Table of contents:
- Peter I - the gateway to Europe
- Alexander the First - the victorious tsar
- Vasily Stasov - innovative architect
The Narva Gate is a unique example of triumphal architecture not only in St. Petersburg, but throughout the world. The arch depicts both the heroes of Borodin and the heroes of Stalingrad.
Peter I - the gateway to Europe
The tradition of erecting a triumphal gate dates back to Roman times: a triumphant commander and his army, who returned from a long campaign, entered the city through the arch. During the time of the empire, stone arches were erected, some of which have survived to this day.
These magnificent structures celebrated the genius of the one to whom they were dedicated, be it Titus, Trajan, Hadrian or Constantine. In an effort to imitate ancient models, the triumphal gates appear in European capitals, and after the accession to the throne of Tsar Peter Alekseevich also in Russia.
In fairness, it should be said that the “Golden Gate” in Kiev and Vladimir, built under Yaroslav the Wise and Andrei Bogolyubsky, respectively, can be considered a triumphal gate in part, but under Peter I a completely new tradition of building numerous triumphal arches to meet the victorious troops of the tsar in European and ancient manner.
Magnificent wooden gates, decorated with carvings and gold, are being built in Moscow after the capture of Azov: the tsar with an army, like an ancient princeps, passes through the gates. In 1705, Domenico Trezzini erects a triumphal gate in the newly captured Narva, then, at the request of the tsar, repeats it in St. Petersburg, and then turns it into stone - now it is the Peter and Paul Fortress.
After the Battle of Poltava, several triumphal arches were installed in Moscow and St. Petersburg at once; to celebrate the Gangut victory, a large three-span arch was built on Troitskaya Square and a separate sea arch at the mouth of the Neva. Despite such a scale of construction from the time of Peter the Great, we got only one "festive" gate - the stone Peter's gate, while the rest were dilapidated and were eventually dismantled.
The same fate befell the arches of the Annensky and Elizabethan times, which for decades adorned Nevsky Prospekt, recalling the victories over the Turks and Swedes.
Peter's Gate in St. Petersburg. Source: wikipedia.org
The second stone triumphal gates of St. Petersburg were the Livonia or Yekateringof gates, which, by a curious coincidence, were on the Narva road. In addition to glorifying the successes of the Russian state under Catherine the Great and, in particular, victories over the Turks during the war of 1768-1774, the gate also functioned as an entrance gate, since at that time it was decided to protect various undesirable elements from penetration into the capital, for which they began to dig Bypass channel and fill the shaft next to it.
The Livonian gates were the most ceremonial, it was from them that the empress's path to Strelna, Peterhof, Oranienbaum and Kronstadt began. Completed in 1784, the gate stood for almost half a century and was dismantled only at the end of the 1820s, which is associated with the history of another triumphal gate.
Alexander the First - the victorious tsar
The fact is that it was along the Livland or Narva road to St. Petersburg from the Foreign campaign with the guards and regiments of the capital garrison that Emperor Alexander I returned. This significant event the St. Petersburg society decided to celebrate especially, preparing a grandiose triumphal arch for the meeting of the monarch.
The architect Quarenghi, the author of the arch project, conceived it in the classical proportions of a Roman arch: one span, a powerful monumental base supported by pairs of columns and a chariot drawn by six horses, crowning the structure.
The wooden gates were erected in just a month and were ready at the end of July 1814, as evidenced by the corresponding inscription: "The victorious Russian Imperial Guard residents of the capital city of St. Peter, on behalf of the grateful fatherland (on July 30, 1814)."
On this day, the Preobrazhensky, Semyonovsky and Jaegersky regiments, who had just returned from Paris, marched in a solemn march under the arch and entered the capital after 28 months of absence. The lower ranks were given a ruble in silver, a glass of wine and a pound of meat, the officers attended a gala dinner on the occasion of their return.
The Ekateringof Gate, built under Catherine II. Source: pinterest.com
Three more times in 1814, the victorious regiments marched under the Narva Gate: on October 6, Pavlovians and Finns, on October 18 - regiments of the Horse Guards, on October 25 - Guards Cossacks. Over the years, the gates have become an integral part of the urban landscape, but time has taken its toll: in 1824, Governor-General of St. Petersburg Miloradovich reported to Emperor Alexander that the wooden gates had become unusable and even dangerous, as they could suddenly collapse, causing damage.
