Peter and Paul fortress is probably the most important place in St Petersburg as it was the birth place of our city. A mighty fortress built to protect the territory from Sweden and get access to the Baltic sea, a birthplace of the new city of Peter the Great and a fearsome Russian Bastille – these are the features of one of the main sights in St Petersburg.
The foundations of Peter and Paul fortress were laid on May 16th (new style may 27th) 1703, and this date is considered the birthday of our city. Originally the fortress was named Sankt-Petersburg, after st Peter, the patron of Peter the Great. The great tzar took active part in design and even actual construction of the fortress, and the first earthwork fortifications were completed within a year. The main architect of Peter and Paul fortress was Domenico Trezini. In a few years they started to rebuild the fortress in brick and it took several decades to do that. The works were completed only in 1740.
Inside the fortress are located many interesting sights such as Peter and Paul’s cathedral, the burial place of Romanov family, Trubetskoy bastion prison, Rocketry museum and many other constant and temporary exhibitions. There are various ticket types, the best idea is to buy either a combined ticket for two most visited sights – the Trubetskoy bastion prison and the Peter and paul cathedral – or if you have time, a single ticket for 5 sights (cathedral, prison, rocketry museum, “History of Peter and Paul fortress” and “History of Petersburg 1703-1718”exhibitions ). Keep in mind that there are generally a lot of exhibitions in the fortress and not all of them are included in the price of the single ticket.
Peter and Paul cathedral
Peter and Paul cathedral, the burial place of many Russian tzars, is the most frequently-visited sight on the territory of the fortress. This elegant cathedral by Domenico Trezzini is the second tallest building in modern St Petersburg after the television tower. Its heights is 122.5 meters(almost 402 feet) and the golden spire is 56 meters high. The spire is crowned with a figure of an angel that is one of the main symbols of Saint-Petersburg. They say that the silhouette of the belltower of Peterand Paul cathedral resembled to the contemporaries the figure of Peter the Great and was a kind of a monument to the tzar.
Indeed, Peter and Paul cathedral is quite different from traditional orthodox churches and it was a real monument to the new, «European» Russia Peter was trying to create and to the tzar himself. Oil paintings instead of traditional icons, rectangular shape of the temple instead of traditional cross and even trophy flags on the walls – these are only some examples of how the new cathedral was different from traditional ones.
Peter and Paul cathedral is the burial place for many Russian tzars including Nicolas II and the members of his family. Also in the cathedral found their peace three servants and the personal doctor of the last royal family who stayed loyal till the very end, refused to leave and as a result were executed together with their masters.
The Trubetskoy bastion prison
Almost from the very beginning Peter and Paul fortress was used as a political prison. In different periods of history in its casemates were kept prince Aleksey – the son of Peter the Great, Fyodor Dostoevsky, elder brother of Lenin and, after October revolution, four great dukes from Romanov family who were later executed.
Only one prison – the prison of Trubetskoy bastion – preserved to our days. Used for solitary confinement of political prisoners, it served as a prison till 1921. In 1924 it became a museum. You can visit it to imagine the way of life of its prisoners.