After the brief description of the varieties of natural stone, we will try to outline the overall picture of their use in different architectural styles. Three main styles are recognised: Baroque, Classicism and Modern are conspicuous in the history of St.Petersburg’s building. A phase of Eclecticism has also left a notable trace in the city’s architecture. It evolved at the time when Classicism gave way to Modern style. Edifices built in Pseudo-Gothic and Pseudo-Russian styles, representing Renaissance, Neo-Classicism, etc. (Table 2) add to the beauty of the capital.

The austere, discrete style of the Petrine Baroque prevailed early in the building of St.Petersburg. Almost without exception buildings had rectangular outlines and two, or three storeys. A ground floor served as a basement, and walls of the upper floors were rather modestly decorated with pilasters and cornices. Brick walls were plastered; decorative details were made of alabaster. Facades were painted bilberry-red, or blue, while pilasters, cornices, outside window-frames and rustic joints were bright-white. Steep roofs were covered with sheet iron, or with tiles. Lack of means and materials and shortage of skilled workmen restricted use of natural stone for decoration. It was applied only in revetment of plinths of buildings and for construction of steps to entrances and staircases. In those cases the rock is represented solely by Putilovo Limestone slab.

After 1740-1750-s, new features appeared in the Petrine Baroque in St.Petersburg. First of all, the exterior appearance of buildings bacame more decorative. Gradually forming was the style of Petersburg’s Baroque, marked by extremely splendour and magnificence. Facades of buildings are characterized by rhythmically different composition, they are plentifully adorned with cornices, string-courses, door-cases, outside window-frames and other ornamentations, the architectural details being exuberent, pompous, extrovert and intricate. The colouring of houses is lively, with strong contrasts and gilding of details. However, in spite of all the grandeur of buildings at that time, their facades were still plastered and ornaments were made of stucco. Stone was still very rare. It was used for facing of plinths of edifices. Slabs for steps and basements, for pentre douce and bases or pedestals of columns involved stone. Aside from Putilovo Slab, rapakivi-granite (“rotten stone”) from Finland came into use for the first time.

Table 2. Examples of the main architectural styles of St.Petersburg

Building (dates if election)



Summer Palace of Peter I (1710-1714)

D. Trezizini

Menshikov Palace (1710-1716)

D.M. Fontana, G.I. Schadel

Kuntskammer (1718-1734) (Chamber of Curiosities)

G.I. Matttrnovi, N. Herbel, G. Chiaveri

Twelve Collegiums (Twelwe Collegia Buildings)

D. Trezizini, T. Schwertferger, G. Trezzini


Smolny Convent (1748-1764)

B.F. Rastrelli

Stroganov's Palace (1752-1754)

B.F. Rastrelli

St. Nicolas Naval Cathedral (1753-1762)

S.L. Chevakinsky

Winter Palace (1754-1762)

B.F. Rastrelli


Taurida Palace (1783-1789)

I.E. Starov

Hermitage Theatre (1783-1787)

G. Quarenghi

Main Buiding of the Academy of Sciences (1783-1787)

G. Quarenghi

Assignation Bank (1783-1790)

G. Quarenghi

Main Buiding of the Russian National Library (1795-1801)

Ye.T. Sokolov

Smolny Institute (for Noblic Young Ladies) (1806-1808)

G. Quarenghi


Stock Exchange (1805-1810)

Thomas de Thomon

Mining Institute (1806-1808)

A.N. Voronikhin

Admiralty (1806-1823)

A.D. Zakharov

General Staff buildings (1819-1829)

C.I. Rossi

Alexandrinsky Theatre (1828-1832)

C.I. Rossi

Senate and Synod buildings (1829-1834)

C.I. Rossi


Mariinsky Palace (1839-1844)

A.I. Stakensschneider

Palace of Beloselsky-Belozersky

A.I. Stakenschneider

Nicolayevsky Palace (1853-1861)

A.I. Stakenschneider


Palace of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1867-1872)

