The Admiralty, St. Petersburg

What is the history of the Admiralty?

  • Construction began in 1704 according to Peter the Great’s personal designs. For over a century the Admiralty was a shipyard and fortress, and in subsequent centuries housed a naval base and Naval Engineering Institute
  • The Admiralty we see today was finished in 1823, a magnificent example of Russian Classicist architecture dominated by a central tower visible for miles around
  • Atop the tower’s spire sits a model ship which has become one of the historical symbols of St Petersburg. The original model was covered in 2kg of gold and was said to contain Peter the Great’s personal compass
  • Today, the Admiralty is home to the High Command of the Russian Navy

Imperial Russia

The Admiralty in the 18th century

Photo from https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/

Construction of the Admiralty began in 1704 in accordance with Peter the Great’s personal designs. It was not just a shipyard but a fortress for the emerging capital, complete with bastions and a moat. In all, 262 warships were built in the Admiralty over the next 140 years.

Did you know? Ship drawings and models from Peter the Great’s own collection formed the basis of the Central Naval Museum, a must-visit for those interested in Russian maritime history.

In 1719, a model ship was installed on a weather vane high above the Admiralty. The model replicated the first ever Russian warship, built in the 17th century, and had flags made of solid gold. This ship has become one of the historic symbols of St Petersburg.

Did you know? The original model weighs approximately 65kg and is covered by two kilograms of pure gold. You can see it in the Central Naval Museum.

Allegedly, the personal compass of Peter the Great was placed in the bow of the model ship.

The Admiralty was a focal point of St Petersburg’s city plans. Three main arteries - Nevsky Prospekt, Voznesensky Prospekt, and Gorokhovaya Ulitsa - diverge from its central tower. Today, standing at any point along these kilometres-long streets, the Admiralty’s gilded spire is visible.

The complex was rebuilt a number of times, but the version present today was constructed at the start of the 19th century by architect Andreyan Zakharov. This final design glorified the Russian Navy in a magnificent example of Russian Classicist architecture - harmoniously symmetrical, stretching for over 400 metres along the banks of the Neva, and dominated by a 72.5m tall central tower with an Empire-style arch, colonnade, gilded dome and spire.

Did you know? The Admiralty is decorated with 56 statues representing Greek and Egyptian Gods, the elements, the seasons, patron saints of shipbuilders and more. There are 28 statues above the colonnade alone!


Revolution and Soviet Russia

Camouflaging the Admiralty spire during WWII

Photo from http://waralbum.ru/

The Admiralty changed hands numerous times in the tumultuous revolutionary years, and during Soviet times it housed the Dzerzhinsky Institute of Naval Engineering and the naval base of the Baltic Fleet.

Did you know? During repair works undertaken in 1977, a special container holding the Soviet Constitution was installed underneath the ship weather-vane.

During Soviet times, a nuclear reactor operated in the Dzerzhinksy Institute to allow cadets to practice controlling a nuclear submarine. After the Chernobyl catastrophe, the reactor was shut down.


The Admiralty Today

The Admiralty, St. Petersburg

Photo from https://photocentra.ru/

The High Command of the Russian Navy moved to the Admiralty in 2012. The Admiralty Shipyard still operates, but has been moved to the western edge of St Petersburg where the Neva meets the Gulf of Finland.


What can you see at the Admiralty today?

As a military headquarters, the Admiralty is closed to the public. However, there are plenty of attractions to enjoy nearby:

  • Alexandrovsky Gardens - a beautiful park running alongside the Admiralty between Palace Square and St Isaac’s Cathedral, with leafy avenues, statues and a large fountain.
  • St Isaac’s Cathedral - the largest church in Russia. Discover the breath taking interior or climb to the colonnade for a spectacular view over St Petersburg.
  • The Bronze Horseman - a monument to Peter the Great, named after the Pushkin poem of the same name. Its pedestal is the largest stone ever moved by humans.
  • Palace Square - St Petersburg’s largest and most beautiful square, home to the Winter Palace and General Staff Building.
  • Central Naval Museum - one of the world’s largest naval museums, documenting Russian maritime history from Peter the Great until the present day.
  • New Holland Island - one of Peter the Great’s former shipyards, now an upmarket retail and cultural space.

Essential Information for Visitors

Address: Admiralteyskiy Prospekt, 1, St Petersburg, 191186
Metro: Admiralteyskaya (450m), Nevsky Prospekt (1km)

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