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The Bridges of Griboyedov Canal

Flowing from the Moyka River through St Petersburg before meeting with the Fontanka River, Griboyedov Canal features twenty-one bridges, each with its own unique characteristics. The canal was constructed in 1739, measuring five kilometers in length and redirecting the flow of the existing Krivusha River. It was later deepened, with the banks being reinforced with granite and was named in honor of the Russian Empress Catherine II – better known as Catherine the Great. With a number of landmarks along its banks, Griboyedov Canal is one of the noteworthy attractions of St Petersburg.

Known as Catherine Canal until 1923, the name was changed by the ruling Communist authorities, who renamed it Griboyedov Canal after Alexandr Griboyedov (1795-1829) - a Russian playwright, poet, composer and diplomat. Griboyedov was likely best known for his satiric verse comedy based on Russian aristocracy, Woe from Wit. The play was banned from publication in St Petersburg, but was nevertheless circulated among literary enthusiasts who appreciated the author's message and the way it was delivered. Woe from Wit was eventually printed and published four years after the death of Alexandr Griboyedov.

With the majestic Church of the Savior as a backdrop, the Tripartite Bridge consists of a pair of bridges with ornate wrought-iron railings and lampposts which were built between 1829 and 1831 to replace the original wooden bridges. The pedestrian bridge crossing the canal at Italian Street is aptly named the Italian Bridge. It was originally built in 1896 to replace the ferry system used to cross the canal, but was updated a number of times, with the current bridge being built in 1955. Although it is modern in comparison to many of the other structures in the area, the bridge's wrought iron railing and ornate lamps are consistent with its historic surroundings.

The Bank Bridge is particularly interesting, with its four sculptures of griffins prominently displayed on either side. This pedestrian bridge crossing the canal is called the Bank Bridge because it allowed access to the Assignation Bank of St Petersburg which regulated the currency of the country during the reign of Catherine the Great. The building now houses the St Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance. With the body of a lion and head and wings of an eagle, the mythological griffin is said to be the guardian of treasure and legend has it that if those who rub the paw of the griffin will eventually find wealth.

Other bridges spanning Griboyedov Canal include the Flour Bridge, so named for the nearby flour warehouses; the Stone Bridge which remains much the same as when first constructed in 1774-1778; Demidov Bridge, named for the influential Demidov Family; Kokushkin Bridge, mentioned in some of Russia's famous literature, including works by Alexander Pushkin; and the Bridge of Four Lions with its four large lion sculptures supporting the cables of the bridge.

While the bridges crossing Griboyedov Canal are primarily there for practical purposes, each has a history which adds to the charm of this St Petersburg attraction.


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