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Narva Triumphal Arch, St Petersburg, Russia - Famous Gates
1298    Dibyendu Banerjee    27/07/2020

To commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon Bonaparte, the wooden structure of the Narva Triumphal Arc, designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi, was constructed on the Narva highway, approximately halfway between Ploshchad Stachek and Obvodny Canal. The arc is said to be Russia's answer to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris, which was built to celebrate Napoleon's victory over the Allies at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. As planned, the Russian army on their return from Europe solemnly went through the Arch on 30 July 1814, in the presence of the royal family and the mass.

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However, ten years later the wooden construction, decorated with plaster sculptures, became dilapidated, looked unmatched with the graceful beauty of St Petersburg and began to pose a danger and threatened to collapse.

Narva Triumphal Arch St Petersburg Russia

As the decision was taken to construct a new gate, talented Russian architect Vasily Stasov was commissioned for the project with the idea of widening the arch and improving its decorative elements, while preserving the essence of the original composition. The location of the proposed new arch was chosen on Peterhof Road, close to the bridge across the Tarakanovka River, which has since been filled in. After that, the foundation was laid on 26 August 1827, celebrating the 15th year anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, during the French invasion of Russia, in which Napoleon’s ‘Grande Armee’ had to retreat from Moscow. The solemn event was attended by members of the royal family, soldiers, prominent war veterans and city leaders, when eleven stones were laid at the bottom of the pit in the form of a cross.

Narva Triumphal Arch St Petersburg Russia
Chariot of glory atop the Narva Triumphal Arch

However, the work was delayed and began in the 1830's, after a long argument about the material to be used for the facade of the new arch.

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Stasov suggested to build the arch with bricks and to use copper sheets for the façade, which was innovative in Russian and Western European construction circles during that time. The metal components, which included the copper sheets for the façade, ornament and sculpture details from copper and the decorations of the arch were produced at a local factory. Construction was completed on the arch in the fall of 1833, but it was officially opened one year later on 17 August 1834, on the 21st anniversary of the Battle of Kulm.

Narva Triumphal Arch St Petersburg Russia

The composition of the stone-built single bay Narva Triumphal Arch is similar to the ancient Roman triumphal arches, normally built on a square near an entry to the city. The Empire-style triumphal arch is crowned with the sculptural composition of an impressive triumphal chariot pulled by six horses and ruled by the goddess of Victory Nick. In one hand, the goddess holds a laurel wreath and a palm branch in the other. The chariot and the horses, made of hammered copper, were created by the Russian sculptor Peter Klodt. The statue of victory laurel wreath, which is held in the extended hand of a graceful and powerful female figure, the goddess of Victory Nick, standing on the chariot, was molded according to the model of Russian sculptor Stepan Pimenov, while the impressive and ornate models of wings of allegorical figures installed over the columns were done by Russian sculptors M Krilov and N Tokarev.

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The two statues of ancient Russian warriors, in the pylons of the gate between the twelve Corinthian Columns, were also made from hammered copper by Pimenov and Demut-Malinovskiy. The winged female figures in the arch, personifying glory, were created by Leppe. Without the chariot sculpture, the height of the Narva Triumphal Arch is about 76 feet (23 m), width 92 feet (28 m) and the width of the arch is more than 32 feet (10 m).

Narva Triumphal Arch St Petersburg Russia

However, the copper elements in the monument quickly started to corrode, due to the harsh climatic condition of St Petersburg and it was decided to replace it with iron. But the process intensified, after combining the design of two different materials. A prolonged and incompetent reconstruction of the gated started in 1925, which was further interrupted and delayed due to the outbreak of the World War and was severely damaged during the Siege of Leningrad. However, the heavily damaged Narva Gate served as a triumphal arch in 1945, when the victorious Soviet troops returned to the city. Finally, the triumphal gate was carefully restored to its present condition in 1952, though it was followed by repairing in 1980 and the last restoration of the monument was carried out on the eve of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg in 2003.

Narva Triumphal Arch St Petersburg Russia

Inside the arch, there is a basement and three floors connected by spiral staircases, which were previously used as a city archive. Later, a museum was opened there in 1987, dedicated to the history of the construction of the monument and other exhibits relating to the history of the war of 1812.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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