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The Peter and Paul Fortress

The fortress was founded on 16 May 1703 to the thunder of the enemy’s cannon, on the low island of Enisaari (“Hare Island” in Finnish) near the right-hand bank of the Neva. It was designed to defend the lands of Ingria fought back from Sweden by the young Russian army in the course of the Northern War and to defend the mouth of the Neva. Fortification had a serious scientific background in those years and the plan of the citadel was designed by specialists.

View of the Peter and Paul Fortress Hare Island

Hare Island

Tsar Peter the Great himself made suggestions on the overall scheme. At first they erected earthen ramparts with six
bastions linked by curtain walls; a kronwerk protected the fortress from the mainland. On 29 June, the name-day of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and therefore of the Tsar himself, the city was given the name of St Petersburg. On 30 May 1706, Peter’s 34th birthday, the Tsar founded the first bastion in stone – the future Tsar Bastion. This event marked the start of the reconstruction of the St Petersburg Fortress in stone under the supervision of the Swiss architect Domenico Trezzini. It was also he who began to build the stone Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul in 1712 on the
site of a wooden church. Soon the entire fortress took the cathedral’s name.

The Peter and Paul Fortress. The St John Bridge
The first bridge of St Petersburg was built on pontoons across the Kromwerk Passage in 1703. Since 1887 it has been known as the St John Bridge

The St John Bridge
The Peter and Paul Fortress dominates the Neva by its powerful granite walls. Throughout the history of this fortified structure not a single shot was made from its bastions, although the garrison was always ready to repulse the enemy’s attack. The fortress became one of the most severe prisons of Russia. Behind its walls languished Tsarevich Alexis, the son of Peter the Great, the Decembrists, members of the People’s Will terrorist organization, the Bolsheviks and other prisoners. In the inner courtyard of the prison, besides the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul, there is the Boathouse built to preserve the memorial boat of Peter the Great, the “grandfather of the Russian fleet”. One can also see there the Commandant’s House, the Mint, the Grand Ducal Burial Vault and other structures of various designation,
now belonging to the “Peter and Paul Fortress” historical and cultural centre – a branch of the State Museum of the Flistory of St Petersburg.

A Russian gun of the 1813 model on the left front of the Tsar Bastion

A Russian gun
The five gates of the Peter and Paul Fortress faced all the cardinal points. The main, Peter Gate is directed eastwards. It was built in the form of a triumphal arch and decorated with bas-reliefs. The central image, The Magician Simon Cast Down by the Apostle Peter, was interpreted in the eighteenth century as an allegory of Peter’s victories in the Northern War over the Swedes. Under the bas-relief is fixed a lead two-headed eagle with a sceptre and orb weighing more than a ton. On either side of the arch, in niches, are statues of ancient deities Bellona, the goddess of war, and Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and crafts.

The Peter and Paul Fortress. Monument to Peter the Great. 1991.
SCULPTOR: Mikhail Chemiakin

Monument to Peter the Great


Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor of the Romanov Dynasty that ruled Russia for more than three hundred years, was a tragic figure in twentieth-century Russian history. He abdicated on 2 March 1917 when St Petersburg and entire Russia got involved in the whirlwind of the revolution. Nicholas and his family were arrested and on 1 August were all exiled from their former residence at Tsarskove Selo to the distant Siberian town of Tobolsk. Then they were transferred to Ekaterinburg and in the night of 17 July 1918 the former Emperor, his wife, their children and servants were shot in the mansion formerly owned by N. Ipatyev, Captain of the Engineering Troops. The entire royal family has been canonized bv the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Cathedral or SS Peter and Paul

The Cathedral or SS Peter and Paul
The SS Peter and Paul Cathedral occupies a special place among the churches of St Petersburg. It is the most important example of the Petrine Baroque and the tallest structure (after the TV tower) in the city: the height of its bell-tower with a spire and weather-vane is 122.5 metres. The many-tiered bell-tower with a weather-vane in the form of a flying gilded angel on its spire is an architectural landmark and one of principal symbols of the city that firmly established itself in the eighteenth century on the shores of the Baltic Sea. From 1731 to 1858 the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral was the city’s main church and in 1858 it became the court cathedral. From the foundation of the city it served as a burial place for members of the Romanov Imperial House. It was here that the regal founder of St Petersburg, Peter the Great, who died in 1725, was interred.
He was buried in the then unfinished building of the cathedral. A tradition to bury the members of the ruling dynasty in churches, widespread throughout the world, was followed in St Petersburg, too. A ceremony of carrying the body of the deceased Emperor to the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul preceded the traditional funerary ritual. In 1998, the 80th anniversary of the murder of Emperor Nicholas and his family, their remains were buried in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, too.

This is the Catherine Chapel where the members of the imperial family, as well as their servants and doctor, shot in Ekaterinburg, were buried on 17 July 1998. The tombstone is made of white Carrara marble

The Cathedral or SS Peter and Paul

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