Excursions with Bronze Horseman
The monument to Peter I located at Senatskaya Square figures in the history of Russia and Saint Petersburg as the Bronze Horseman. The idea of creating such a monument belongs to Empress Catherine II who desired greatly to underline in every possible way the connection and semblance of her ruling with that of Peter the Great. Following recommendations of famous philosopher Denis Diderot, the Empress invited to Russia known French sculptor Etienne Falconet. In 1766 he began to work at the future monument's model.
After the design by Falconet the famous founder of Saint Petersburg was depicted sitting astride a rampant horse. Creating the bronze sculpture of Peter the Great Falconet used the Tsar's plaster posthumous mask and a so-called «wax persona». The first Russian Emperor crowned with a laurel wreath pointed with his hand to the Neva River, Peter and Paul Fortress and the Academy of Science — symbols of trade, war power and enlightenment. The monument's pedestal supposed to be a stone monolith in the form of wave. The appropriate stone was founded in Lakhta village on the Gulf of Finland's shore. The stone, which was called Thunderstone by locals, weighted 1600 tons. Transferring of it to foundation's place took 9 months overland and on special barge. 400 laborers took part in this enterprise and during all the trip stonecutters worked over the stone reshaping it in needed form.
The moulding of the monument handled by moulder E. Khaylov began in 1775 and lasted for almost two years. In 1782 the monument was solemnly opened to admiring of thousands of spectators. Only Falconet didn't present there for some years earlier he had quarreled with the Empress and left Russia for good. Catherine II praised her part in creating the monument. According to her decree the monument's pedestal was decorated with inscription in Latin: «To Peter I — Catherine II».
Soon the monument to Peter the Great became the lasting symbol of Saint Petersburg. Riding over Senatskaya Square a royal horseman inspired A. Pushkin's to create an epic poem «Bronze Horseman» that gave a new name to the unique creation of Falconet. During the World War II and the blockade of Leningrad the monument was endangered by multiple bombing. As it was impossible to transfer it out of the city special 14 meters case was made to protect the Bronze Horseman. The monument was opened just after the war's end.