Place: Senate Square
Sculptors: Étienne Maurice Falconet, Marie-Anne Collot
Remarkable features: Peter the Great is represented seated on the horseback, trampling a snake. The snake symbolizes Peter’s defeated enemies and a pedestal in waveform – the sovereign victory over nature. The monument is made of bronze, but Alexander Pushkin in his eponymous poem called it “copper” («The Cooper Horseman» – рус. «Медный Всадник»). The inscription on the pedestal (“to Peter the First (Primo), Catherine Second (Secunda)”) has a political significance. Catherine II was a pureblood German, and her right to rule was based only on the fact that she was a direct continuer of the ideas of Peter I. In this sense, Peter is the first, and she is the second.
He’s awful in the nightly dark!
What a great might in it lies, hidden!
And what a fire’s in this steed!
O, proud horse, where do you speed!
Where will you down your bronze hoofs, flittin’?
O, karma’s mighty sovereign!
Not thus you’d reared Russia, sullen,
Into the height, with a curb, iron,
Before an abyss in your reign?
(Pushkin, “Bronze Horseman”, trans. by Yevgeny Bonver)
Interesting facts: The base of the monument is a solid granite monolith. Its weight is about 1,500 tones. The lump was found in the outskirts of St. Petersburg, 8.5 km from the coast of the Gulf of Finland. For its transportation, a rolling wooden platform with thirty copper balls was built. During the transportation, a few dozen stonecutters were working right on the rock, giving it a waveform. A special dock was also built on the shore, from which the boulder was loaded onto a specially constructed barge and transported to the Senate Square. “This is great boldness” – say the inscription on the commemorative medal minted in honor of the successful delivery of the monolith.
- This story took place ten years before the installation of the monument. During the walk the future Emperor Paul I met a stranger wrapped in a cloak on the Senate Square. “Poor Paul, – the stranger said. – I’m the one who takes part in you. I wish you would not particularly tie to this world, because you will not remain here too long.” With these words, the stranger took off his hat and revealed his face – it was Peter the Great himself! So Paul I really had ruled only 4 years, 4 months and 4 days, and then was killed.
- In the poem “The Bronze Horseman” by Alexander Pushkin, the statue of Peter I jumped down from the podium while the floods had begun, and rushed throughout the city for the main character Eugene.
- In the novel “Petersburg” by Andrei Bely, one of the characters goes mad, kills his friend and sits on a corpse in a pose of Peter the Great with an instrument of crime – scissors – in hand. In this position the police find him the next morning.
- Daniel Andreev, the famous mystic writer of the 20th century, in one of his vision saw the infernal analogue of Petersburg, where sun never rises. In that city, Peter the Great sat on the snake, not on the horse.