A.I. Rezanov

Church of Christ's Resurrection (The Savior on Blood) (1883-1907)

A.A. Parland, i.V. Makarov


Azov-Don Trading Bank (1907-1909)

F.I. Lidval

Astoria Hotel (1908)

F.I. Lidval


Abamelek-Lazarev's Mansion on the Moika river (1806-1808)

L.A. Fomin

The second half of the 1760-s and the 1770-s saw the beginning of Classicism. Features of Baroque were still evident in vestiges of splendour of constructions and in the rythmical dividing of facades, but lines of Classicism already revealed themselves clearly. They are displayed in the two-storey design of buildings with a ground floor fulfilling a role of a pedestal, as well as in simplicity and clearness of proportions of different parts of facades decorated with austere order groupings of columns, entablatures and porticos. Both walls and order details were usually made of bricks and plastered in the old way, however for the first time natural stone was used not only for the plinths, stylobates and porches, but also for the decoration of facades. For instance, columns and statues of the first floor of the Small Hermitage are standing on the granite squares and formed of the same rock is a beautiful massive belt lying on relieved outriggers of a cornice that stretches above the keystones of window apertures of the ground floor. The Marble Palace is entirely faced with natural stone. Another edifice which was to be completely clad with stone was the third St.Isaac’s cathedral, unfinished and pulled down later.

Classicism of the end of the XVIII-th – beginning of the XIX-th centuries is pronounced in the Taurida Palace, Main Building of the Academy of Sciences, Smolny Boarding School and other edifices of St.Petersburg. Facades of these buildings are not subdivided in any parts, their design is austere and well ordered, walls are flat and even windows and doors are devoid of frames and cases. The main decorative element here is a portico of excellent propotions. As a rule, it consists of columns of the Doric or Ionic order, supporting a pediment with a flat tympanum. Walls of buildings are plastered, decorated with stucco mouldings as previously, but stone here is already obligatory. It is used for the facing of stylobates and socles, adding to their grandeur and to the generally harmonious appearance of the buildings, as massive bases go very well with porticos decorated with numerous columns. The best example of such a composition in a facade decor is the Main Building of the Academy of Sciences, the ground floor and staircase of which are faced with granite and look like a podium of some Antique temple. The podium of the Manege of the Horse Guards Regiment is similar in design. It is constructed of thick slabs of Putilovsky Limestone. An alternative type of layout artistically applied at that time was the construction of decorative fences of massive stone piles and open-work cast-iron railings. Examples of this kind are the fence of the former Assignation Bank facing Sadovaya Street and the famous railing of the Summer Garden. The piles of the first are made of grey Serdobolsky Granite and columns of the second are cut from red Rapakivi-Granite.

The Engineers’ (Mikhailovsky) Castle is radically different from the contemporary classical buildings. Its stone decor is wonderfully harmonious. The socle floor is faced with slabs of grey granite and looks massive and stable matching the general appearance of the monumental palace-castle. One is struck by efficient employment of architectural forms of stone reflecting a proper purpose of a facade which can be graceful, exquisite and majestic (as the northen one opening on to the Moika and Summer Garden with a wide front staircase leading into the garden), or emphatically severe and austere (as the main southern facade that faces the square where parades used to take place). Later on, in the period of Classicism of the first third of the XIXth century, buildings became more complicated in shapes and outlines. Well-bal-anced and distinct segmentation of facades by several porticoes was of frequent use. Decor of buildings got more pompous. The order of columns was Corinthian, or combined (so called Composite style). Outlines of windows and doors became more intricate, almost without exception they are adorned with frameworks and overlapped by sandriks (profiled string course). All fronts are embellished with high-reliefs and facades of buildings are decorated with sculptures. This architectural style is most pronounced in works by A.D.Zakharov, K.I.Rossi, Thomas de Thomon and V.P.Stasov. Stone in these buildings plays as an important functional role, so is artistically used in the decor. High socles, staircases of porticoes, pentre douce are usually made of granite and imitate the thick podia of monumental constructions of the style. Basements and pedestals of columns, even on the first floor are made of stone. High portals are constructed of massive stone beams and slabs. Outlines of stone details are always complicated. All these features emphasize general splendour, magnificence and the solemnity of buildings.

