Summer Garden

Many leading masters of architecture and garden art – Mikhail Zemtsov, Nicola Michetti and Jean-Baptiste-Alexandre Le Blond – contributed to the Summer Garden. For thirteen years, all work on the ensemble was headed by the Dutch landscape gardener Jan Roosen, who was helped by many future masters of park and garden art.

The first garden in the new Russian capital was designed in the fashion of a regular European park. Symmetrical, intersecting alleys were laid out among the small spruces and lined with rows of juniper bushes. The trees were cut into the forms of cubes, circles and pyramids. Labyrinths, trellises and winding paths were formed from trimmed shrubs.

As the official summer residence of the Russian emperor, no expense was spared on the Summer Garden. Summerhouses, pavilions, galleries and greenhouses were built in the European style from marble and wood.

Peter the Great dreamt of owning a garden better than the king of France. Like other European parks, the Summer Garden was decorated with sculptures of ancient gods, Roman emperors and allegories of the virtues, elements and seasons.

As secular sculpture was still in its infancy in Russia, more than 150 statues and busts by famous Italian masters were specially shipped to St Petersburg from Venice and Rome. The sculptures were ordered and acquired in series and arranged in related groups. Such a complete collection of garden sculpture by Venetian masters is not to be found anywhere else in the world.

The collection of marble sculpture in the Summer Garden helped to develop the Russian school of secular art. Members of the court and foreign ambassadors were invited to the Summer Garden for informal parties and the celebrations marking Russian military victories in the Great Northern War (1700–21).

A canal cut through the Summer Garden, dividing the official half from the artistic half, where apple trees, plum trees and berry bushes were planted in the style of the Moscow orchards of the seventeenth century. Part of the garden was given over to the growing of cooking and medicinal herbs. The Carp Pond still exists, as does the Swan Canal flanking the garden on the west.

During the reign of Peter the Great, the Summer Garden was the centre of social life in the capital. Celebrations and illuminations continued to be held in the garden after the emperor’s death in 1725.

After the golden age of the park in the 1730s and 1740s, the Summer Garden fell into decline. In 1777, a flood destroyed the fountain system and many other features of Peter’s original garden.

When Georg Friedrich von Veldten was lining the river embankment “from the Summer Garden to the Galley Yard,” he was asked to design railings separating the Summer Garden from the road running along the bank of the River Neva. Work lasted from 1770 to 1784. The monumental railings of thirty-six granite columns and slender poles cast in Tula are one of the most handsome sights in the city. The fan-shaped structures flanking the railings were added in 1830 by Ludwig Charlemagne-Baudet.

In 1824, the River Neva again burst its banks, flooding St Petersburg. Many trees in the Summer Garden were destroyed, while the marble sculptures were knocked over and smashed. The cleaning-up operation lasted over two years. The soil was dug up, the alleys were repaved and the pond was cleared. Ludwig Charlemagne-Baudet added an iron railing to the stone terrace running along the Swan Canal, designed by Grigory Pilnikov in 1799. The terrace was decorated with cast-iron three-legged vases based on drawings by Carlo Rossi.

Important changes were made to the Summer Garden in the nineteenth century. Several sculptures were removed to other palaces and parks. In place of the Grotto, Carlo Rossi built the Coffee House in the Neoclassical style in 1826. The decorative moulding on the facades and interiors – sculptural masks, relief garlands, wreaths and floral ornamentation – was designed by Vasily Demut-Malinovsky.

In 1827, Ludwig Charlemagne-Baudet replaced an old dilapidated building with the wooden Tea House, which was renamed the Mineral Water Pavilion in the 1840s. That same year, he also designed the iron railings facing St Michael’s Castle. The railings were adorned with swords, shields, Medusa heads and fasces and repeated the pattern of the railings of St Michael’s Castle along the River Fontanka, designed by Pierre-Dominique Bazaine. The side alleys were left open so that people could enter the garden on horseback.

