All tourists visiting St. Petersburg, come to the Palace Square, and then to the embankment of the Neva to enjoy the view of the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, which spire is one of the most recognizable landmarks of the city. To the left of the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress one can see a magnificent architecture ensemble, which is made by the Palace Bridge and the Spit of Vasilievsky (St. Basil) Island. At the time of the white nights there always come a lot of tourists to see the drawing of the Neva bridges.
They began to develop Vasilievsky Island during the first years after the foundation of the northern capital, as this part of the city was on an elevation, and wasn’t flooded during the floods. It was there that the retainers of Peter I built their mansions. Of them only the Menshikov Palace survived, which was constructed in 1710-1714. Later, the architect Domenico Trezzini was given the task to create the general plan of the development of the Spit of Vasilievsky Island.
So, on the Spit of Vasilievsky Island there appeared the Stock Exchange Square. In 1718 side by side with the Menshikov Palace there was constructed the building of the Kunstkamera, the first museum of Russia, and near it – the buildings of the Twelve Colleges and the Academy of Sciences. So, the Spit of Vasilievsky Island was made the administrative center of the capital.
Under the empress Catherine II there was taken a decision to build on the Spit of Vasilievsky Island the Stock Exchange, which was designed by the architect Thomas de Thomon. Generally, it took several decades to erect the Stock Exchange, and it was opened only in 1816. Nearby there was located the commercial (trading) port, and it was there that wholesale bargain were made for nearly a century.
By the design of Thomas de Thomon, in 1810, when the building of the Stock Exchange was finished as a whole, on the Spit of Vasilievsky Island there were erected two Rostral Columns, which served as light-houses for merchants ships arriving in the port of St. Petersburg.
At the top of the rostral columns there were and still are two huge bowls, which were filled with hempseed oil and set to fire every night, as well as on foggy days, until 1885. The columns have got their name from the Latin word «rostra», that is, «bow». These columns are decorated by the rostras of the defeated enemy ships, and at the base of the columns one can see sculptures symbolizing the four great Russian rivers: Neva, Volga, Volkhov and Dnieper.
Today the Spit of Vasilievsky Island is one of the most favorite walking places of the natives. There you can always see a lot of sweethearts, and there often come many wedding corteges.