Date of visit: 21st October 2015
The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral built in the 17th century which has a 122.5 m bell-tower (the tallest in the city centre) and a gilded angel-topped cupola. The cathedral is the burial place of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III, with the exception of Peter II and Ivan VI. The remains of Nicholas II and his family and entourage were re-interred there, in the side St. Catherine's Chapel, on July 17, 1998, the 80th anniversary of their deaths. Toward the end of 2006, the remains of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna were brought from Roskilde Cathedral outside Copenhagen and reinterred next to her husband, Alexander III. Sigh, I missed a chance to see Peter the Great's and his family tomb.
I came to know about "smelov.photo" on Instagram when he likes one of my St Petersburg photo that I shared in IG. From there on I became his follower. He is a Russian living in St Petersburg. Do visit his photography site to see how talented he was/is in snapping beautiful scenery through his lenses. As I do not have any jaw dropping photo to describe a beauty of Peter & Paul Fortress to share as a teaser, I wish to share 1 from another worthy website, travelphotographyguru that you may find assisting in improving your photography skill. Anyway, we did not enter the fortress through the front gate. So, from the other entrance, what we encountered are the jail cell that gave a scary feeling.
|Photo by "http://travelphotographyguru.com/russia/"|
Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg in Russia as founded by Peter the Great in 1703. The complex was built using Domenico Trezzini's designs from 1706 till 1740. In the early 20th century, it was still used as a prison by the tsarist (king's) government. Today it has been adapted as the central and most important part of the State Museum of Saint Petersburg History. The museum has gradually become virtually the sole owner of the fortress building, except the structure occupied by the Saint Petersburg Mint. It's a pity that we did not have a chance to peek inside the museum, of what I've seen from the website is deserve to be visited.
The fortress is the first structure being built in St. Petersburg, and thus the birthplace of the city. However it never served its intended defensive function as no country would dare to instigate war with Russia, including America. What they can afford to do is through a Hollywood movie that keep on provoking Russia as if to portray that the Russian is a bad people and a bad country. If you don't believe me, see some of the conversation in the recent movie, "London has Fallen". This fortress has had a rich, hugely varied, and sometimes sinister history as a military base, a home of government departments, the burial ground of the Russian Imperial family, the site of ground breaking scientific experiments, and a forbidding jail that held some of Russia's most prominent political prisoners instead of being in defensive fortress.
The place where the city of St. Petersburg began, the Peter and Paul Fortress never actually saw military action, but has fulfilled a variety of functions over its 3 century history, from burial place for nearly all of the Romanov Emperors and Empresses to notorious political prison to the site of key experiments in the development of Soviet rocket technology. All of these aspects of the fortresses history are celebrated in diverse exhibitions across various buildings, and it is the ramshackle charms of these various museums and collections as much as the grandeur of the spectacular St. Petersburg and Paul Cathedral that make the fortress an essential visitor attraction.
Today, the Peter and Paul Fortress is for the most part under the auspices of the St. Petersburg Museum of History, with a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions charting the various aspects of the compound's past. While the central visitor attraction is undoubtedly the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, one of St. Petersburg's most striking buildings, there is plenty within the walls of the fortress to keep children and adults occupied for a full day at least. The Peter and Paul Fortress is also the centre of a number of St. Petersburg urban traditions, among them the daily firing of the cannon from the Naryshkin Bastion at noon and the "walruses" who use the beach in front of the fortress to sunbathe and swim in ice-holes in the winter. In the summer, the beach is a popular picnic site and is also used to host a variety of events, festivals and concerts, including the respected Petrojazz annual festival.
The Grand Ducal Mausoleum, built in the Neo Baroque style in 1896 under Leon Benois's supervision is connected to the cathedral by a corridor. It was constructed in order to remove the remains of some of the non-reigning Romanovs from the cathedral, where there was scarcely any room for new burials. The mausoleum was expected to hold up to sixty tombs, but by the time of the Russian Revolution, there were thirteen. The latest burial was of Nicholas II's first cousin once removed, Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrilovich (1992). The remains of his parents, Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich and his wife Viktoria Fyodorovna, were transferred to the mausoleum from Coburg in 1995.
Other structures inside the fortress include the still functioning mint building that is constructed to Antonio Porta's designs under Emperor Paul, the Trubetskoy Bastion with its grim prison cells, and the city museum. According to a centuries-old tradition, a cannon is fired each noon from the Naryshkin Bastion. Annual celebrations of the city day, held on 27th May are normally centered on the island where the city was born. The fortress walls overlook sandy beaches that have become among the most popular in St. Petersburg. In summer, the beach is often overcrowded, especially when a major sand festival takes place on the shore.
It is actually possible to spend the best part of a full day at the Peter and Paul Fortress, and if possible you should definitely take either the first or the second half of the day to visit the Peter and Paul Cathedral, explore the displays on the History of St. Petersburg in the Commandant's House and at the Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Techonolgy, and also walk along the top of the curtain wall. Something we didn't do as a visit to this magnificent island was a recommendation by the taxi driver. We did not included this place originally in our planned itinerary.