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Grand Architecture of the Twelve Colleges

Situated on the Neva embankment of Vasilevsky Island in St. Petersburg, Russia, the majestic, three-story, red and white “Twelve Colleges” building, which is more than 400 meters long, is actually made up of twelve identical buildings standing side by side. By far St. Petersburg’s largest structure from the Petrine era – a style of Baroque architecture and decoration favored by Peter the Great – the Twelve Colleges gives the illusion of being a single building.

The construction of the Twelve Colleges (or Twelve Collegia) was commissioned by Peter the Great. He intended the buildings to serve as the nucleus of the Russian government, which at the time was divided into 12 sections, being the Senate, the Synod and the Collegia (later called Ministries) of Foreign Affairs, Revenue Collection, Justice, Financial Control, Expenditure, War, Admiralty, Commerce, Trade, and Mining and Manufacturing. The Twelve Colleges building was designed by Domenico Trezzini and Theodor Schwertfeger, with construction taking place between 1722 and 1744. Talented Swiss-Italian architect, Domenico Trezzini, laid the foundations for the development of Petrine Baroque and made a significant contribution to the architectural history of St. Petersburg. The Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Peter and Paul Fortress, Peter the Great’s Summer House and the Twelve Colleges are superb examples of his work.

Although originally built as 12 individual buildings, later alterations were done to connect the twelve buildings. In 1835 the vacant Twelve College building was given to the St. Petersburg State University which had been founded in 1819. The university went on to receive recognition on an international scale due to achievements by some of its notable scholars, including chemist and inventor of the Periodic Table, Dmitry Mendeleev, and physicist Alexander Popov who demonstrated the practical application of radio waves. No less that eight Nobel Prize winners have been students at the St. Petersburg State University, and both Russian President-Elect Dimitry Medvedev and current President Vladimir Putin are alumni. Today the university has more than 20,000 students, 2,000 professors, 210 departments and boasts a library containing over four million volumes.

Certainly, St. Petersburg in Russia is rich in history and cultural heritage, with many interesting places to explore. Visitors to this beautiful Russian city should take the time to visit the Twelve Colleges – an ancient building that now serves as an educational institution dedicated to preparing young people for the future.


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