The Peter and Paul Fortress, founded by Peter I in 1703 is a fortification art monument of the 18th-20th centuries. The dominant structure of the architectural ensemble is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the burial place of all Russian emperors.
The Peter and Paul Cathedral was founded on May 27, 1703. According to a legend, Peter I chose the site for the new fortress himself — the small Hare Island (Jänissaari in Finnish) located in the mouth of the Neva river. The citadel, shaped as a six-pointed star, was built according to a project drafted by the French engineer Joseph-Gaspard Lambert together with the tsar himself. Six strong bastions, each named after Peter's associates, are connected with six curtain walls.
Fr om the east and the west the defensive system has two ravelins: Ioannovsky (John's) and Alekseyevsky (Alex's). Two bridges — Ioannovsky and Kronverksky — connect Hare Island with the Petrograd Island. On October 1, 1703 the fortress was consecrated. St. Andrew's flag was raised on the Gosudarev (Tsar) bastion and 300 cannons were placed at the fortress's ramparts. On June 29, 1703 in the center of the fortress a small wooden church was founded in the name of the apostles Peter and Paul. In 1712–1732 a stone cathedral was built in its place. From 1731 till 1858 the Peter and Paul cathedral was the capital's cathedral. Later it was designated a court department. The cathedral was used as a burial place for the reigning House of Romanov. All Russian emperors and empresses from Peter I to Nicholas II are buried here except for Peter II and Ioann VI. A covered gallery connects the cathedral to the Grand Ducal Burial Chapel.
During the 18th–19th centuries many different buildings and structures were erected inside the fortress: the Boat house, the Arsenal, the Mint, the Commandant's and the Engineers» houses, the guardhouse, and many more. In as early as the 18th century the fortress became a prison for state criminals and in the 19th century it was the main political prison in Russia. For the first time the fortress was opened for visitors in the early 19th century during the reign of Alexander I. In the 1900s tours were arranged to the emperors» necropolis in the Peter and Paul cathedral. In 1924 the Trubetskoy bastion prison was converted into a museum. In 1954 the entire Peter and Paul fortress complex was given to the State Museum of the History of Leningrad (Saint-Petersburg).
In the Commandant's house inside the fortress there is a museum of the city's everyday life of the 18th–19th centuries and the Trubetskoy bastion prison, wh ere political prisoners were kept. They included members of the «Narodnaya Volya» («People's Freedom») political party, the tsar's government ministers, Leon Trotsky, Fyodr Dostoevsky and Nikolai Chernyshevsky. The Boat House houses the first ship, from which the history of the Russian Navy began. The area inside the fortress and the beach are free to visit.
There was a system of underground passages in the fortress. Some of them can be visited: the entrance to the underground gallery is in the Gosudarev (Tsar) bastion.
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