To the tercentenary of Saint Petersburg's foundation the city was endowed with many monuments of its founder, Peter the Great. Nevertheless, it is the so-called Bronze Horseman created by French sculptor Falconet that stays the most famous and the earliest monument of the city on the Neva River.
In the middle of the 18th century Catherine the Great decided to erase the monument to her famous predecessor Peter the Great. Philosopher Deni Didro in one of his letters to the Empress recommended her French sculptor Falconet and the Empress followed his advice and invited Falconet to visit Russia.
In 1766 Falconet arrived to Saint Petersburg and started working on the model of the equestrian statue. To depict the Emperor as precisely as possible the sculptor used the plaster deathmask and the wax sculptor of the tsar. The bronze head of Peter the Great was performed by Falconet's apprentice Mari Collot. The monument depicts Peter the Great riding the horse. The laurel wreath on the head of the Emperor is the symbol of his glory. The hand of Peter the Greats points to the Neva River, the Academy of Sciences and the Peter and Paul Fortress, which symbolizes the main goals of Peter's ruling: enlightenment, trading and military power. The pedestal for the monument is a solid piece of rock shaped as a wave, as it was Peter the Great who gained the access to the sea for Russia. The appropriate granite boulder was founded in 1768 on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, in the vicinity of the Lakhta village. It weighted 1,600 tons and was called the Thunder-stone. It took nine months to deliver the enormous monolith to the construction site. Four hundred people, using special devices, were first moving it by land, and further by water on the barge built especially for this purpose. During all the time of the long trip the masters-stonecutters shaped the rock according to the sculptor's design. The Empress Catherine II herself came to inspect the stone and the transportation devices several times. The casting of the monument was started in 1775. The works were supervised by caster Yemelyan Khailov. Once the mold cracked and the molten copper began pouring out that caused the fire. Everybody panicked and run away except for caster Yemelyan Khailov who repaired the damage risking his life and completed the casting. By 1777 all the major works on monument construction was finished. The solemn opening of the monument took place on the 7th of August, 1782. There were thousands of people at the ceremony but among them there wasn't the sculptor, who had created the monument. Four years earlier the misunderstanding between Falconet and the Empress turned into a conflict and Falconet had to leave the country. Catherine the Great didn't invite Falconet to the ceremony. She absolutely forgot about the talented sculptor and praised only herself for the construction of the monument. On each side of the pedestal there is an inscription done in Russian and in Latin reading: «To Peter the First — Catherine the Second». During World War II, when German troops besieged the city, the monument was in a great danger. It was impossible to take it out from the town and the citizens were afraid that the Bronze Horseman could be ruined during one of the countless bombings. To hide and thus to protect the monument the 14 meter-high case was constructed. Fortunately, the monument didn't suffer and soon after the end of the war it was opened. The Bronze Horseman is still one of the main symbols of Saint Petersburg and the masterpiece of Russian and world culture.
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