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History of the Summer Garden

Fragment of the Panorama of St Petersburg engraving by A.F. Zubov. 1716
Plan of the Summer Garden. M.G. Zemtsov. 1723-25
G.A. Kachalov. Prospect along the Fontanka River from the Grotto and a reserve palace at midday. 1753
Unknown artist. Summer Palace. Late of the 17th century
КK.P. Beggrov. Cabin of Peter the Great in the Summer Garden. Second half of 1820s-30s
V.S. Sadovnikov. Monument to Ivan Krylov in the Summer Garden. 1855
N.I. Nesterova. Summer Garden. 1982
Coffee-House. View from the Garden-s Side
Beauty. Sculpture. View to the Western Facade of the Summer Palace of Peter I
Architecture. Sculpture. Fete in the Summer Gardens
G. Pilnikov, L. Charlemagne, K. Rossi. Terrace of the Summer Gardens
Southern Gate of the Summer Gardens and the Alvdalen vase
P. Klodt. Monument to Ivan Krylov
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The first professionally executed project of the Garden was made by a Dutch gardener J. Roosen (1713-1714). In 1717, Peter the Great introduced some changes into the plan of the future Summer Garden and later closely supervised its construction, considering carefully every detail of it.

The plan of the Garden is simple: there are three parallel alleys leading from the Neva river deep into the Garden-s territory, crossed by several perpendicular paths. To the north and the east, the Garden is naturally bordered by Neva and Fontanka rivers. On the south and west, the Garden is bordered by artificial canals - the Swan Canal and the canal connecting Fontanka to the Moika river. The northern part of the Garden, which adjoins the Palace and is decorated more richly, was called the First Summer Garden. The southern part, which embraces not only garden amusement facilities, but also administrative buildings and a fruit orchard, was known as the Second Summer Garden.

The plan of Peter the Great-s Summer Garden was somewhat naive, which was typical of the young Russian art. In those times, Russian art was only trying to catch up with European examples but could not be seen as equal in perfection. The famous French architect J.-B. Leblond, employed by Peter the Great, tried to introduce the influence of French regular gardens. He proposed his own plan to reconstruct the tsar-s summer residence. However, Peter the Great did not fully accept the project, which allowed the Garden to retain its original plan and its bright individuality.

The sides of the alleys in the Summer Garden, according to the rules of fine gardening, were planted with evenly edged bushes - a kind of green walls, so called espaliers. The four parts bounded by the walls of espaliers - bosquets - were full of various garden amusement facilities. In one of the bosquets (Menazhery pond) there was an oval pond, with a small island in the middle of it. On this island there was an arbour. In another bosquet, there was a Poultry-yard, with a dovecote and houses for birds. The Cross Walking Place bosquet was crossed by criss-cross enveloping roads, and a single-steam fountain, decorated with sculpture, purled in the centre. The most trim was the French Parterre bosquet, with the gilt sculpture, the cascade, and the flower garden. The alleys of the First Summer Garden were decorated with marble statues and busts brought from Italy. Fountains gushed forth on the grounds of the central path.

At the Fontanka bank, there was built a Grotto pavilion - the first garden construction of the kind in Russia (1714-1725, architects A. Schluter, G.J. Mattarnovi, N. Michetti, M. Zemtsov). Its walls were laid with shells and tufa from inside.

On entering the Grotto, one found himself in the kingdom of the sea god, lightened with sunrays, which came through the lantern light. Triton fountains purled, reverberating in the large niche mirrors. The gilt Neptune-s chariot towered on rock made of various stones and shells. In the cave under the mountain, there languished a lion (according to the symbolism of those days, Neptune stood for Peter the Great, while the lion stood for Sweden).

A large part of the Second Summer Garden was occupied with the Labyrinth, with fountains on its paths. The fountains were decorated with gilt leaden sculpture groups depicting the plots of Aesop-s fables.

The Garden occupied only one part of the tsar-s summer residence. A considerable portion of the territory was given to the buildings. In the north-west part of the Garden, near the Neva river and the Swan Canal, the Second Summer Palace of Peter the Great, with auxiliary buildings, was built symmetrically to the Summer Palace of Peter the Great. It was created for Peter-s wife Catherine (1721-1726, architects S. van Switen, D. Trezzini, M. Zemtsov).

Adjoined to the Palace, there was the building of the Picture gallery (architect de Vaal). It housed the collection of works by prominent European painters. This first Picture gallery came as a novelty in the cultural life of Russia. Unfortunately, neither of the buildings has survived until today.

At the Neva river bank, there were galleries, where during the festivals tables were laid and dances organised. Later, a Hall for glorious festivities was added. It was constructed by the project of the talented Russian architect M. Zemtsov. In the 1730s, F.-B. Rastrelli built a wooden palace for Anna Ioannovna on the place of this hall.

At the times of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the Garden was flourishing. The trees had grown up and stronger, the fountains functioned duly. Flower gardens of elaborate geometrical patter were made anew by the project of F.-B. Rastrelli. The parterres were located along the Swan Canal in front of the facade of the Second Summer Palace. At the southern border of the parterre garden, the architect erected the Amphitheatre cascade, decorated with busts of Roman emperors. At that moment, major construction works took place at the other bank of the Moika River, at the territory of the Third Summer Garden (the present Mikhailovsky Gardens and the garden around St Michael-s Castle). F.-B. Rastrelli built the new Summer Palace for Peter the Great and Elizabeth in the 1740s.

The golden age of the Summer Garden in the second half of the eighteenth century gradually came to an end. Europe became enthusiastic for landscape parks, and old regular gardens were no more in fashion. Besides, the Summer Garden suffered the flood of 1777, which caused serious damage to plantings, statues, and fountains. By the early nineteenth century, the Garden had lost many of its sculptures and all its old amusement facilities. The Summer Palace of Peter the Great and the semi-ruined Grotto pavilion were the only buildings that survived. At the same time, the era of Catherine II created a new decoration for the Garden - the wonderful railing placed along the Neva embankment (1770-1784, architect Y. Felten).

In the nineteenth century, the Garden became the favourite place for walking among the citizens. It continued to develop, but now as a public city park "for decently dressed public". By order of Emperor Nicolas I, impressive changes were introduced. In 1826, Carlo Rossi transformed the remains of the Grotto into the Coffee House. In 1827, the Tea House was built not far away from it (architect L. Charlemagne). A cast iron railing was mounted along the Moika embankment (architects P. Bazaine, L. Charlemagne, 1826). In 1839, a porphyry vase was placed at the south entrance. This was a present from the Swedish King Carl Johann XIV to Nicolas I. The vase was made in the city of Elfdahlen (Sweden) and is called the Elfdahlen Vase. In 1855, one of the Garden grounds was decorated with a monument to I. A. Krylov, created by the sculptor P. Klodt. This was the first ever monument to the writer in Russia.