Thunder Stone

The enormous boulder on which the statue of Peter the Great (also known as the Bronze Horseman ) sits is known as the thunder stone. According to local legend it was given it’s name because it was believed thunder had split the piece off from a larger rock.

The stone, which was estimated to have weighed 1,500 tonnes, was discovered in marshland by a local, S.G. Vishnyakov, at Lakhta near the Gulf of Finland in 1768. The story of how the stone found it’s way to St Petersburg is just as epic a story as the statue itself.

Having found the perfect base for the memorial to Peter the Great, the big dilemma for sculptor Falconet was how to move such an enormous boulder all the way to Saint Petersburg. He wanted to work on cutting the rock right where it lay but Catherine the Great was having none of that, she ordered it moved.

The first problem was how to lift the damn monstrosity which was buried half way down in the marsh and the second was how to transport it to the sea where it was to be placed on a specially made barge .

Enter Marinos Carburis, a Greek engineer who happened to be a lieutenant-colonel in the Russian Army at the time. Having dug the thunder stone out of it’s muddy home he then placed it on a metallic sledge which slid over bronze spheres which were about 13.5cm (6″) in diameter (a little like ball bearings).

The rock was then hauled , using only human labor, 6km (4 miles) to the Gulf of Finland. The process would end up taking 400 men 9 months to finally get it to the sea. One of the problems was they could only lay a 100m of track at a time. It was estimated the men managed to push, pull and heave the thing 150m a day.

During it’s journey stonecutters were busily shaping it into a wave. Catherine would also periodically visit to check on the progress. On it’s arrival an enormous barge was constructed and two warships were on hand to support it from either side.

The Thunder Stone is believed to be the largest stone ever moved by man.

The Auld Bitch

The controversial statue of Queen Victoria outside the Queen Victoria Building, in Sydney, was created by Irish sculptor, John Hughes, in 1904. The statue was unveiled by King Edward VII on the Kildare front of Leinster House (which was at the time the headquarters of the Royal Dublin Society), in Ireland. When Leinster House became the official seat of Oireachtas Eireann (the parliament of the Irish Free State) the statue became the focus of extreme scrutiny and criticism. Surprisingly, she escaped being blown up (but I guess, only just). Many were horrified that a statue of Queen Victoria could still be standing outside the front of the parliament of the Irish Free State. By 1947 they had had enough and she was unceremoniously removed and thrown into the main courtyard (along with some disused State carriages) at The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. There she sat year after year, with nobody quite knowing what to do with her. During a Parliament sitting held on 28 May 1974 in Dublin the speaker (Mr Lemass) was quoted as saying ” I think we all agree it is one of the most ugly statues of that royal lady.” She was put on the “Public Art” market, but not a soul was interested in the “Auld Bitch”. Luckily, Australia came to the rescue, in 1983, when the Sydney City Council began a worldwide search for an “unwanted” statue of Queen Victoria (what were the chances?), to be erected outside of the Queen Victoria Building. Imagine the luck of the Irish when they got wind of this. A quick search located the rather neglected queen in the small town of Daingean (don’t ask me how it ended up there). The Republic of Ireland were so happy to off load the statue, they decided to give it to the people of Sydney in the spirit of “goodwill”. In the late 1980’s she left Ireland for good and arrived for a fresh start in Australia, to mark Sydney’s 200th anniversary, in 1987. So now she sits high on her throne, looking down on the people of Sydney, being relatively ignored, as if she was still in Ireland.