The Treasures of St Petersburg and The Hermitage: Peter the Great
At the end of the seventeenth century, Russia was very much a country apart from Europe, having been neither affected by the Reformation, nor by the Renaissance Period that had gripped Europe over the last few centuries.
Yet at the turn of the eighteenth century Peter I of Russia, better known as Peter ‘the Great’, altered this. Greatly admiring his European counterparts, Peter aimed to transform his kingdom from one viewed as being very much on the periphery of the European world, to one among the central pillars of the European Psyche.
One way he realised he could attempt to accomplish this dream was by constructing a new, great, European-styled city to be the capital of his empire. He founded his new city in 1703, on a swamp near the western edge of his large domain and called it Saint Petersburg.
Peter desired his new city to become a brand new Rome – the brand new Eternal City, the beating heart of the great Russian Empire.
To help achieve his grand ambitions, the Tsar travelled the length and breadth of Europe incognito, where he recruited architects and artists from around the continent – from Italy to Scotland – to help construct his forecast metropolis.
Much had to be imported to help this ambition progress. Yet for the Tsar and his family, money was not an issue and palaces filled with lavish items soon started to emerge around the city.
Peter’s reign would mark the start of a remarkable transformation for Russia; as the French philosopher Voltaire later remarked: ‘Peter came, and Russia acquired shape.’
The Treasures of St Petersburg and The Hermitage: Peter the Great is the first episode in a three-part series, centred around the history of one of the world’s most remarkable cities.
The series was originally commissioned by Five, narrated by Tim Marlow and with music performed by The State Hermitage Orchestra. It explores the art and architecture of this ‘Venice of the North’, not least the vast horde of treasures located in the centrepiece of the city: The Hermitage, possibly the greatest museum in the World.Duration: 23 Min