Address: St. Petersburg, Peter and Paul Fortress. Phone numbers: +7 (812) 230-64-31, +7 (812) 230-03-29. How to get there: metro station - "Nevsky prospect" and "Petrogradskaya". Working hours: from 09:00 to 21:00. Museums working hours: from 10:00 to 19:00, Wednesday is a day off for all museums. Average fare: 150 rubles.
The Peter and Paul Fortress is a major landmark in Saint Petersburg. It is a unique building that plays crucial role in St. Petersburg’s appearance. There is an interesting fact that the fortress was built as a defensive object, but it has never participated in a serious battle.
The year of foundation is considered to be 1703. The main creator of the fortress is Peter I. He wanted to build a new city in the delta of Hare Island. He believed that such a powerful country as Russia needed a huge transportation route through the Baltic Sea. He thought that it would develop the international relationships with Western Europe.
Just in a few months in 1703 the fortress was built. At first it was named St. Peterburh. It immediately became the main link in the system of protective structures on the shores of the Gulf of Finland and the Neva River. Walls of wood, turf and earth repeated contours of the island. The shape of the fortress was in a form of a hexagon with unequal sides. During the construction the principle of bastion was used for the first time in Russia. There were the majestic bastions in every corner of the fortress which were named in honor of the closest friends of Peter the Great.
It is thought that when the fortress appeared, Russian successes in the military increased. It was decided to rebuild the fortress and to make it even more resistant to enemy attacks in 1706. The Italian architect Domenico Trezzini made a great project of that stone fortress. The main difficulty was the fact that the area of Hare Island was marshy. The architect decided to put the building on piles, which, as a result, were about 40 thousand items. All work was made by ordinary people. A little later, they began to create stone ravelins. The main aim of ravelins is to protect the building from artillery fire. They were separated from the main area of Hare Island by deep ditches, which were fenced off with special climbing bars.
The new city needed the main Cathedral. It was hard to a small wooden church of St. Peter and Paul to carry the function of a big cathedral. So it was decided to build a huge and powerful temple which could be able to become the main cathedral of St. Petersburg. In 1712, the same architect D. Trezzini began a large-scale construction of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. The construction work continued for more than 20 years. The temple had a unique and new design for the time. It was fundamentally different from the old one. The high bell tower was with the spire. On its top there was a cross with a beautiful figure of an angel. At first, the angel was wooden so it gave rise to frequent hitting by lightning. Later, the spire was replaced and made higher. Especially for the bell tower Peter I bought big beautiful chimes, which have long been hanging there. They also have been replaced later.
The main entrance to the fortress was built in the early XVIII century. A few years later its appearance was modified. First of all, it was rebuilt in stone by the plan of D. Trezzini. They became a triumphal arch and the upper wooden layer. Also, they were decorated with a statue of St. Peter the Apostle. There are several passages in the Fortress ? Neva, Kronverksky, Nikolsky, Vasilevsky gates. They were used in different ways.
Throughout existence of the fortress many buildings were rebuilt and renovated. The cavalier of the Empress Anna Ivanovna was rebuilt in 1730. Wooden constructions were replace by the stone ones. The plane of that building was made by B.-H. von Munnich. Catherine II commanded to made the facing of the southern wall in granite. At the same time they changed the Neva gate appearance, framed them with portico. Under the rule of Nicholas I, the north side of the walls and bastions were colored into the granite color. Around the same time almost all of the two-storey casemates have become a one-story. All work was not intended to improve its defensive side, only to create the image of the city as the center of the capital of the Russian state.
On Hare Island in the XVIII century was one of the first bridges of St. Petersburg - St. John’s one. It was built in the 1730s. Before the XX century there were Nicholas and Kronverksky bridges, later they were destroyed. Today, in the northwestern part of the island there is the wooden bridge, which was built in 1938. It was named in honor of Kronverksky Bridge.
As it was already mentioned, the aim of the Peter and Paul fortress was to defense the city. After it took a role of decoration one lots of buildings and constructions were built in its territory. The main feature of the whole fortress is the fact that all buildings were built at different times, but they look really alike and suit each other.