The general proposed to erect them in stone, which was done, however, when neither Alexander I nor Miloradovich was already alive. The laying of the stone gate took place on August 26, 1827, on the day of the 15th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, in a solemn atmosphere and in the presence of Nicholas I himself and 9 thousand guardsmen - veterans of the Patriotic War and the Foreign campaign.
The architect Stasov undertook the rebuilding of the gate, slightly changing the design of Quarenghi, keeping the proportions and the main idea of his predecessor. Contrary to the wishes of Alexander I, who intended to move the stone gate to the place of those that were built under Catherine, Stasov erected an arch very close to the original one.
Vasily Stasov - innovative architect
In the same year, they managed to lay the foundation of the future gate: almost 1100 eight-meter piles were driven into the ground, on which slabs of different materials were laid with a total thickness of more than 5 meters. Initially, the gate was conceived of marble, but Stasov made an unexpected proposal: to build an arch of brick and revet it with copper sheets.
This stalled construction for three long years, and only in 1830 all the nuances and estimates of the new arch were finally agreed (and the year before that the gate of 1814 was dismantled), and construction unfolded with renewed vigor, without stopping either in winter, or even during the famous the cholera epidemic in 1831.
In a year and a half, it was possible to completely erect a brick arch, which took more than half a million bricks, and already in October 1831 they began to clad it with copper. The "casing" was made at the Aleksandrovsky (present-day Proletarsky) plant in St. Petersburg, for which a full-size wooden model was made next to the workshops, and special "chased" copper was used for the manufacture of copper sheets, taken from the reserves of the Mint - more than 5 in total, 5 thousand poods (90 tons). The arch itself was 30 meters high and 28 meters wide.
Triumphal Arch. Quarenghi project. Source: wikipedia.org
There were some incidents: on January 2, 1832, a fire broke out at the gate, destroying the forests built around the arch for installing copper sheets, and damaging the granite basement of the building, which required repairs and some alterations and seriously delayed the completion of construction.
And yet, by September 1833, the arch was “dressed in copper”, which was the undoubted success of Stasov himself and his ardent supporter Alexei Nikolaevich Olenin, the president of the Academy of Arts, through whose efforts the unusual idea of cladding brick gates with copper was implemented.
The base of the arch was decorated with figures of warriors, a sculptural group was located on the attic: a chariot drawn by six horses, made by the then little-known sculptor Peter Klodt, driven by Slava, by the famous Pimenov.
On the arch itself there is an inscription in Russian and Latin: "The victorious Russian Imperial Guard Appreciative fatherland in August 17, 1834" accession to the throne.
The gates were opened on the twentieth anniversary of the Battle of Kulm, where the guards regiments fought heroically, managing to save the allied army from destruction, and the Russian and Austrian emperors from captivity. At the opening of the gate, a commemorative medal was knocked out on the obverse of which the gate itself was depicted and the date of opening was engraved, and on the reverse was the All-Seeing Eye in the rays of glory and the years of the Patriotic War and the Foreign Campaign.
The sovereign himself was present at the ceremony, and under the arch were guards regiments, the names of which are engraved on the pylons of the gates, led by the procession of palace grenadiers, whose company was established several years earlier from the most distinguished and honored veterans of the wars with Napoleon.
Narva Gate in 1941 and 1945. Source: wikipedia.org
It is curious that initially the architect planned to place the halls of a special museum dedicated to the Patriotic War and the Guards in the premises of the gate, but his wish came true only two centuries later: now there is an exposition of the Narva Zastava memorial museum there.
And the gates themselves have seen a lot in their lifetime: on January 9, 1905, they became mute witnesses of the shooting of a workers' demonstration, which went down in history as "Bloody Sunday", in the fall of 1941, the regiments of the Leningrad Front went through the gate, sent to the front, in the summer of 1945 - units Leningrad Guards Rifle Corps, who returned from the Baltic States and took part in the Leningrad Victory Parade