Anichkov bridge over Fontanka river on Nevsky Prospect, without exaggeration, is one of the most recognisable landmarks of St. Petersburg. It received its name, like the Anichkov palace located nearby, in honour of the engineer Mikhail Anichkov, the builder of the first wooden crossing at this place.
The bridge was built of wood in 1721 by order of Peter the Great. It was rebuilt many times. The current bridge was built at the end of the 18th century among the first seven very spectacular stone drawbridges of the same type across the Fontanka. Two of which have saved up to now. Over time, the carriageway of Nevsky Prospect became wider than the road line of the Anichkov Bridge, and the bridge was rebuilt.
Three arched spans were made out of brick. The bridge abutments and facade arches were faced with granite. The construction, according to reports of the Ministry of the Interior, cost 195 thousand rubles.
The bridge is 54.6 meters long and 37.9 meters wide
Today it looks almost exactly like at the time of its grand opening in 1842: with magnificent cast-iron railings, depicting mermaids, seahorses, garlands and tridents. The lattice was moulded following the design of a Berlin architect, Karl Schinkel, who designed the Gothic Chapel in Peterhof.
The four sculptural groups mounted on granite pedestals became the main artistic feature of the Anichkov bridge, the works of the outstanding sculpture of Peter Klodt. The images of the house tamers have become one of the symbols of the city.
Sculptures of Anichkov Bridge
In 1832, Klodt was given the order for the Horse Tamers sculpture group, which was supposed to be installed on the new pier on the Neva between the Admiralty and the Winter Palace. However, the production of models was delayed, and porphyry vases were installed on the pier instead of sculptures. A few years later, when the design of the Anichkov Bridge began, Klodt suggested using for designing his Horse Tamers.
In 1839 the first group ‘A horse with a walking young man’ was cast from bronze, and in 1841 – ‘A young man taking a horse under rein’.
The bronze cast compositions were installed on the western side of Anichkov Bridge facing Sadovaya Street, and on the other hand, their plaster copies were put. A year later, Klodt was ready for a second pair of bronze figures. But at the order of Nicholas I, they were presented to the Prussian king Frederick William IV.
The first composition
The second composition
The next bronze sculpted pair did not adorn the bridge for long. It was presented to the ‘king of the Two Sicilies’ Ferdinand II. And on the east side of the Anichkov Bridge, gypsum copies of bronze sculptures were put again. By this time, Peter Klodt plans to create two new compositions, developing the plot of the horse tamers. This work took the sculptor for almost four years. The last two groups of the ‘Horse and the Horsemen’ were cast in 1849-1850.
The prototype of horse sculptures on the bridge was the purebred Arabian horse Amalatbek. It was wild and rebellious but Klodt managed to tame him. His daughter helped him in his work. She saddled the horse and reared it, while her father made sketches.
The bridge was known around the world. Peter Klodt became very famous. Today, copies of sculptures of the Horse Tamers are in Moscow, Naples, Berlin, Strelna and Peterhof.
Anichkov bridge vessel
The granite embankment of the Fontanka River is one of the longest embankments in St. Petersburg; its length is 11,871 meters. It was built in 1780-1789. Throughout its length, many descents to the water were built: pedestrian ones were in the form of stairs and horse-drawn in the form of ramps. Some of them were dismantled. There are just 26 descents today. One of them leads to the Anichkov Bridge vessel.
The pier is located on the right bank of the Fontanka River just above the Anichkov Bridge. Nevsky Prospect – the main highway of St. Petersburg is nearby. Here you can admire such famous sights as Klodt horses on Anichkov bridge, Anichkov palace, Beloselsky-Belozersky palace.
During the navigation period, you can see the beauty of the city from the water. A private boat tour on rivers and canals of St. Petersburg starts at the Anichkov bridge vessel.
- Not so many people notice that horses going towards the Admiralty have horseshoes on their hooves and those who look in the direction of Vosstaniya Square don’t. And here’s why: not far from Anichkov Bridge is Kuznechny Lane where almost all horses in the city were shoed. That is why already shod horses come from forges, but horses without any horseshoes go towards them.
- During the Seige of Leningrad, sculptural groups were buried in the garden of the Anichkov Palace. During the German bombing and shelling, the bridge was seriously damaged. It was restored in 1945. At the same time, the sculptural groups returned to their pedestals.