Standing on Vasilievsky Spit is one of the more classical architectural assemblies in St Petersburg: the Stock Exchange and the Rostral Columns. They were some of the last projects of French architect Thomas de Thomon, who died in 1813 and was buried in the Lazarus Cemetery at Alexander Nevsky Monastery. The Stock Exchange was built between 1805-10 and was modeled on the temples of Ancient Greece. The statue standing atop the colonnade facing the Neva is titled “Neptune with Two Rivers”, representative of the importance of sea trade in St Petersburg commerce. The Rivers in the sculpture are represented by human figures. Since 1939 the Stock Exchange has been the home of the Central Naval Museum. One of the oldest museums in Russia it was originally founded by Peter the Great in 1709.
Flanking the Stock Exchange are the towering Rostral Columns, erected in 1811. In the early years they served as lighthouses,
the oil torches on top of the columns guiding traffic along the Neva. These days the torches are still lit on some public holidays. Continuing with the ancient motif of the architecture on Vasilievsky Spit, the bows of boats poke out of the Rostral Columns. Exhibiting the bows of seized ships by embedding them in columns was an Ancient Roman tradition. At the base of each of the columns there are two colossal statues. Like the sculpture on the Stock Exchange, these four figures are symbolic of rivers. Specifically, they represent the four major rivers Imperial Russian rivers: the Neva, Volga, Volkhov and Dnepr.
It was originally Peter the Great’s intention
to make Vasilievsky Spit the center of St Petersburg, however, the area around Nevsky Prospekt ended up taking this role. Today Vasilievsky Island isn’t exactly a bustling area but it is the home of a number of museums and St Petersburg State University. The spit also offers an outstanding outlook on both banks of the Neva.
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