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Summer Garden – an Open-air Museum of Sculptures

Peter the Great planned the Summer Garden as a place for cultural recreation of citizens. The emperor personally developed the garden’s project: straight alleys, trimmed bushes, flowerbeds, fountains and statues. By the way, the Fontanka River was so named thanks to the waterlocked Summer Garden: the river was called Bezymyannyi Yerik (Anonymous Creek) by the time it appeared, and its water was used for the garden fountains.

The Summer Garden was divided into parts: the first Summer Garden contained a two-storey palace of the emperor built by Trezzini’s design. The second part occupied a space from the channel to the Moyka, and the area around St Michael's Castle is the third Summer Garden. The central part of the garden was decorated the richest way: 12 pairs of marble columns stood on both sides of the main alley, the very path was paved with marble, and there was an ancient statue of Venus here - the first nude woman’s sculpture in Russia. Now it is stored in the Hermitage Museum. The first fountains in Russia appeared just in the Summer Garden. In order to make them work, a canal was dug sideward from the Fontanka, from where water was pumped. A grotto was made on the bank of the mentioned river, decorated with columns and sculptures, with halls decorated with colored glass, with a live lion, contained in a cave, and an aviary. The grotto has not been preserved to our days, and its site is now occupied by a Coffee House. About two hundred statues for the Summer Garden were brought from Italy by Peter the Great personally. These were the figures of commanders, warriors, monarchs and mythic characters. Many of these sculptures have been lost by this point in time, and those survived are stored in the Mikhailovsky Castle. All current statues in the garden are replicas, but the dark red porphyry vase, standing by the Moyka, is authentic. It was given to Nicholas I by King Carl XIV of Sweden. The monument to the famous fabulist Ivan Krylov by Klodt, decorated with high reliefs on subjects of his fables, is also authentic. Initially, the Summer Garden was a kind of a closed club: one could get in here only at the personal invitation of Peter the Great. Later, well-dressed citizens were allowed to enter it, and in the XIX century it became a favorite walking place for the artistic intelligentsia. An Archaeological Museum appeared in the garden after restoration, which displays what was found during the restoration work: a gazebo, a greenhouse and an aviary.

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