Peter and Paul Fortress
Excursions with Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress occupies the special place in the history of Saint Petersburg. The exact date of the fortress foundation at Zayachiy Island — 16 (27) May of 1703 — is considered to be the city's birthday.
The construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress began by order of Peter the Great. The tsar itself worked out the fortress' design shaping it in a form of the hexagon with bastions in its angles. Originally the fortress was called Saint Petersburg Fortress but later changed its name to the Peter and Paul Fortress in honor of the Peter and Paul Cathedral erected in its very center.
First buildings and fortification of the Peter and Paul Fortress were made of timber but since 1706 they were systematically replaced with stone ones. The works were directed by known architect D. Trezini. A fully formed ensemble of the fortress included along with fortifications the Artillery armory, the Commandant's House, the Engineers House, the Mint, the Treasury, the Guardhouse and others. The main part of the ensemble is the Peter and Paul Cathedral built according to Trezini's project in 1713-1733. A gilded spire crowned with a flying angel became one of the most famous views of Saint Petersburg. Many Russian monarchs were buried within the cathedral's walls, among them Peter the Great himself. Since 1998 the Peter and Paul Cathedral houses remains of Nicolas II, the last Russian Emperor, and his family.
Though the Peter and Paul Fortress was built for the defense of Saint Petersburg, in the XVIII-th and XIX-th centuries it was used mainly as a political prison. Many Russian conspirators and revolutionaries were confined there in different times, including Decembrists, writer N. Tchernyshevsky and famous Maxim Gorky. The history of this prison registers no one successful breakout.
After the October revolution of 1917 the Peter and Paul Fortress was turned into the museum. Nowadays the territory of the fortress is a historical and cultural reserve. Visitors are welcome to see interesting exhibitions dedicated to the history of Saint Petersburg and Peter and Paul Fortress itself, history of political prisons in Russia and rocket and missile engineering in USSR. The daily canon shot of the fortress' Naryshkin bastion marks the high noon in Saint Petersburg. Every year in 27 of May the Peter and Paul Fortress becomes a place of a solemn and colorful birthday festival.