Narva Triumphal Gate in St. Petersburg
The Narva Triumphal Gate is one of the most magnificent monuments dedicated to the victory of Russian troops over Napoleon’s army. They were built in St. Petersburg specifically for the parade of the Guards regiments, returning after the end of the war of 1812.
The history of the construction of the first gate
The Russian army, returning in 1814 after the end of the war and the victory over the French, was to enter the city with great solemnity. Especially for this, it was decided to build the Arc de Triomphe. However, because of the short period of time, the stone gates did not have time to build, and then temporary ones made of wood and alabaster were built.
The first architect of the Narva Triumphal Gate J. Quarenghi in 1 month installed this building. Above it was placed the sculptural composition of Glory with six horses, designed by the talented sculptor I. Terebenev.
On the walls were written the names of the regiments participating in the battles, and the inscription of gratitude from the Russian people, below were the statues of Roman legionnaires - that was how the first Triumphal Arch looked then. Narva Gate was named for its location: on the road beyond the Narva Gate.
For the solemn event, wooden stands were erected, where spectators sat and stood, while the musicians and the orchestra were located in the amphitheater. Special galleries were built for the royal family of Alexander I and distinguished representatives and guests of the capital.
All the guards regiments listed on the monument went through this arch in the parade: Preobrazhensky, Semenovsky, Egersky and others. Located in the stands, the emperor and the common people to the sounds of a military orchestra celebrated the winners.
After the end of the celebrations, Petersburgers fell in love with this monumental monument, which became the landmark of the city. The appearance of the first Narva Gate in those years was captured in the lithograph of K. Beggrow, who displayed everyday sketches from the life of that time.
After 10 years, the old wooden gates began to fall into disrepair, the threat of collapse arose, and it was decided to disassemble them.
The decision to build the Narva Gate
In defense of the historical monument, a war participant, the Governor-General M. Miloradovich, spoke out, appealing to the tsar for permission to build a new stone gate.
However, by this time, due to the expansion of the city, the border of St. Petersburg was already located much further south, and therefore in 1827 it was decided to postpone the construction to the road in the direction of Peterhof. In a solemn atmosphere on August 26, a new foundation was laid (11 nominal stones of the royal family, architect V.P. Stasov and court councilors) at the place where the Narva Triumphal Gate would later be built. The architect and sculptors — V. P. Stasov, S. S. Pimenov, V. I. Demut-Malinovsky, P. K. Klodt — developed sketches and drawings of a grand building.
The money needed to build such a huge monument was partially taken from donations collected earlier for the first gate. Later, the missing funds were collected from various sources, one of which was a gift of 400 thousand rubles according to the testament of the former head of the Guards Corps, F. P. Uvarov (the closest associate of Marshal Kutuzov).
Wall construction and sheeting with copper sheets
The construction lasted 7 years, sometimes stopping for various reasons: at first there were difficulties caused by the selection of material for the monument: Tsar Nicholas I wanted to make them out of marble or cast iron, then these ideas were rejected. The final decision in 1830 was the construction of a brick frame, which was sheathed with copper sheets.
Construction went at full speed, in the summer the number of workers participating in construction reached 2,600 people. Quite quickly, a granite foundation was laid and the construction of brick walls began (in 1 week the pylons grew by several meters at once).
By the end of the autumn of 1831, the Narva Triumphal Gate in St. Petersburg in the form of a brick structure rose almost to its full height. In total, more than 500 thousand bricks were laid during construction work.
The stage of fixing the copper cladding, which was manufactured at the St. Petersburg iron foundry, began. All copper parts were made according to a giant life-size model made from Stasov’s drawings and installed in the factory yard. The material was taken of the highest quality: 20 thousand red copper ingots were brought from the Mint’s stocks.
Day and night, the factory's engravers made all the details of the gate using sketches. Stasov personally observed the manufacture of all the decorative and sculptural parts of the monument.
During the construction there were fires, mainly because of the wooden forests where the work was carried out at night, and the proximity of the stove and the forge with an open fire for the blacksmiths to work. These troubles greatly hampered the construction process, but after the work continued at a heightened pace.
Already by 1834, construction was completed, and the question arose about the installation of sculptures. After some hesitation between Italian and Russian architects, a decision was made in favor of Russian sculptors.
Sculptural composition of the gate
The architecture of the Narva Gate is almost inseparable from their sculptural part, the execution of which began in 1830. Several famous Russian sculptors began to work on the sculptural compositions.
The top of the arch is decorated with a sculptural group consisting of six horses (architect P. Klodt) harnessed to a chariot. It features a full-length, winged goddess of Victory, Nika (architect S. Pimenov), who holds a laurel wreath and a palm branch (symbols of peace and glory) in her hands.
The attic of the gate is decorated with 8 winged figures of the geniuses of Glory and Peace (sculptor of the Narva Triumphal Gate I.Leppe), which hover over the columns, guarding gilded inscriptions dedicated to the "victorious Russian Imperial Guard".
Almost all the sculptures were made according to Quarenghi’s drawings, but with minor amendments. For example, warriors, instead of antique robes, were "disguised" in Old Russian, copied from drawings of ancient robes from the Armory Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin: four figures of Russian knights stand between the columns. So the Narva Triumphal Gate was decorated. Photos of sculptures can be seen below.