The main building is the magnificent Peter and Paul Cathedral. It is the first temple in St. Petersburg. The design of the church is the Baroque. The belfry is the highest in St. Petersburg; its height is 122.5 meters. There is a figure of an angel on the top of it. It is visible from afar. Cathedral was modified several times. Firstly, its dome, steeple and the roof completely burnt out in 1756. After the tragedy the temple was on renovation for a several decades. The wooden steeple was replaced by metal one because of awareness of contact with lightning.
The architecture of the fortress is bright and colorful. Several styles are used ? from classical Baroque to Neoclassicism.
At the first stage of the construction there were only wooden buildings. At Elizabeth, daughter of Peter, several stone building appeared. Guardhouse, engineering, and Oberkomendantsky houses were built in 1740s. Today, these buildings are similar to their original appearance. By the beginning of the XIX century building appearance has changed a lot. Botniy house was built in 1761. Its style is slightly different from other constructions. The Mint and a few clumps continue to distinguish the fortress. Adjacent to them there were a forge, a laboratory of precious metals, and a medal workshop. A little later the Treasury, Cartwright, chief-officer house, and Mayorsky-Platz house were built. Alexeevskiy Ravelin was also rebuilt. Moreover, several buildings for storing documents of the Ministry were also built.
At the beginning of the XX century the main guardhouse building have been changed. Builders created a princely tomb and the Church House. All buildings at the fortress territory look extraordinarily beautiful. They greatly complement each other.
Since the time of Peter the Great, the fortress was used for detention criminals who were accused in treason. The first prisoner, according to history, was the son of Peter ? Alexey, who headed a conspiracy against his father. Peter didn’t forgive the son. The country was above the family values. Alex died in this prison.
When Elizabeth was a head of the state several heads of ministries (which took their places at the Anna Ivanovna)were detained. Until 1917 the fortress was fully a real prison. There were lots of prisoners who did not agree with the country laws and the regime. Decembrists in 1825, Petrashevists revolutionaries were placed exactly there. Execution was in common there. Those who were lucky enough to survive in prison called it the "Russian Bastille".
In 1884 the prison has ceased to exist. A little later, Secret House was dismantled. Today tourists can visit the exhibition which tells us about the "prison" of the past. It is located in the Trubetskoy bastion.
The Peter and Paul Cathedral was the burial place during the Peter the Great life. Here are buried the children of Peter, who died at an early teen age and other Peter’s relatives. Many members of the imperial Romanov dynasty also were buried in the cathedral. At least, Peter the Great was buried here. After the death of the emperor his coffin was taken on the Neva River and delivered in the unfinished church in January 1725. When the church was completely built, the body was buried.
It was decided to bury only the crowned representatives of the royal family at the cathedral’s land. The others should be buried at the Grand Ducal Burial Vault. At the beginning of the XX century here were buried 13 people, 8 of them are taken out of the temple. Then there was no burial here for a long time. In 1998 the family members of Russian Emperor Nicholas II were brought there. The last funeral ceremony was held in 2006. Empress Maria Feodorovna transported at the cathedral from Denmark.
From the beginning of construction of the fortress it hosts various festivals devoted to traditional Orthodox festivities, the glorious victories of the Russian people.
Peter I came up with the idea of a new traditional holiday which was called "Neva opening the ice". It immediately became much-loved by citizens. It was a special day for St. Petersburg people, because there were not any bridges across the Neva River in those days. So the main part of the city and the Vasilevsky Island during the ice flow was cut off from the fortress. Another important holiday was Epiphany. Every year the royal family participated this holiday by going down to the wooden chapel on the Neva River ice and they swam in the cold river. On the 25th day after Easter there was a special celebration in which all of parishes of the existing churches of St. Petersburg took part.
When Alexander I was the ruler of the state people began visiting the imperial necropolis. There is a museum since 1922. 4 years after its opening it became a part of the Museum of the Revolution. Many buildings located here have become parts of the State Museum of the History of Leningrad in 1950s. This contributed to a renovation of architectural monuments. Today, almost in every building of the fortress is replaced by museums and exhibitions. The fortress attracts thousands of tourists every single day. So if you want to plunge into the Petrine era you are welcome!