7 August 1782 in St Petersburg, Peter the Great’s equestrian statue known as the “Bronze Horseman” was unveiled.
“And he, like under conjuration, / Like in jail irons’ limitation, / Cannot come down. Him around / Only black waters could be found! / And turned to him with his back, proudest, / On height that never might be tossed, / Over Neva’s unending wildness, / Stands, with his arm, stretched to skies, lightless, The idol on his brazen horse.” (Alexander Pushkin “The Bronze Horseman – A Petersburg Story”)
|Vasily Ivanovich Surikov (1848 - 1916): "The Bronze Horseman"|
To move the largest stone ever used in a monument four miles over land is an engineering challenge that should not be underestimated. Especially when working with the limited means of the late 18th century. Thus, lieutenant colonel Marinos Carburis of her Imperial Majesty’s Engineering Corps waited until winter froze the ground between the resting place of the giant 1,500 ton boulder at Lakhta and the sea and installed a sledge system along the lines of modern ball bearings to move the mighty “Thunder Stone”. 400 men undertook the Pharaonic task to pull the stone with capstans. 300’ per day towards the seashore. For nine months. And yet it moved. Then the “Thunder Stone” was shipped with a specially constructed barge up the river Neva to its final resting place on Senate Square in St Petersburg. And there, the French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet placed his 20‘ tall equestrian statue of Peter the Great on top of it, with his face modelled on Peter’s death mask, his rearing horse trampling Peter’s old enemy Sweden, depicted as a serpent, underneath. And Catherine the Great, who came on the throne of the Romanov’s by rather dubious means, had her symbol to connect her rule with that of her great predecessor while the good people of St Petersburg had theirs, one of the most famous and unifying landmarks of their hometown.
|"The Transportation of the Thunder-stone in the Presence of Catherine II" (1770)|
|One of Alexandre Benoit’s (1870 – 1960) illustrations to Pushkin’s poem from 1904|
The full text of the poem in English translation can be found here:
and more about the statue on: