Domenico Trezzini

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Domenico TrezziniThe name of the architect Domenico Trezzini is inseparably linked to the construction of Petersburg to which he dedicated thirty years of his life and work. Born around 1670 at Astano in Canton Ticino, Domenico Trezzini was trained as a builder mainly in Rome, Italy probably during the second half of the sixteen eighties. After a probably German sojourn of several years, perhaps in the service of the Duke Frederick von Sachsen/Gotha und Anhalt, he joined the team of Swiss architects created by Domenico Pelli di Aranno, the military architect from Canton Ticino to rebuild the “bourse” (trade market) in Copenhagen. It was here that Trezzini met the Russian envoy to the Danish Court, Andrei Ismailov with whom he signed a contract to work for the Russian crown, on 1 April 1703.

He arrived in Moscow on 22 August 1703, after having made the trip by sea from Copenhagen to Archangel, and only reached Saint Petersburg in February of the following year. His first assignment was to build the wooden tower of the Kronhsholt Fortress on Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland; then he was sent to Narva to build the city's port.

Trezzini returned to Saint Petersburg in 1706 and he was ordered to rebuild the St Petersburg fortress in stone, and for twenty-seven years this was to remain his main worksite. Inside the fortress Trezzini designed and built "Peter's gate", first of wood, and then starting in 1714 masonry work was begun. On 8 June 1712 the foundations were laid for the new stone cathedral in the middle of the fortress, to replace the old wooden church, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Construction work that began in May 1714 under the direction of Domenico Trezzini went along rapidly and the masonry part of the bell tower was complete by 1717; it was topped by wooden cusp, covered with gilded copper. This part of the work was directed by the Dutch specialist Harman van Holes. One hundred and six meters high, the bell tower became the tallest structure in the city. Work on the St Peter and St Paul cathedral, however, progressed much more slowly, it was only completed in 1732 and dedicated on 28 June 1733.

In addition to building the complex of the Fortress of SS Peter and Paul, starting in 1710 Trezzini designed other important buildings: the Summer Palace, and Peter the Great's first Winter Palace (1711 - 1713), the first College building on the Trinity Square on the Gorodovoj Island and the Alexander Nevsky Monastery established in 1717 in the presence of the tzar. Masonry work began in 1717 on the basis of Trezzini's plans dated 16 January 1715 that had been approved by the tzar the following year. Domenico Trezzini directed work on the abbey until 30 June 1720 when the German architect Theodor Schwertfeger was hired to supervise construction.

He designed the two residential buildings for the abbey, one on the Admiralty side and the other on the Vasiljevsky Island. It was planning and constructions on this island that comprised Trezzini’s main occupation for many years. He concentrated primarily on the eastern end of the island (Strelka or Spit) where the city's administrative and commercial center was to have been built. On 12 August 1721 Peter I ordered construction of the complex of state colleges (later known as the Twelve Colleges). During the second half of 1722 Trezzini developed the general plans and began laying the foundations. The competition for the facade of the Twelve Colleges, issued by Peter I on 3 July 1723 was, in fact won by Trezzini himself. Work progressed rapidly and the external parts of the building were mostly complete by 1731. During those years Trezzini also worked on general construction plans for the island, and including the design and construction of the Customs House, the Merchants Court and Warehouses on the Strelka. He also remodelled Menshikov's palace and designed the residence of Peter II, which was never completed.

In the Vyborg district Trezzini dedicated much time to the design and construction of the military hospital. After a first variation to the building that had been constructed to plans by Robert Erskin, Peter's personal physician, was demolished in 1720, Trezzini was assigned to rebuild the entire structure in stone. Two long wings were to be the hospital and symmetrically flank the patients' church. The work was completed at the end of 1732 with the exception of the church that was never built.

In addition to these important projects Trezzini had many other minor assignments that he carried out with skill and competence. In fact, Domenico Trezzini's importance for the city of Petersburg does not end with the design of the city proper; its roads and main buildings, it extends to the overall concept of the residential buildings. They were standardized one or two storey buildings, built of wooden trelliswork or masonry, and designed according to the European criteria that were widely used for the construction of the rest of the city.

It is also important to remember that Trezzini was an active teacher as well, and trained many young Russian architects, the most famous of whom was Mikhail Zemenov.

Domenico Trezzini died on 19 February 1734, around 5 o'clock in the morning, having worked almost to the end. He was buried on 24 February in the heterodox church, near the church of Samson in the Vyborg district.




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