All about the St Isaac's Square (Saint Petersburg)

St Isaac's Square

St Isaac's Square is St. Petersburg's main administrative square. On its south side we find the Mariinsky Palace, which today houses the city's legislature – while on the northern side of the Square we find Admitalty Prospekt. The architectural appearance of the building ensembles around the square is so exceptional, that they have been listed in the UNESCO listings of cultural heritage.

Fascinating Facts

  • Due to its exceptional composition, the square has featured in the works of many major artists.
  • In 1907, the first tramway line in the city was laid across the square. This location has always been a major transport hub for the city – it was the first place where a permanent taxi-stand in the city appeared.
  • During the Siege of Leningrad, all of the flower-beds on the square were instead given over to growing vegetables.
  • The Blue Bridge, across the River Moika, is the broadest bridge in the city – so broad that many people don't even realise it's a bridge at all, at 97 metres wide. Today it is considered to be a part of St Isaac's Square.

History

In the early days, St Isaac's was a market place, and was known as Market Square. It only got its present name in 1738.

The first stone-built buildings to appear on St Isaac's square were built at the behest of Empress Anna Ioannovna.

The architectural style to be seen on the square appeared during the reign of Emperor Alexander I. It was his dream to turn St. Petersburg into the world's most beautiful city, and thus he invited the French architect Antoine François Mauduit. However, political upheavals at the time left the architect in a difficult position. This left the way clear for a different French architect – Auguste Montferrand – to undertake the design and construction of St Isaac's Cathedral on the square.

The Russian architect Karl Ivanovich Rossi was offered an unusual commission in 1847. At the request of Emperor Alexander II, he took overall charge of the layout of the square, and brought it into the appearance we see here today.

What to see

  • The monument to Russian Emperor Nicholas I, erected in 1859. For 160 years it was never once in need of capital restoration, and needed only some cosmetic upgrading. Not even the soviet authorities dared to demolish this outstanding example of Russian engineering.
  • The Mariinsky Palace is the gem of St Isaac's Square. In 1884, the palace was bought by the city, to accommodate its city council, and other legislative structures.
  • The Manege Building. Until 1870 the building served its intended function as an indoor exercise area for cavalry horses in winter. During the days of the Russian Empire, its capacious interiors were used to hold ceremonial events in the presence of the Russian royal family.
  • The Russian Institute of the History of Art is situated in the former Zubov Mansion. The building preserves its original interiors of the 19th century.
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