The Summer Garden, Field of Mars and magnificent buildings in the vicinity of them represent the oldest ensembles of our city renowned not only for their historical and architectural monuments, but for the stone decoration as well.
The construction of the Summer Garden area was began almost immediately after the foundation of St.Petersburg. In 1704 the First Summer Garden, that occupied only the northern half of the present-day Summer Garden, was laid out. Somewhat later the Second Summer Garden was established to the south from the First one, and then the Third Park was created on the southern bank of the Moika river.
In Petrine times the Summer Garden was a centre of public life where court entertainments, assemblies, festivals and other celebrations took place. And therefore the Tzar watched over it unceasingly and carefully. He was anxious for a garden that would be better than the parks of French kings at Versailles, the beauty of which had struck him earlier.
Stone was used at the erection of the two-storey Summer Palace of Peter I and other buildings in the Summer Garden. First of all, it was Putilov Slab, Pudost tuff and “Fryazh” Marble brought from Italy. The name of Italy in old Russia was Fryazh. Peter the Great’s order of 1706 read as follows: “ To bring also aspid (slate) from Pskov and to make tubs for the fountains of it”.*
The fountains, or “vodomyoty” in Russian what means water-throwing-devices, attracted the particular attention of the Emperor. He did not even admit the thought of possibility to have a real garden without those devices. Already in 1706 the first fountains appeared in St.Petersburg. The basins for them were made of white marble and black slate, they were embellished with tuff, mother-of-pearl (sea shells), gilded statues and sculptures of white marble. Twenty six fountains had been established in the Summer Garden by 1725, more recently they increased in number to fifty.
In front of the Summer Palace of Peter I, alongside avenues and in the open sites more than 150 pieces of garden sculpture, purchased in Italy in 1717-1724 were installed. They were represented by busts of historical persons and allegorical figures carved of marble late in the XVII-th - early in the XVIII-th centuries.
* Dubyago T.B. Summer Garden. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951, p. 155.
Near the Neva three open galleries with marble pillars and floor, paved with white and black slabs arranged chess-board fashion, had been built. In the middle gallery the marble Venus was standing on a high pedestal. It was the antique Roman statue the most valuable adornment of the garden. Contemporaries spoke with enthusiasm of another marble sculpture, namely, “Religion of a Velat”, that presented a woman with a veil on her face. The depiction of the cloth was made so finely that it seemed to be transparent.
The marble group “Peace and Abundance”, located now near the northern facade of the Summer Palace, is the outstanding creation by the Italian sculptor P.Baratta. The group symbolizes Russia’s victory over the Swedes and is an allegory of the Nistad Treaty concluded in 1721. Russia is shown here as the Goddess of Abundance, who extinguishes a torch of war with one hand and holds a horn of plenty, as a symbol of wealth of the country, in another hand. The winged Goddess of Glory crowns her head with a laurel wreath. Military trophies and the dying Lion that personifies the defeated Sweden are prostrate by the feet of the woman feet.
The railing of the Summer Garden is one of indubitable masterpieces of St.Petersburg architecture. Stone in the railing is represented by rapakivi-granite.
In 1713 the construction of the Grotto was begun in the Summer Garden to the design of A.Schlüter. Its interiors were created by the outstanding Russian architect M.G.Zemtsov. The Grotto looked as a rather peerless and bizarre building among mainly wooden or clay-walled houses of Petrine St.Petersburg. The walls of the construction were faced with tuff, shells of different colours and pounded glass. Marble busts were arranged inside of the Grotto and a fountain with the gilded figure of Neptune was playing there. Standing on the parapet of the roof were marble statues. The Grotto was not preserved to the present day. Together with fountains and a number of other embellishment of the garden it was damaged by the terrible flood of 1777. In 1826 on the place of the Grotto the architect C.I.Rossi erected the “Coffee House.”
At Peter’s lifetime a minor basin (“gavanetz” in Russian) was dug out in front of the southern facade of the Summer Palace. That artificial basin connected with the Fontanka River permitted rowing or sailing boats and small ships to moor stright to the main entrance of the palace. The walls of the basin were faced with Putilovo Slabs. It was filled up in the second half of the XVIII-th century, but the remains of its embankment were revealed by chance in 1963. Today the place of the basin-gavanetz is outlined by a narrow walk paved with limestone slabs.
The design of an ancient embankment, from Luppov, 1957.
Among all stone decorations of Peter the Great’s Summer Palace itself only the floor in the entrance-hall and cases of the door leading to the reception-room and made of black marble are preserved up to the present. The floor is paved with slabs of white and black Italian marble.