Two constructions - the Kazansky and St.Isaac’s cathedrals – stand out among contemporary buildings because of the particular richness of their stone decoration. The neat, graceful Kazansky Cathedral original in its architecture rests on a plinth of grey granite, its facing, colonnade, central portico are carried out in light-yellow limestone and tufa. St.Isaac’s Cathedral is stately, majestic and monumental. The high basement faced with granite, wide granitic stylobates give an impression of solidity of the enormouse construction. The immense monolithic granitic columns of the porticoes and of the drum under the cupola intensify the impression of durability and grandeur of the cathedral. Walls of the cathedral are faced with light marbles that lends lightness to them. Skilful selection of stone matching in colour, well-balanced sizes and proportions of stone details and elements of the facade work wonders: the huge stone construction does not seem to be too massive, or heavy.

Towards the middle and during the second half of the XIX-th century, when Classicism fell into decline and gave way to Eclectism, stone was little used in external decoration of buildings. For instace, only a portico of the facade of the Nikolayevsky Palace is faced with grey granite and exclusively walls of the main entrance of the Palace of Grand Duke Vladimir are revetted with rusticated grey sandstone.

In the 1890-s, a new style was evolving in St.Petersburg’s architecture. It is called Modern. The most notable creations of the style are the edifices of the Azov-Don Trading Bank and the Astoria Hotel erected to the design of F.I.Lidval. Both are entirely faced and artistically decorated with stone. At the same time, houses in different styles such as Neo-Classicism, Pseudo-Russian, Neo-Renaissance, Pseudo-Baroque were built. Widespread use of stone in the external decor of houses is typical for all of them. Prompous buildings of banks, commercial firms and joint-stock companies were decorated with stones especially lavishly, underlining the richness of their owners. Stone is represented by granites, gabbros, quartzites, sandstones and limestones. Different colour combinations and wide variety of sculptural and architectural forms are to be seen. Decoration of many buildings demonstrates the high art of rock matching and handling of stone. The wide variety of stone surface finishing is seen here. There are polished, smooth, glassy, glossy, spotty, punctate, grooved, wavy, fluted, coarse-granulose, rocky, caissoned, chopped (riven), ragged surfaces which are described in Table 2.

The colour and texture of a stone, as well as the relief of its surface, depend very much on a method of finishing. Fine processing to producte a glossy or glassy surfaces displays best the patterns, colours and textures of stone. Coarse finishing leads to the intresting effect: a stone seems to be lighter, but its pattern becomes indistinct, and solidity the play of colours disappears. As V.I.Lebedinsky and L.P.Kirichenko noted: ”the main kinds of stone surfaces used for facing are polished and rusticated. Both are applied in places which are easily seen – usually at ground levels of buildings. When an architect deals with several kinds of stone surfaces, he knows that polish darkens stone considerably and grinding makes it lighter. It is known that the colour of facing is to be lighter with height. Therefore surface finish from ground to upper storeys changes in the following order: lower parts of buildings are faced with glassy stone, higher ones are covered by slabs with rocky surface and, finally, ground stone is used for the uppermost parts of facades.” * Many examples of artistic combinations of colours and surfaces of stone used for facade decoration of buildings of former insurance companies and banks can be seen in Bolshaya Morskaya (Grand Naval) Street. Employed here are black gabbros, red and grey granites, sandstones of different colours. Invariably all of them go well together and are very impressive. The methods of matching of natural stone colours through surfaces finished in different manners have been skilfully used. Another peculiarity of the style lies in the following features: stone details of facades have complex profiles, their outlines are refined, bends of curves are graceful and neat, composition of facades often includes subtle, ingenious, intricate ornaments and high-reliefs.

*) Kyuchariantz D.A. Antonio Rinaldi. L., 1976, p.34.

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