Peter and Paul Fortress is a unique example of Russian fortification construction from the early eighteenth century. The history of the fortress is connected with the struggle of Russian people for the outlet to the Baltic Sea. For centuries these lands had been under the authority of Novgorodian principality and were part of ancient trade route “From the Varangians to the Greeks”. Seized by the Swedes in the early 17th century, they were recovered by the Russians during the Great Northern War (1700–1721).
In 1702 – 1703 Russia managed to regain control over the water area of the river Neva, which flows to the Gulf of Finland. The following task was to defend the recaptured territory by building massive fortifications capable of acting as a bulwark. The St Petersburg (Peter and Paul) Fortress was founded on 27 May 1703 on a small Zayachy (Hare) island in the delta of the river Neva. The first fortress was an earth and wood structure.
The ground-plan of the fortress is a stretched hexagon which repeats the shape of the island. Six massive bastions, named after Peter the Great’s closest associates, who supervised their construction, are connected with curtain walls 32–39 feet high and 65 feet thick. Casemates of the fortress were used for storage of weapons and supplies and accommodated barracks for soldiers. In 1705, the additional fortification structure in the form of the crown – crownwork – was built to strengthen the fortress in the north.
In 1706, no longer under threat of Swedish attack, work began to replace earthen walls by stone walls. On May 30, Emperor Peter the Great himself laid the foundation of a new masonry bastion. The reconstruction was completed in the 1740s; in the 1730s two masonry V-shaped outworks – ravelins – were raised in the eastern and western parts of the fortress. Ioannovsky Ravelin was used to protect the main Fortress gate – St. Peter’s Gate – the only triumphal gate remaining from Peter the Great’s time. The gate was designed in 1718 by Domenico Trezzini.
There is a number of historical buildings on the territory of the fortress. Among them are the Engineers’ House and the Commandant’s House – former residence of the fortress’s commandant. Both buildings, raised in the 1740s, are unique examples of the early Baroque style in Russia. The Peter and Paul Fortress houses the Mint (1805), which is the oldest enterprise in St. Petersburg, still producing coins, medals and badges. The Boathouse was designed in the late nineteenth century to accommodate Peter the Great’s boat, which he used to sail as a young man.
One of the main attractions in the fortress is Peter and Paul Cathedral, built in 1712 – 1733 as the main city cathedral. Designed in Baroque style by Domenico Trezzini, it combines typical features of West-European church architecture. Its 402 feet high belfry makes the cathedral the highest architectural structure in the city.
Peter and Paul Cathedral is the symbolic center of Russia because for two hundred years all Russian rulers from Peter I to Nicolas II (except Peter II and Ivan VI) and their families were buried here. Grand Ducal Burial Chapel was designed by David Grimm, Anton Tomishko and Leon Benois as the mausoleum for the Grand Dukes and Duchesses of Russia in 1908.
Adress: Peter and Paul Fortress, 3
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