial abode. Since we have seen this light, Sire, we know not how longer to remain in this present darkness; and \re pray you to permit us to embrace the religion of the Greeks." This report was quite satisfactory to the grand

« AnteriorContinuar »