In 1839, a majestic vase of pink porphyry from Älvdalen in Sweden was installed in front of the Carp Pond. This was a present to Tsar Nicholas I from King Charles XIV of Sweden.

In 1855, a statue of Ivan Krylov was unveiled between the Main Alley and the Tea House. The monument was sculpted by Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg, responsible for the famous equestrian group on the Anichkov Bridge. The bas-reliefs on the monument were sculpted by Alexander Agin.

After February 1917, the Summer Garden lost the status of an imperial park. The garden was more or less abandoned until 1924, when a flood damaged the statues and busts and destroyed almost six hundred trees. The Summer Garden was closed for emergency repair work. The general restoration of the Summer Garden and the Peter I Palace Museum only began in 1934.

During the Siege of Leningrad, the barrels of anti-aircraft guns intermingled with lime trees planted two centuries ago. In 1941, the statues and busts were carefully hidden in holes, which were filled with sand and earth. The windows of the Summer Palace were boarded up and many exhibits were evacuated.

The Summer Garden was fully restored to its former grandeur after the war. The statues and busts were returned to their previous places, the railings were repainted and snow-white swans were introduced to the Carp Pond. One of the walkways was renamed the School Alley in memory of the children who grew vegetables in the Summer Garden during the Siege of Leningrad.

After the Summer Garden was awarded to the Russian Museum in 2004, work began on the renovation of the park, intended to restore the original historical layout and the decorations existing in the mid-eighteenth century. The Summer Garden was reopened to the public in May 2012.


Oldest garden in the city. Founded on the basis of an original plan by Peter the Great (1704) near his wooden summer residence built on the site of the former estate of Major Erich Berndt von Konou of Sweden (1703). Surrounded by the River Neva, River Fontanka, River Moika and the Swan Canal. Subsequent planning and laying of the park proceeded in parallel to the construction of the stone Summer Palace (1712–25). Architects Ivan Ugryumov (Matveyev), Fyodor Vasilyev, Jean-Baptiste-Alexandre Le Blond, Nicola Michetti, Mikhail Zemtsov and Rastrelli and landscape gardeners Jan Roosen and Ilya Surmin contributed to the project. A regular garden was laid out in the Dutch Baroque style with straight alleys of pruned trees and bushes, figured pools, fountains, statues, busts, galleries (one of which contained an ancient statue of Venus later called the Tauride Venus), trellises, summerhouses, conservatories and pavilions. An important element in the artistic decoration of the garden was the numerous marble statues and busts, numbering over one hundred (1728). The sculptures were supplemented by fountains adorned with lead gilded groups, mostly depicting scenes from Aesop’s fables. A steam-powered engine acquired by Peter the Great in Britain pumped water from the River Fontanka into special towers designed by Cornelis van Boles, from which the water flowed along aqueducts to the garden. The fountains were destroyed and not restored after a flood (1777). Andreas Schlüter, Jean-Baptiste-Alexandre Le Blond, Georg Johann Mattarnovi and Mikhail Zemtsov built the Grotto (1714–25). Assemblies, court festivities and receptions in honour of foreign guests were held in the garden under Peter the Great. Opened to well-to-do citizens for one or two days a week (from 1755). Georg Friedrich Veldten and Pyotr Yegorov built an iron railing along the Neva embankment (1771–84). A stone terrace was built on the bank of the Swan Canal (1797–98). Opened to the public (late 18th century). Carlo Rossi and sculptor Vasily Demut-Malinovsky converted the Grotto into the Coffee House (1826). Joseph Charlemágne built an iron railing along the southern boundary based on an original by Pierre-Dominique Bazaine, decorated with armature and shields with Medusa heads (1825–26). A monument to fable-writer Ivan Krylov sculpted by Baron Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg was erected (1854–55). Dmitry Karakozov attempted to assassinate Tsar Alexander II at the northern railing (4 April 1866). A stone chapel was built on the spot (1866–67) and later dismantled (1930).

Random articles