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The striking appearance of the palace is highlighted by white columns against a green background, with golden stucco moldings; 176 sculptured figures line the roof.
The whole complex, now called the Hermitage, or State Hermitage Museum, is a treasury of mostly western European painting and sculpture, an art collection of worldwide significance that originated in 1764 as the private holdings of Tsarina Catherine II.
In lieu of a distinctive city centre on the standard Russian medieval model, much of St.
Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, Nevsky Prospekt (avenue), particularly the stretch running from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Terminal, is considered the city’s centre. Petersburg is divided into four sections by the Neva River and its distributaries.
Architecturally, it ranks as one of the most splendid and congenial cities of Europe. Petersburg is a mecca of cultural, historical, and architectural landmarks. The first is the city’s harmonious mix of western European and Russian architecture. Petersburg’s lack of an unequivocal city centre, which, in other Russian cities of medieval origin, is defined by a kremlin and its surrounding area.
Founded by Tsar Peter I (the Great) as Russia’s “window on Europe,” it bears the unofficial status of Russia’s cultural capital and most European city, a distinction that it strives to retain in its perennial competition with Moscow. The third characteristic feature of the city is its many waterways.
For two centuries (1712–1918) it was the capital of the Russian Empire.
The city is remembered as the scene of the February (March, New Style) and October (November, New Style) Revolutions of 1917 and for its fierce defense while besieged during World War II.
Near the Senate and Synod buildings to the south rises the Neoclassical front of the Horse Guards Riding School, or Manezh (1804–07); beyond, dominating the south side of St. An outstanding monument of late Neoclassical Russian architecture built by St. The Anichkov Bridge across the latter is graced by four sculptured horses.
Isaac’s is one of the largest domed buildings in the world; its golden cupola, gilded with about 220 pounds (100 kg) of pure gold, soars to 331 feet (101 metres) in height and is visible all over St. The street has a special beauty: the architecture is majestic, the buildings are graceful and finely proportioned, and the construction is complex.
The Malaya Neva and the river’s extreme right (north) distributary, the Bolshaya Nevka, enclose a group of islands known as the Petrograd Side, while east of the Bolshaya Nevka and north of the Neva proper lies the Vyborg Side. Korobov, which itself had been remodeled in 1727–38 but retained the layout of the original. Both the exterior and the interior of the palace were designed in dazzlingly luxurious style.
Its elegant spire, topped by a weather vane in the form of a ship, is one of the principal landmarks of the city. In 1837 the building was destroyed by fire, and only the adjoining Hermitage survived; the Winter Palace was recreated in 1839 almost exactly according to Rastrelli’s plans.
Petersburg lies about 400 miles (640 km) northwest of Moscow and only about 7° south of the Arctic Circle.