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LETTER XXIII.

Breaking up of the ice-Ice from the Ladoga-Placing a pillar in the

church of St. Isaac–Grand parade-Arrival of the Emperor ; of the Empress—Review of the troops-Departure of the Court from St. Petersburg - Interview with the Empress.

Petersburg, May 9, 1838. Ever since the conclusion of Easter-week, until yesterday, we have had delightful weather. On the morning of the twenty-eighth of last month, eighteen days after the commencement of the thaw, the ice on the Neva broke up, the floating-bridge was removed to let it pass, and in the course of three or four hours, the river was sufficiently free to allow the safe passage of boats; indeed, scarcely a piece of ice was to be seen. No boats, however, are allowed to ply until the following ceremony, which dates from the reign of Peter the Great, has been performed. The Commandant of the fortress, under a salute from its guns, crosses the river in his barge, and has an audience of the Emperor, to present him with a certain silver cup, filled with the water of the Neva; and his Majesty returns the cup

filled, instead of water, with gold coins. After this the navigation of the Neva is considered as open.

The ice in the Gulf of Finland is still firm; and since yesterday, the Neva, which for ten days past had reflected nothing but blue sky and bright sun, has put on again a wintry appearance, being entirely covered with floating ice, as white as snow, drifting rapidly down under the united influence of wind and current. This ice comes from the Ladoga, a lake more than two hundred miles long, and a hundred and fifty broad, out of which the Neva issues forty or fifty miles above Petersburg.

Some days ago, I went to see a pillar placed in the new church of St. Isaac, which is now in progress.

The operation was extremely interesting, from the size of the pillar, and the height at which it was placed ; it being the second tier or story of columns on which they were engaged. The last pillar was erected yesterday, and the colonnade, which is circular, is now complete. Its base must be a hundred and thirty or forty feet from the ground, and each pillar is a solid block of granite, fortytwo feet high, and weighing five thousand poods, or upwards of eighty tons. The columns on the ground-tier, each of which is also a single stone, are fifty-six feet high, and weigh eleven thousand poods each.

When I reached the platform to which the pillar was to be raised, I had below me a panorama of

see

Petersburg, and the country around, for many a mile; the most interesting part of the prospect being the Gulf of Finland, down which I could

as far as Cronstadt. The day was warm and bright, and the air free from cloud or smoke. From the platform down to the next stage, a depth of about eighty feet, was fixed a strong timber frame, covered with planks, so as to form a very steep inclined plane. At the bottom of this slide, when I first looked down, the column to be raised was lying horizontally on rollers; it was girthed round with very thick ropes drawn very tight, and padded underneath. Other ropes, or rather cables, . secured to these girths, passed lengthways, along the column, crossing each other over its lower end ; and it was lashed to strong planks which lay under it, that the polish of the stone might not be injured in ascending the slide. Over the base on which the column was to stand was placed a high frame-work of strong timbers. The cables, twelve in number, attached to the pillar, passed through blocks fixed in the frame, and with the aid of one moveable pulley to eạch, were drawn by twelve capstans, each manned by fourteen or sixteen men. There were two extra capstans for the purpose

of guiding the lower end of the pillar when suspended in the air. Altogether, upwards of two hundred men were employed in the operation.

When all was ready, the capstans began to turn,

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and by degrees, the column, instead of lying in a horizontal position, rested on the inclined plane, which was well greased, and began slowly to ascend, two men standing on its upper end, to be ready in case of the cables becoming entangled. The capstans were all numbered, and the superintendent at the top, by calling out sometimes to one gang, and sometimes to another, to move faster or slower, kept all the ropes drawing equally. The column, at length, reached the top of the inclined plane, and it was then raised until it was hanging in the high wooden frame exactly over the base on which it was to stand. A coin was dropped into a small hole in the centre of the base, which was then covered with a sheet of lead; and the tackling round the lower end of the pillar being cut and cleared away, it was lowered gently into its place. The whole operation, which was now complete, occupied about two hours from the time the capstans began to work, until the pillar rested upon its base.

The church of St. Isaac will be an edifice not unworthy of the City of Palaces, as Petersburg is sometimes appropriately called ; and, in its way,

it will probably be an unique monument of a century, which certainly is not an age of cathedral building. About forty thousand pounds have been annually expended upon it for some years past, and the exterior will not be completed for at least two

The church is to be a few feet higher than

more.

St. Paul's, with a dome, the roof of which is to be gilt, of nearly the same size with the dome of that cathedral. No materials are employed in any part. of the edifice but marble, stone, brick, and metal, so that the building will be fire-proof.

Four days ago, we had the good fortune to witness in the Champ-de-Mars a splendid parade. About forty thousand men were on the ground, including nine thousand cavalry, one hundred and twenty eight pieces of artillery, and a pontoon-train: the whole belonging to the corps of the Imperial Guards, and forming, therefore, I presume, the finest body of troops in the empire. The day was lovely, and the coup-d'oeil most superb. At twelve o'clock, the Emperor arrived on the ground, followed by a numerous suite. The drums beat, and the troops cheered as he galloped down the line, and through the ranks, and by the time he had completed this rapid inspection, his horse being already covered with foam, the Empress and Grand Duchesses arrived on the ground in a carriage-and-four, with postillions, in the English style, followed by four or five other courtearriages, some with four, and some with six horses. The Emperor mounted a fresh horse, and rode through the ranks by the side of her Majesty's carriage, which was then drawn up opposite the centre of the line. The Emperor took his station on horseback by her side, and the troops began to

The infantry passed first, preceded

march past.

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