Towering over St. Petersburg’s Palace Square, this column commemorates Russia’s victory over Napoleonic forces.
Palace Square is dominated by the imposing Alexander Column, which stands 155.8 feet (47.5 meters) tall. It is an iconic city landmark that acts as a gathering spot for tourists and locals alike. Marvel at this engineering wonder and ponder Russia’s military history while inspecting the depictions of various battles.
This lofty monument was designed by French architect Auguste de Montferrand and constructed between 1830 and 1834. It was built under orders from Nicholas I, who wanted to memorialize Russia’s victory over Napoleon and to pay tribute to his brother, Emperor Alexander I. Note the inscription near the base, which reads ‘To Alexander I from a grateful Russia.’
Look up to see the sculpture crowning the top of the column. Alhough it may be difficult to see from the ground, this depicts an angel carrying a cross. The angel was sculpted by Boris Orlovsky and is one of the most distinctive features of the column. The face of the angel is supposedly modeled on Emperor Alexander I, who led Russia to victory against Napoleon.
Despite weighing an astounding 1,322,760 pounds (599, 994 kilograms), the column was erected in less than 2 hours. As you look at it, consider the skill and effort it must have taken to accomplish this in the early 19th century without any of the advances of modern engineering.
The column also required a high level of craftsmanship as evidenced in the detailed decorative details. Get a closer look at the pedestal and you’ll be able to see various bas-reliefs depicting symbols of Russia’s military strength, including the shield of Prince Oleg of Novgorod, a helmet belonging to Alexander Nevsky and Emperor Alexander I’s breastplate.
Linger a while in Palace Square and take in its other sights, such as the General Staff Building or the famous Winter Palace. Once the home of Russian czars, the opulent Winter Palace building now plays host to the renowned Hermitage Museum.
To reach Alexander Column, take the bus to nearby Dvortsovaya naberezhnaya station or the metro to Nevsky Prospekt, Gostiny Dvor or Admiralteyskaya stations. As it’s a public space, it is open all the time. It’s worth visiting both during the day and again at night, when it is illuminated by lights.