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Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments

Cultural criteria: i, ii, iv, vi /1990
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 1990

St. Petersburg ranges among the most beautiful and integral in respect of art cities of the world. Its layout is notable for logicality of spatial composition, including strict straight streets, spacious places, as well as numerous channels, bridges (over 400), embankments, gardens and parks. It is rich in outstanding monuments of palace and church architecture, monumental statues that in most cases represent unique architectural ensembles. All that is part of the historic center of the city in the first place, but also of palace-park complexes of its suburbs.  

Emergence of St. Petersburg is connected with an ambition of the Russian tsar Peter I to fortify his positions in the strategically important region on the Baltic seashore. The city was laid by order of tsar in 1703, and in 1712 here, on the Neva bank, the capital of the state was transferred.  

One of the first big installations became the stone Peter and Pauls fortress. This fortress’ silhouette is defined in many respects by the Petropavlovsky Cathedral, laid in June 1712 and fully completed in 1733. Its bell tower is crowned with 34 meters spire with a figure of angel holding a cross, and has a height of 88 meters. Under the arches of the Petropavlovsky Cathedral in 1725 the emperor Peter the First was buried, and since then this church became tsar's burial vault.

Other big structures of the first stage of the city formation are buildings of the Menshikov Palace, Twelve colleges and the Kunstkamera on the Big Neva embankment on the part of the Vasilyevsky Island, the Summer Palace of Peter the First in the Summer Garden, and two cathedrals of the Alexander Nevsky Cloister. The central part of the Admiralty was also raised, crowned with a tower with a gilded spire.  

In the middle of the XVIII century St. Petersburg new development plan was worked out, providing for the city development along three radial mains forking from the Admiralty, of which the famous Nevsky prospect became chief. Since the 1740s grandiose, solemn by baroque aspect buildings construction began. The greatest representative of this trend became V.V.Rastrelli, who created one of the outstanding monuments of St. Petersburg baroque – the Winter Palace, served for years as a main residence of Russian tsars. By Rastrelli’s projects the following was also raised: The Smolny Cloister ensemble, remarkable by riches of sculptural decoration, brilliance of various colors and gilding combinations, luxurious palace complexes for the Count M.I.Vorontsov, baron S.G.Stroganov and other buildings.  

In the 1760s the next stage began in the Russian capital’s layout and development, connected with the acceptance of new architectural plan and gradual transfer from baroque to classicism, opposing his strict monumentality, preciseness and lucidity of proportions to the pompousness and deliberate complexity of the baroque style.  

Among civil buildings of the city representing this age, the Hermitage Museum, Academy of Sciences, Academy of Arts, General post-office, Big Gostiny Dvor, Smolny Institute, Assignation bank, Public Library are noteworthy. This period is also represented by splendid palaces of emperors’ favorites – the Marble Palace, built for Grigoriy Orlov, Anichkov Palace – for Alexey Razumovsky, Taurida Palace – for Grigoriy Petemkin. At the very end of the XVIII century by order of Pavel I near the Summer Garden the Mikhailovsky (Engineering) Castle was raised, differing from other monuments of St. Petersburg architecture of the day by its severe and unapproachable appearance.  

In the first third of the XIX century St. Petersburg becomes the main Russian arena of strengthening of mature or high classicism, often called the Russian Empire style. It was here that the Russia Empire attained the most brilliant success, realized in works by A.N.Voronikhin, A.D.Zakharov, V.P.Stasov, K.I.Rossi, А. A.Monferran and other architects.  

At the beginning of the XIX century the city was decorated by monuments-ensembles such as the Kazan Cathedral on the Nevsky Avenue, Gorny Institute, Spit of Vasilyevsky Island with the Exchange Building and Rostral columns.  

The creation of the Palace Square with 700 meters facade of General Headquarters, arch and the Alexander Column that became not only an adornment of St. Petersburg, but also one of the outstanding monuments of the world architecture is connected with the name of the greatest master of Empire Karl Ivanovich Rossi. St. Isaac Cathedral, the biggest in St. Petersburg that was built 40 years, Triumphal Gate etc. are also dated to the first half of the XIX century.  

Typical of town building in the second part of the XIX century are the departure from classicism and appearance of different stylization currents – Neo-Gothic, Neo-renaissance, Neo-baroque, “Russian style”. They were reflected in the aspect of Moscow station, some other church and civil buildings.  

World Heritage includes not only the historic center of the modern St. Petersburg, but also palace-park ensembles of its suburbs – Peterhof, Oranienbaum, Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo), Pavlovsk, Gatchina, Strelna, Ropsha, this is also a historic part of Kronstadt with its fortress and forts, the Schlisselburg Fortress, plus quite a number of historical-cultural monuments.  

The most luxurious suburban palace-park ensemble – Peterhof – was laid by Peter the First at the beginning of the XVIII century, maybe, under the impression of Versailles with the Marli Cascade. Here the Palace Park was created, consisting of a Lower Park with Marli palaces-pavilions, Monplaisir and Hermitage and Upper Park with the luxurious Big Palace built by Rastrelli. The level difference of 40 meters between the palace and the Gulf of Finland bank was used for creation of the Big Cascade – magnificent combination of architecture, sculpture, fountain jets and garden art. The composition center is a giant figure of Samson, tearing up the lion's mouth, gushing from which water jets rise at 20 meters height. Around the scoop basin and above it, on ledges of cascades fountain jets spurt and gilded copies of antique sculptures rise. This palace-park ensemble occupies a space of about 1 thousand hectares and includes several parks and about 20 palaces and pavilions.  

All the above mentioned objects forming the nomination “Historic Center of St. Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments”, are now protected as part of several museum-reserves, or have a status of ancient and cultural monument.