St. Petersburg was born as a fortress city. But young naval power also need a shipyard, so Peter I planned the construction of the Admiralty. He personally examined the whole bay of the Neva river delta in search for the most effective location of the future fortress and shipyard, spending almost a week in a boat with prince Menshikov.
The Admiralty old blueprint
The spot with the smallest width of the flow was chosen for the foundation of the Admiralty on the banks of the Neva river. This meant a strategic advantage, because in this case enemy’s ships were committed to direct fire. So, opposite Vasilyevsky island and diagonally from Zayachy island, within one year the first building of the Admiralty appeared. And in 1706 it launched the first flat–bottomed ship designed for combat in shallow waters and near the fortifications.
Peter I personally participated in the development of the project, and the dockyard met all the requirements for fortifications of the time. In addition, the emperor personally worked at the shipyard, receiving the salary of master craftsmen. During his lifetime the stocks of the shipyard launched 262 vessels, among which there were 23 linear.
“Another important role assigned to the first Admiralty was a border-guarding function.”
Another important role assigned to the first Admiralty was a border-guarding function. There existed a special journal were all the names of ships passing along the Neva river, the names of their skippers and shipping information were recorded. What’s interesting, the Admiralty was a second construction (after Peter and Paul Cathedral) in the Russian architecture that was crowned with a spire. Before that Russian architectures knew nothing about decorating buildings with spires that were very common in large European countries at the time. Thus appeared another iconic object in the Northern capital – the Admiralty spire with a ship, which is a three-masted weather vane.
The ship itself has an interesting history. Some say that it was based on the original sketches of the first Russian warship “The Eagle” created in 1668 during the reign of the tsar Alexei Romanov. “The Eagle” was very small and accomplished only one trip along the Volga river, where it was burned by Stepan Razin’s rebels, but it’s symbolic history lasted for several centuries. The Admiralty ship weathervane weighs 65 kg and required two kilograms of pure gold.
Top-view at the Admiralty
During next 100 years after the severe flood of 1777 the Admiralty also served as a special facility to alert citizens about the danger of rising water. Under the spire of the Central tower there was placed a bell which rang in case of emergency and notified people about the beginning and the end of the flood.
Another major function of this monumental building with 406 meters facade should be mentioned. Three main avenues of the city center – Nevsky prospect, Voznesensky prospect and Gorokhovaya street – all converge to the “Admiralty needle” (a 72 meters high spire). And, of course, architectural perfection and sculptural diversity of the Admiralty majestically complements the unique splendor of the Palace square.