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Peter and Paul Fortress. Museum. Places to visit. St. Petersburg. Saint Petersburg.

Peter and Paul Fortress


Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress is architectural and historical center of Saint-Petersburg. The fortress was designed to protect the Neva lands that were won from the Swedes during the Northern War (1700 - 21). Its powerful stone walls rising almost out of the water, and the cathedral spire soaring into the skies, make up a unique view opening from afar as a part of the wide Neva panorama.

A Neva island called Zayachy (Hare) or Vesioly (Cheerful) was chosen as a construction site; its
 location was unique from the 
military point of view. The 
wide, deep Neva 
served to protect 
the fortress, while 
the latter, in its turn, 
was covering the 
entrance to the 
Neva from the Gulf 
of Finland. The whole
island built up because 
of its small size.

On 16 May (27 May, New Style), 
1703, the foundation of the fortress was 
laid, that was to be named Saint-Petersburg. 
This day is considered to be the day when the 
city got its start. The city was soon named after 
the fortress, Saint-Petersburg. Meanwhile the 
fortress acquired the name of Peter and Paul (after the name of the cathedral built there).

Construction of the earthen and wooden fortifications was completed by the autumn of 1703. The outlines of the fortress depended on the shape of the island proper; it was designed in the shape of an elongated hexagon with six projecting bastions. In 1706 they started to rebuild the wooden fortress in stone; the reconstruction lasted till 1740. This work was entrusted to D.Trezzini, the forts fortifier and architect of the new capital.

The Peter and Paul Fortress was put up for fortification purposes; however, it had never been used as such. Beginning from 1718 it was turned into a prison for political convicts. Since 1924 Peter and Paul Fortress has been a museum.

The Peter and Paul Cathedral is a unique sample of Russian 18th-century architecture that has reached us. Its grand multi-tier belfry with a gilt spire is an architectural dominant of the city, an integral part of its silhouette. The Peter and Paul Cathedral had for almost two centuries served as a burial-place for Russian emperors. This was done at the order of Peter I, who is himself buried at the southern wall of the cathedral.

For a long time the cathedral had performed the functions of the museum of Russian military glory, where enemy banners, keys of the cities and fortresses captured by Russian troops were kept. In the early 20th century all the trophies were transferred to museums. The cathedral now holds replicas of captured Swedish and Turkish banners. The building, topped with a dome and a bulbous cupola is perceived as an integral part of the cathedral. In front of the entrance a fence was put up, designed on the model of the Summer Gardens railing.



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