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Published on : Wednesday, February 13, 2013
From the first glimpse of the grand front entrance, guarded by two marble lions, it’s obvious that this is a remarkable building with a rich legacy. Known among city residents as the “House with Lions,” the palace holds a fascinating history.
Here in the centre of royal St. Petersburg, many of the neighbouring monuments are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, exuding the glorious past of this legendary city. Surrounding landmarks include the State Hermitage, Mariinsky Theatre, Kazan Cathedral and Mikhailovsky Castle – all within easy walking distance.
Landmark Location Beside St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Just to the west of Four Seasons, in St. Isaac’s Square, stands the famous St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the main cathedral of St. Petersburg. For two centuries, the cathedral has been one of the primary symbols of Russia’s northern capital.
Both the square and the cathedral are named in honour of St. Isaac the Dalmatian – patron saint of Peter the Great, the founder of the city. Completed in 1858, the church is a grand-scale masterpiece that can accommodate up to 13,000 people. A spiral staircase with 562 steps allows access to the top of the colonnade, offering breathtaking views across St. Petersburg.
The cathedral was designed by Auguste de Montferrand, the celebrated French architect – who also designed the House with Lions. The construction of the cathedral lasted 40 years, from 1818 to 1858, and was Montferrand’s main lifework. Legend says that the architect expected to die after he finished it and this was the reason for the lengthy construction time. As fate would have it, Montferrand died only a month after the cathedral was consecrated.
Origins of the Triangular Design
The shape of St. Isaac’s Square was originally an irregular trapezoid, and Montferrand restructured the space to create a more formal rectangle to frame the cathedral. A triangular piece of land was thus cut from the northeast corner of the square – bordered by Admiralteysky Prospekt and Voznesensky Prospekt. This led to the eventual design of a triangular building, which resembles a grand piano in its shape.
Legend suggests the personal involvement of Tsar Alexander I in the building’s destiny. Once, when Alexander I was passing through the city with his aide-de-camp Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, the Tsar expressed his displeasure with the unsightly state of St. Isaac’s Square.