Of decorative stone creations installed in the Summer Garden later and still persistent there the followings are worthy of mention: a high terrace built on the bank of the Lebiazhya Kanavka (Swan Canal) of Putilovo Slab in 1799 and in quarter of a century embellished with cast-iron vase-tripods, and a vase of porphyry put on the southern bank of the Carp Pond in 1832. The pedestal of the vase was made of dark-red “antique” porphyry and the vase itself was cut out of five blocks of Elfdahlen pink Granite-porphyry that was smoothly polished. The total height of the vase with its pedestal is about 5 metres. In the northern part of the Summer Garden, not far from the Main Avenue a monument to I.A.Krylov, the famous Russian fabulist, was unveiled in 1855 (sculptor P.K.Klodt). Dark-grey Serdobol Granite was used for the pedestal of the monument.
In 1771-1784 the Summer Garden was enclosed from the north by the grille that is unique in its concise, laconic beauty. The base of the grill and its columns crowned with stone vases and urns are cut out of pink rapakivi-granite. The fence created to the design of the architects Yu.M.Velten and P.E.Yegorov represents one of masterpieces of Russian Classicism of the XVIII-th century. The professor of the Mining Institute, mineralogist D.I.Sokolov wrote in 1824: “St.Petersburg’s embankments and the railings of the Summer Garden fit into miracles of the World”.
The construction of granite embankments of the Neva was started immediately on the completion of the Winter Palace building and developed rapidly. In 1767 already the Palace embankment was uninterruptedly faced with immence slabs of grey-pink and pink rapakivi-granite quarried on Rogolev (Horn) and Bykov (Bull) islands in the Gulf of Finland. At the same time along the Palace Embankment stone bridges were being constructed and wide staircases leading down to the Neva and paved with granite were being arranged.
Granitic slabs of the Palace Embankment were rusticated and decorated with embossed notch and masks. Rapakivi-granite itself is very expressive. It has decorative dark-pink, here and there grey-pink colour and spotted porphyroid texture. Large, in places up to 5-10 cm, orbicular crystals of pink feldspar gleam in the granite in sunlight. Situated in interstices between these crystals are fine grains of dark-grey, or black quartz and rare flakes of greenish-black mica – biotite.
On the West the Summer Garden is adjacent to the Field of Mars. Initially, when it was called Tsarina’s Meadow, only the wooden palace of Catherine I was located in its southern part. The first stone construction appeared there at the very end of the XVIII-th century: in 1799 an obelisk in honour of the eminent Field Marshal P.A.Rumyantsev was erected by the architect V.F.Brenna of marble and Serdobol Granite. In 1801 Rumyantsev’s Obelisk was carried over to the square laid out nearer to the Neva and instead of it the monument to A.V.Suvorov by the sculptor M.I.Kozlovsky was put on that place close to the Moika. The great military leader was depicted as the young God of War - Mars. The name “Field of Mars” had made its appearance since that time. In 1818 the obelisk to Rumyantsev was transferred again - at that time it was sited in the public garden nearby the Academy of Arts, and the monument to Suvorov was positioned on its final place. Originally the pedestal of the moniment had been made of cherry-red Tivdya Marble, but on account of frosts it was deeply damaged and exchanged for a monolith of dark-pink rapakivi-granite in 1834. In the middle of the Field of Mars a monument to revolution fighters is located. It is one of the first memorial constructions that appeared after the October revolution of 1917. The memorial was built to the design of the architect L.V.Rudnev. It is composed of large blocks of dark-pink rapakivi-granite laid in such a way that they form shelves. Butt-ends of the monument bear lofty epitaphs composed by A.V.Lunacharsky.
On the north the Field of Mars is bounded by Million Street. Almost since the foundation of St.Petersburg it was one of the finest and richest streets. The most remarkable edifice built of natural stone is the Marble Palace that will be described in more detail in what follows. Well before the erection, of the Marble Palace, the famous in due time mansion of the Count F.A.Apraksin had been built. It has come down to us with considerable changes. In the 1770-s added to the mension was a portico with four columns of Ionic order. They were cut from Joensuu Marble that shows distinct pattern of contrasting white and black bands.
In conclusion we will offer a curious fact. Since the early 1830-s lying in the neighbourhood of Million Street, in Aptekarsky (Apothecary) Lane, was an enormous block of Vyborg rapakivi-granite that was reserved for a statue of the Apostle Peter for the Kazansky Cathedral. The second identical to the first block intended for the sculpture of the Apostle Paul had sunk at the loading in the vicinity of the island Tugolm in the Gulf of Finland. The block in the lane was not budged for a long time. Indefatigable, untiring Montferrand proposed to hew out of it a colossal statue of Osiris in addition to the Egyptian sphinxes “arrived” on Neva’s banks in 1832. But the proposal had not been accepted. The municipal government did not know, how to get rid of such a huge stone. Finally, in the 1880-s it had been broken to pieces and used for the construction of the foundation of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ also called “The Saviour-on-the-Split Blood”.
To the beginning