PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS (State Museum of the History of St-Petersburg)

Address: 3, Peter and Paul fortress
Day off: Wednesday
PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS (State Museum of the History of St-Petersburg)

The Peter and Paul Fortress is a unique open-air monument of architecture and history of St-Petersburg. The fortress was founded on the small Hare Island on the 16th (27) of May 1703 in the course of the Northern War. This date is considered to be the date of the foundation of the city. The history of the fortress is associated with the struggle of the Russian people for the northern Novgorodian lands. According to the concept of Tsar Peter the Great, the new fortifications were built to protect the Neva banks from the Swedes to prevent the enemy ships to enter the Neva on the side of the Gulf of Finland. The Peter and Paul Fortress, however, has never participated in combat actions. Since the 18th century it served as a political prison for state criminals and revolutionaries.

The fortress presents an extended hexagon. Originally the walls were made of wood and earth, but in 1706 a work on its reconstruction in stone according to a project of Domenico Trezzini, the first architect of St-Petersburg, began to last for 35 years. The construction of bastions was personally supervised by Peter the Great and his associates, hence their names – the Tsar, Naryshkin, Trubetskoi, Zotov, Golovkin and Menshikov Bastions. The wooden Peter Gate served as the main entrance to the fortress. Built in 1707-1708 to a project by Domenico Trezzini in the shape of a triumphal arch, the gate was adorned with a life-size statue of St-Peter. Depicted in the upper part of the gate were God Sabaoth amidst clouds and trophies; lower one could see the wooden bas-relief The Magician Simon Cast Down by the Apostle Peter – an allegorical representation of Russian’s victory over Sweden in the Northern War.

Ten years later, in 1718, the Peter Gate was rebuilt I stone to a project by Trezzini. The architect preserved his original concept and shifted the bus-relief by Karl Ossner and carved decorations to the new gate. In 1720 the state emblem of Russia – the double-headed eagle, a lead structure weighting 1069 kilograms – appeared above the gate. Installed in the side niches of the gate are statues of the mythological deities Minerva and Bellona personifying the state wisdom and military talent of Peter the Great, the founder of the city.

While being within the walls of the fortress, one cannot help admiring the genius of the architect Domenico Trezzini, who designed many of its buildings, including a true masterpiece of 18th century Russian architecture, the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, erected in 1712-1733. The bell-tower with a gilded spire, the cross and the “flying” Angel became a symbol of St-Petersburg. Visitors are stuck by the majesty and perfection of the iconostasis of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, carved in wood in 1722-1727 from drawings by the Moscow architect Ivan Zarudny.

Before the October Revolution of 1917 the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral served as the burial vault of the Russian Tsars and members of the imperial family. On the 17th of July 1998 a ceremony of the burial of the remains of Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, the members of his family and their attendants, shot by the Bolsheviks in 1918 in Ekaterinburg.

Since 1954 the Peter and Paul Fortress houses the Museum of the History of St-Petersburg: in its numerous buildings and structures are arranged permanent displays illustrating the history of the northern capital and the Peter and Paul Fortress as well as the Museum of Cosmic Exploration and Rocket Technology.

Every day at twelve sharp a midday shot is fired from the Naryshkin Bastion in keeping with the tradition initiated by Peter the Great himself.