Nowadays it's difficult to imagine the Palace Square of St.Petersburg without its main jewel - the Alexander Column, which was opened in 1834. Alexandrian Column - designed by a project of architect Montferrand - was raised after Alexander I victory in the war with Napoleon's army by an order of his brother Emperor Nicolas I.
It's hard to believe it but for the first time citizens were afraid to walk near the new construction for fear of being buried under its ruins. Such rumors had some reason: while setting a figure of an angel at the top of the column it was initially planned to make the cap from granite, but in the last moment it was changed to plain brickwork. Insulted by distrust of people Montferrand promenaded near the column with his little dog every day in an attempt to dispel baseless fears of the inhabitants.
Since the column was found lots of legends and stories anyhow connected with that monumental construction appeared. These myths are very curious example of imagination, worries and spirit of St.Petersburg's citizens who lived in different epochs.
Well, shortly after the column construction was finished a legend appeared telling that a box of excellent champagne was dug in under its pedestal so that the structure would stand immovably forever. In the middle of XIX century the following quibble was popular among Petersburgers: "an anchor from an anchor to an anchor." The phrase meant that Emperor Nicolas I dedicated that construction to his brother Alexander. Rumor had it the “anchor” was an “extra” St. Isaac's Cathedral’s column which didn’t fit in terms of size that’s why it was installed on the Palace Square. Use it or lose it.
There is reliable information that Montferrand offered to Nicolas to make spiral stairs inside the column which would lead to its top, what is more he planned to do it by efforts of only two workers: one of them would implement the actual job and another – carry used materials away. The building works would take another 10 years and Nicolas was prudent enough to refuse of that idea for fear that it could damage the column walls.
With the development of technology myths about the Alexander Column became more “progressive”: people talked that its pedestal appeared to be some kind of “plug” for an oil well. Some citizens would picture in their restless fantasies a gush of oil shedding in the middle of the Palace Square. And to see that it was just necessary to move the column aside!
Maybe right from that imaginary oil well it started the next mystification connected to the column. In 1989 there were rather active publics who were extensively collecting citizen’s signatures against the monument moving to Alexander Garden because it could stand in the way during parades. We don’t know precisely how many signatures were collected but sensation naturally stopped.
During the perestroika “accurate information” was published in papers telling that in Soviet times the communists were continually going to change the statue of angel to bust of some vozhd, but couldn't choose between Lenin and Stalin.
Present-day superstitious beliefs connected with Alexandrian Column are peaceful and romantic. It is said that the number of future couple’s kids is equal to the number of times that a fiancé can walk around the column carrying a bride in his hands.
And the angel on the top of the column through the years is still looking with love and sorrow at the city guarded by him and its inhabitants, such different and seem to be such tiny and defenseless from a height of fifty meters.
The Alexandrian Column became a witness of the St.Petersburg’s and the country highlights of the XX century.
It was restored, nearly modified, supplemented…
In 1836, two years later after the monument installation, off-white marks began to appear on the glossy surface of the stone under the bronze capital of the granite column, which marred the appearance of the construction.
In 1841 Nicolas I ordered to implement an inspection of the marks noticed, but the examination conclusion was that yet while processing granite grains partly crumbled away in a form of small cavities which look like cracks.
In 1861 Alexander II established “Committee for the Alexander Column’s damage investigation” containing scientists and architects. Scaffolding for examination was constructed in consequence of which the Committee came to conclusion that there were in fact cracks on the column, initially common to monolith, yet concern was expressed that increase of its number and size “could lead to the column failure.”
It was discussed which materials to choose to cover over those bugholes. A.A. Voskresenskyi, “the grandfather of Russian chemistry” suggested using a composition, “which a covering mass must have” and “thanks to which the crack in the Alexander Column was stopped and covered with complete success.”
For the regular column examination four chains were anchored at the capital abacus – fittings for an access platform lifting; moreover, from time to time craftsmen had to effect “an ascent” of the monument to clear stone of marks which wasn’t an easy task to do taking into account the height of the column.
For all the time since it was opened and up till the end of XX century the column was exposed five times to restoration works that were rather cosmetic.
After the events of 1917 the surface around the monument was changed and during holidays the angel was covered with a red canvas cap or it was camouflaged with balloons delivered by a floating dirigible.
The fence was removed and remelted into cartridge cases in 1930s.
During the Siege of Leningrad the monument was covered only to the 2/3 of its height. Compared to the Klodt horses or sculptures of the Summer Garden the column stayed at its location and the angel was wounded: a deep fragment
mark remained at one of the wings, besides that hundreds of minor damages were inflicted to the monument by shell fragments. One of the splinters stuck in a bas relief of Alexander Nevsky’s helmet from where it was pulled out in 2003.