Chamber of Curiosities (Kunstkammer)
Place: Spit of Vasilyevsky Island
Construction time: 1718-1734
Style: Petrine Baroque
Name Origin: “Kunstkamera” from the German language means the “House of curiosities.” These kind of collections of rarities, demonstrating a variety of nature and the greatness of God’s plan were widespread in Europe of the Baroque epoch in the end of the XVII and the beginning of the XVIII century.
Purpose: The first museum in Russia, established by the initiative of Peter the Great, was situated in the building. Here you can see the collection of stillborn children with various developmental disabilities, the skeleton of the giant Peter’s bodyguard and his mummified heart, Eskimo coat from fish skin etc. The official name of the museum is the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography named after Peter the Great (Kunstkammer).
Remarkable features: On the dome of the building, you can find a scheme of the solar system planets. It represents the function of the museum as a scientific center.
Interesting facts: Peter the Great tried to turn the museum into a popular place, so he ordered to make the entrance free. They say that the guests of the museum were offered a cup of coffee or a glass of vodka and a cake as a gratitude for the visit.
Legend: The collections of the Kunstkammer include teeth taken out personally by Peter the Great, a great lover of dental hygiene and surgery. It is believed that two teeth of the collection belonged to his son, Prince Alexei. The legend says that when his father removed the aching tooth, Alexei was too much shouting. Peter was disappointed by such behavior and removed another, a perfectly healthy tooth just to raise the character of the son.
Mystery: Legend says that the headless ghost of Peter the Great’s bodyguard is wandering along the corridors of the building at night. Peter hired Nicolas Bourgeois, whose height was 2 m 27 cm, at the fair in France. After the death of Bourgeois, in accordance with the contract, his skeleton and his heart were exposed in the Kunstkammer. The fire (1747) destroyed the skull, but the other bones were preserved. Another skull was found instead of the previous one. It was about appropriate size, but they say that the ghost is wandering along the corridors of the building in search of his own head.
About the Museum: The museum will be interesting for the schoolchildren. Exotic costumes, rarities and “monsters” in jars impress and fascinate them. The parents may experience the nausea, exploring the babies preserved in alcohol. However, if the adults tell their kids about the dangers of smoking and drugs addiction, the children will think several times whether to take up a cigarette. For adults who want to tickle their nerves, the museum may be disappointing. Working hours: 11.00 am–6.00 pm. Day off: Mon. and the last Tue. of every month.
Tickets: adults – 300 rubles, students – 100 rubles.