Emperor Nicholas I personally approved and approved all the projects and the works of the sculptors themselves. Once he even rejected the created models of statues, inviting other sculptors, but they refused, thus supporting their colleagues. The total cost of construction work amounted to more than 1 million rubles.
Several years later, due to the high humidity of the St. Petersburg climate, copper figures began to quickly corrode, and they had to be replaced with iron ones. But this replacement did not help, the iron also corroded. And in the last version of the sculpture made forged.
Appearance of the gate
Narva Triumphal Gate is a monumental building in the Empire style, ascended to a height of more than 30 m, width 28 m with an internal arch size 8x15 m.Compositionally, the gate is modeled on the triumphal arches of ancient Rome, in a strict and simple style.
From all sides the arch is circled by a colonnade consisting of 12 columns with a diameter of 1 m, topped with openwork Corinthian capitals. Decorations in the form of cannels are made according to antique patterns.
The Narva Triumphal Gate in St. Petersburg is an example of the harmonious unity of the plastic of a sculptural composition with the architecture of a grandiose monumental structure.
Opening of the stone Narva Gate
The solemn events dedicated to the opening of the Narva Gate were held on August 17, 1834 and were timed to the anniversary of the Battle of Kulm (one of the famous battles held in 1813 in Bohemia). All the regiments, whose names were engraved on the gate, were honored and solemnly marched in the presence of the emperor of Russia under the arch.
Such a beautiful procession caused a storm of delight among several thousand spectators gathered in the square. All of them greeted the heroes of Borodino and many other battles of the Patriotic War of 1812.
A bronze medal was issued to commemorate the opening of the Narva Gate in St. Petersburg.On its front side there are figures with dates of the Russian-French war, on the back side there are carved the image of the gate and a memorial inscription. Such medals were awarded to 55 guards generals (who served in the years 1812-1815), 10 members of the Committee for the construction of the gate (including Stasov) and 5 heirs of General Uvarov. One medal was deposited at the Hermitage, where it is now.
The area around the Narva Gate
The square, located around the Narva Gate, was also designed by Stasov, who insisted on the dominance of the monument through its location on a hill in relation to the square itself. Calculations were carried out on the height to which the water rose during the flood of 1824.
Stasov especially insisted on the large size of the area, so that there was a “decent distance”, which made it possible to consider such a monumental structure well.
In 1834, the monumental structure passed to the city department. The building housed the barracks for the soldiers of the local guard service, thus, according to the idea of Stasov, the Narva Triumphal Gate became part of the Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812.
Over time, the surrounding area of the country houses were demolished, instead of them, the territory began to be built up with houses, smoky factory buildings appeared, and by the end of the 19th century.suburb turned into a working outpost. The name “Stachek Square” received this place after the October Revolution of 1917 in honor of the workers' strikes and demonstrations held here.
In 1924, the project of redevelopment was developed by architect L. Ilyin. At the site of the marshy Tarakanovka river and slum constructions a wide area was broken, which still exists today.
In the second half of the 19th century (from 1877), restoration work began, connected with the replacement of copper sheets with iron sheets due to severe corrosion. A few years later, a part of the city archive, containing documents on the history of St. Petersburg, moved here.
Then, in the 1920s, a long repair of the gate was started, which lasted until the beginning of World War II.
The next restoration began in 1949 according to the project of architect I. Benoit. For 3 years, the roof, cast-iron staircases were replaced, decorative fragments of statues damaged during the war were created on the remaining drawings: the repair of the chariot, parts of the statue of Nika, horses, and weapons were made.
Regular work in 1978-1980. Mainly, the territory surrounding the gates was carried out: new underground communications and an underground passage were laid, the area around the gate was lined with stone, a granite curb was built.
The latest restoration was dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the city: copper sheets were cleaned and renewed, capitals and columns were renovated and restored, internal stairs were replaced, the roof was replaced. The gates were given their original color (bright green).
Narva Gate in the 20-21 century
During the Great Patriotic War, soldiers of the Leningrad garrison marching to the front passed through the Narva Triumphal Gate.
During the blockade of Leningrad in 1941-1944, the gates were located near the city’s defense line, they were badly hit by shelling and bombing. After the end of military operations, there were more than 2,000 holes on the monument, the eaves and decorative elements were damaged.
But despite this, in 1944-1945. through them the victorious troops returned solemnly after breaking the blockade and winning the war.
Museum inside the Narva Gate
The idea of the museum belonged to the architect Stasov, the builder of the gate. And in 1987, on the 175th anniversary of the war of 1812, the city authorities decided to create a museum exposition about the Narva Triumphal Gate. The Museum of Urban Sculpture settled at the top of the building. One section of the exhibition contains materials on the Patriotic War of 1812, reviving long-standing heroic events,the other tells the story of the construction of various triumphal arches in Russia and the Narva Gate itself.
The address of today's gate location is Stachek Square, 1.
The Narva Triumphal Gates in St. Petersburg are included in the Unified State Register of Cultural Heritage Objects of Russia. For almost 200 years, they have been decorating the northern capital, forcing many generations of St. Petersburgers and guests of the city to admire and admire their greatness and beauty.