Petersburg Kaleidoscope: Gingerbread House

02 July 2020

In the very center of St. Petersburg there is a street called Kolokolnaya. This small old street is usually quiet and not crowded. But one house on Kolokolnaya Street is so interesting that it constantly attracts lovers of picturesque city photos. This house is known among citizens as the “Gingerbread House” or “House of Russian Fairy Tales” (Kolokolnaya Street 11).

The Gingerbread House was built in 1899-1900 by the famous St. Petersburg architect Nikolai Nikonov. Nikonov worked as a diocesan architect and was engaged mainly in the construction of church buildings. He, a native of the Yaroslavl province, who admired the medieval temples there from an early age, had a distinctive architectural style and boldly went for experiments. The apartment building of Nikonov on Kolokolnaya street became the embodiment of the creative ideas of the author, passionate about the traditions of ancient Russian architecture. It was Russian motifs that gave the house a look so original for a “Europeanized" Petersburg.

Nikonov’s House, which, as if from an illustration to Russian folk tales, really resembles the royal tower. The figured roof with an openwork lattice, kokoshniki and turrets give the house an extraordinary festivity. But people called it “gingerbread” because the whole facade is decorated with multi-colored tiles and majolica patterns and the house looks like a colored printed gingerbread.

The bay window of the building is particularly striking in its splendor and variety of decorations. The magical floral ornament is intertwined with colored ceramic inserts. By the way, all the ceramics were made in the workshop of the art-industrial school of Mirgorod. This school was named after N.V. Gogol. So Mirgorod glorified in the stories of Gogol was also reflected in the appearance of St. Petersburg repeatedly described by him.

The Gingerbread House miraculously survived all the upheavals of the 20th century, endured war and blockade. And today he pleases the residents and visitors of the city, inviting him to a fairy tale.