The monument stands at the Decembrists Square, opposite the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is framed by St. Isaac's Cathedral, the Admiralty and the buildings of the former Synod and Senate. It is said that as long as the monument stands in the midst of the city, St. Petersburg will never be defeated. It is passionately defended by the people. In fact, it survived the Siege of Leningrad because the statue was not taken away from the city but was protected by a wooden shelter and sand bags. The siege lasted for 900 days.
At the foot of this imposing monument, you can find an inscription that says 'Petro Primo Catarino Secunda' which is Latin for 'Peter the First from Catherine the Second'. The bronze monument portrays Peter the Great riding on a horse. The monument was commissioned by Empress Catherine the Great as her way of paying homage to her predecessor to the throne.
The Bronze Horseman, as the monument is also known, portrays Peter the Great as the great hero of Russia. Etienne Maurice Falconet, the renowned French sculptor, created the monument at Catherine's behest. The monument shows Peter riding a horse on top of a cliff. His horse is trampling on a snake. The monument is a symbol of Peter defeating his enemies, enforcing his reforms and leading the country into triumph.
A single piece of granite is sculpted to form a cliff, which serves as the pedestal. The pedestal is also called the Thunder Stone. It gained its name from a legend that says that thunder split a portion of the stone. Some say it is the largest stone that was moved entirely by human hands. No machines or animals were used to help move the stone. From Finland, the stone was dragged across the country and then sent by boat to St. Petersburg. It took 9 months and 400 men to move it. Catherine insisted that it be moved as a show of Russian innovation and might.
The statue stands at a total height of about 13 meters – 7 meters for the pedestal and another 6 meters for the statue. The monument took all of 12 years to finish, starting from 1770 up until 1782. The cast of the statue was created under the supervision of Yemelyan Khailov, who also risked his life in order to salvage the cast. Meanwhile, the face was made by Marie-Anne Collot, who patterned it after Peter the Great's portraits and death mask. She was only 18 at the time. She also trained under Falconet and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.
Sadly, Falconet was not present when the monument was unveiled, as he had a dispute with Catherine the Great and he was forced to leave the country.