© Wikimedia/Sergpavl
© Wikimedia/Sergpavl

Egyptian Bridge in St. Petersburg: a humble masterpiece with sphinxes

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Egyptian Bridge, a humble masterpiece with sphinxes, is iconic for Saint Petersburg. It reminiscences the times of Egyptomania which took over Europe in general, and Saint Petersburg in particular, at the beginning of 19th century. Egyptian Bridge also deserves special attention as it’s not located in the very center of the city. So, to reach it, one can have a nice stroll down one of the famous Saint Petersburg channels, the Kryukov channel, enjoying unforgettable and very atmospheric urban landscape.

History of the bridge

© Wikimedia/František Krátký
© Wikimedia/František Krátký

Actually, the current bridge over the Fontanka River is not original. The first suspension bridge was built between 1825 and 1826 - quite fast for those times. All the construction elements were performed in the then-popular Egyptian style. It was extremely fashionable, and that’s from where the name of the bridge derives. Egyptian bridge had cast-iron sphinxes with hexagonal lanterns hung from those statues’ heads, and the gates, also made of cast-iron, with Egyptian hieroglyphs, ornaments, and so on.

How the original bridge collapsed

© istock/javarman3
© istock/javarman3

On January 20th, 1905, something unexpected happened. A squadron of horse-guards was crossing the Fontanka River via the Egyptian Bridge, and eleven sleds were moving towards it. And suddenly… it collapsed and fell to the ice. No one died, except for three horses. It was a very curious case, indeed, and many people were thinking about it in terms of physics. Some still believe that there was a mistake in the projections of the bridge from the very beginning. Others consider a rhythmic walking to be the true reason for the failure. As usual, there’s an urban legend which tells a story about a woman who lived close to the Egyptian Bridge and didn’t like the sound military bands were producing (or had a crush on a military man in the days of her youth). When she heard the squadron moving towards the bridge, she cursed them ‘So you fail!’, or ‘Gorblimy!’. They say that the bridge fell immediately after that.

Reincarnation of Egyptian Bridge

© istock/eugenesergeev
© istock/eugenesergeev

The fall of the Egyptian Bridge caused a huge resonance. A new bridge was built instead of the collapsed one, but it was made of wood. Nevertheless, this small bridge served until the middle of the 20th century, when the decision to replace it with a more solid one was taken. The current bridge without huge gates is not as magnificent as the original one but is still decorated with sphinxes. There are four sphinxes, all-female, and more of Ancient Greek type rather than Egyptian. Rumor has it that they have a face of the empress Elizaveta Alexeevna, the wife of the emperor Alexander the First, and she was a real beauty. There are also obelisks which remind me of the Luxor Obelisk, now standing at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Strolling over the Egyptian Bridge is amazing. It’s the neighborhood where the beauty of the Saint Petersburg’s central districts meets the industrial zone. Close to the bridge, there is also a building of the former Sovetskaya Hotel, which once was the most popular in the city, and also the first high-rise building in Saint Petersburg. The green color of this humble masterpiece with sphinxes adds some vivid notes to the place.

Egyptian Bridge, St. Petersburg
Egyptian Bridge, St. Petersburg
Yegipetskiy Most, Lermontovskiy Prospekt, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190068

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The author

Maria Selezneva

Maria Selezneva

Hi, I am Maria, or Masha, as Russian speaking people call me. I’m your local guide for must-sees as well as off-the-beaten-track places in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I’ll show you my favourite destinations in both cities, where you can feel the true spirit of local traditions.

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