A Daring Feat by Unknown

REMARKABLE for its spire, the loftiest of St. Petersburg, is the church of St. Peter and St. Paul. An anecdote connected with this church, and not known, I believe, out of Russia, is worth telling. The spire, which rises

“Lofty, and light, and small,”

and is probably represented in an engraving as fading away almost into a point in the sky, is, in reality, terminated by a globe of considerable dimensions, on which an angel stands, supporting a large cross. This angel was out of repair; and some suspicions were entertained that he designed visiting, uninvoked, the surface of the earth. The affair caused some uneasiness, and the government at length became greatly perplexed. To raise a scaffolding to such a height would cost a large sum of money; and in meditating fruitlessly on this circumstance, without knowing how to act, some time was suffered to elapse.

Among the crowd of gazers below, who daily turned their eyes and their thoughts towards the angel, was a mujik called Telouchkine. This man was a roofer of houses (a slater, as he would be called in countries where slates were used); and his speculations by degrees assumed a more practical character than the idle wonders and conjectures of the rest of the crowd. The spire was entirely covered with sheets of gilded copper, and presented to the eye a surface as smooth as if it had been one mass of burnished gold. But Telouchkine knew that the sheets of copper were not even uniformly closed upon each other, and, above all, that there were large nails used to fasten them, which projected from the side of the spire.

Having thought on these circumstances till his mind was made up, Telouchkine went to the government and offered to repair the angel without scaffolding, and without assistance, on condition of being reasonably paid for the time expended in the labor. The offer was accepted.

The day fixed for the adventure arrives. Telouchkine, provided with nothing more than a coil of ropes, ascends the spire in the interior to the last window. Here he looks down at the concourse of the people below, and up at the glittering “needle,” as it is called, tapering far above his head. But his heart does not fail him; and stepping gravely out upon the window, he sets about his task.

He cuts a portion of the cord in the form of two large stirrups, with a loop at each end. The upper loops he fastens upon two of the projecting nails above his head, and places his foot in the others. Then digging the fingers of one hand into the interstices of the sheets of copper, he raises one of the stirrups with the other hand, so as to make it catch a nail higher up. The same operation he performs on behalf of the other leg, and so on alternately. And thus he climbs, nail by nail, step by step, and stirrup by stirrup, till his starting-point is undistinguished from the golden surface, and the spire dwindles in his embrace till he can clasp it all round.

So far, so well. But he now reaches the ball—a globe of between nine and ten feet in circumference. The angel, the object of this visit, is above this ball, and concealed from his view by its smooth, round, and glittering expanse. Only fancy the wretch at this moment, turning up his grave eyes, and graver beard, to an obstacle that seems to defy the daring and intrepidity of man!

A boy sits on a rock, looking out to sea


 But Telouchkine is not dismayed. He is prepared for the difficulty; and the means he used to surmount it exhibits the same remarkable simplicity as the rest of the feat.

Suspending himself in his stirrups, he girds the “needle” with a cord, the ends of which he fastens around his waist; and so supported, he leans gradually back, till the soles of his feet are planted against the spire. In this position, he throws, by a strong effort, a coil of cord over the ball; and so coolly and accurately is the aim taken, that at the first trial it falls in the required direction, and he sees the end hang down on the opposite side.

To draw himself into his original position, to fasten the cord firmly around the globe, and with the assistance of this auxiliary to climb to the summit, is now an easy part of his task; and in a few minutes more Telouchkine stands by the side of the angel, and listens to the shout that bursts like sudden thunder from the concourse below, yet comes to his ear only like a faint and hollow murmur.

The cord, which he had an opportunity of fastening properly, enabled him to descend with comparative facility; and the next day he carried up with him a ladder of ropes, by means of which he found it easy to effect the necessary repairs.