The Rostral Columns have become an integral part of the Spit of Vasilievsky Island ensemble in Saint Petersburg. They were built by the project of Thomas de Thomon simultaneously with the Exchange building in 1805-1810. According to the tradition that has come to us from ancient Rome, the triumphal columns adorned with the rostra of the enemy ships — rostral columns — were built up in honor of naval victories. St. Petersburg by Peter the Great’s plan was supposed to be a great port city, which would have the spirit of victory in the naval battles. The Rostral Columns have long been considered the embodiment of strength, power, vigor, and might. The height of the Columns is 32 meters. The metal images of rostra are fixed on the trunks of the columns. The team made the Brickwork and stone dresser work of architect S. Sukhanov. Ship Rostra, naiads, and anchors were copper by craftsmen Shapov, Vasiliev, and Korolkov. The four figures at the foot of the Rostral Columns are carved of Pudost stone.
The figures are considered to be allegories of Russian rivers: the Volga and Dnieper Rivers at the northern Rostral Column, the Volkhov and Neva Rivers — at the southern one. The figure of the Dnieper River is made by master J. Chamberlain from Antwerp, the other three ones — by French F. Thibault. Initially, the Rostral Columns were beacons for ships coming into a trading port that used to be here. At the top of the Columns are installed metal tripods with bowls: in the 19th century, oil was poured into them that lighted at dusk, and the Rostral Columns served as a beacon at the approach to the St. Petersburg seaport. Access to the bowls carried out by the spiral staircase inside the columns. Today, a fire is ignited at the Rostral Columns, but it happens during special festivals or celebrations. Instead of oil, it now is used gas supplied to the metal tripod by a special tube. The restoration of the Rostral Columns took place in 1926-1928, 1947-1949, and 1998-1999. Lost metal parts were replaced with their copies. The ensemble of the Spit of Vasilievsky Island is one of the most romantic and spectacular locations of St. Petersburg. Vasilievsky Island is one of those places where lives the spirit of the Petrine era.