Among the 380 bridges of St. Petersburg there are 3 the most interesting "bestial" structures of crossing. All three were originally built and decorated by the same architects - V.Tretter and P. Sokolov. All three were chain, two pedestrian and one transport. The last one - Egyptian was restored by other engineers after failure, but the sculptures of the sphinxes at the end of reconstruction works and restoration were anyway returned to their place.
Lion and Bank bridges were built almost simultaneously. The first one is decorated with figures of lions, and the second one – with griffins.
The Lion Bridge is located on the largest curve of the Griboedov Canal in the area of Podyachesky Streets.
Its length is 28 meters and its width is 2.5 m. It is a pedestrian suspended chain bridge, built in 1825/26.
It is known that on the opening day on the Lion Bridge there were about 3 thousand citizens, attracted by huge 2-meter figures of lions sitting at the four corners of the bridge and holding hanging chains in their mouths. According to the idea of the architects, those lions were not just an exotic "decoration" of the structure - their powerful figures were meant to hide the mechanisms and fastenings of the bridge. Those "little animals" were cast of raw iron and consist of two halves: you can see the joint seam on their backs and chests. In spite of its monumental appearance, these "kings of beasts" are hollow inside, which was required for the performance of their functions as the "holders" of the bridge. In addition, the apparent monumentality and grandiosity of the figures was deliberately contrasted by the sculptor P. Sokolov with the general lightness and elegance of the Lion Bridge design, adorned with a small openwork, patterned fence-grid.
The grid and six-sided lanterns were removed in the XIXth century and replaced with a regular iron fence. The lions and the bridge got their initial form only in 1954, when the grid and lanterns were restored, the lions were again painted white and the flooring was repaired. Now the Lion Bridge is a favorite place for townspeople and tourists, the number of romantics walking along it is much larger than the first thousand curious St.Petersburgers.
Bank or Bankovy Bridge of the same V.Tretter and P. Sokolov is also located on the Griboedov Canal near the University of Economics and Finance. Its "money" name this bridge (1825-26) "inherited" from the neighborhood with the Assignation Bank. From this neighborhood there was also an external fairy-mythological appearance of the bridge. Namely, the Bank Bridge is decorated with 4 figures of griffins - beasts with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, which should symbolize the unity of strength and mind. In ancient Greece, the rider of the griffin was Apollo himself, these "beast-birds" were harnessed also to the chariot of Nemesis - the goddess of retribution and even rotated the wheel of fate. According to the legends, the griffin is the best guardian, he protects the ways of salvation, treasures, and secret knowledge. So, it was difficult to come up with better symbolic decoration of the bridge, located next to the financial institution of the capital.
Mighty figures, 2.85 meters high, attracted as many as 9,000 townspeople on the opening day who were curiously watching the wonderful " creature," above whose heads balloons-lanterns were fastened, gilded along with wings of griffins, with red gold. During the reconstruction of the last century, the gilding was replaced by gold leaf, and the lost fence was restored. It is interesting, that when it came to the restoration of the "guards" themselves (2008), a treasure was found in their hollow figures, coins left by tourists and townspeople and notes with various requests. Strangely enough, but the magic of the mythological creation of the griffin affected our contemporaries, who considered these "animal-birds" a symbol of luck and success.
The third "bestial" bridge of the northern capital is the Egyptian Bridge (1825/26), it hangs over the Fontanka and is decorated no more, no less with eastern monsters - sphinxes. Only this time 4 figures of these " beasties" "do not work", i.e. do not hold anything and do not hide, but merely meet you at the entrance to the bridge - they are turned away from the river. The emergence of these "animals" unusual in Russian culture is a kind of tribute to the fashion of the craze by the mysticism of ancient Egypt in the late XIXth century. Moreover, the sphinxes themselves are not very similar to their monster-grandparents - severe stone statues.
The Egyptian Bridge is decorated with soft, graceful "ladies" figures, their detached beauty is more similar to imitation, rather than with the "classical" embodiment of the image. The Egyptian Bridge of that time included a monumental gate with columns and cornice. Lights were hanging from the cornice, and the columns divided the span of the bridge to the roadway and pedestrian sidewalks. The gate was decorated with a pattern in the form of strange signs and animals that were supposed to imitate Egyptian hieroglyphs.
However, the history of the Egyptian bridge knows the dramatic episode of the collapse, which happened in 1905 during the passage of the squadron of the military. Is not known to the end what exactly was the reason for the collapse, they say both about the design errors and the quality of the material, but there is a version that the classic example of command to soldiers to go "out of step" when they crossed the bridge come into common use exactly after this incident. At the crash of the Egyptian bridge there were no victims among people, but many were injured, and 4 horses were lost. That episode for half a century has struck out the Egyptian bridge from the list of structures-crossings of St. Petersburg. Only in Soviet times in 1956 it was restored, but in a completely different design and configuration. From the former, only these monsters of the Sphinx are left.
The fate of the chief architect of all these "bestial" bridges of Wilhelm von Tretter is also sad. Only 16 years he worked in Russia, having designed 8 large bridges and several small ones, after the conflict at service he was forced to resign and leave our country in 1830.