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Peter & Paul Fortress with Cathedral

TOUR PETER PAUL FORTRESS AND CATHEDRAL WITH US: St. Petersburg Sightseeing Tour with Peter Paul Fortress for cruise passengers,  St. Petersburg Sightseeing Tour with Peter Paul Fortress for independent travelers

In 1700, Emperor Peter the Great and his allies began the 21 year long Northern War against Sweden. After a nearly disastrous defeat at the battle of Narva, Peter reorganized the Russian military and used his magnificently westernized navy to finally defeat the Swedes. By capturing two Swedish fortresses, Noteburg and Nienchanz, Russia gained control of the Baltic Sea. To maintain Russian ascendancy in the Baltic Sea, Peter the Great established the fortress, named Sankt Petersburg, later Peter & Paul Fortress. Since then, 27th, May, 1703, is considered St. Petersburg Foundation Day. The work on the fortress proceeded very quickly because Peter the Great expected an attack of the Swedish Navy from the Gulf of Finland. The fort occupies the whole of The Island of Hares (Zayatchy Ostrov) which was extremely important at the time because there was no way an enemy could get to the area without passing the fortress. In 1718 the fortress became a state political prison when Peter's 28-year old rebellious son was imprisoned in the Trubetskoy Bastion and beaten to death there. Alexey was the first political prisoner to be tortured to death and buried in the fortress. Some other famous prisoners were the writers Dostoevsky, Chernyshevsky and Gorky. In 1887 Lenin's brother was imprisoned here for the attempt to kill Czar Alexander III and was later executed.

Peter Paul Fortress Peter Paul Fortress Peter Paul Fortress

Thus, the fortress originally built to protect the city, in practice, became a prison for Russians, the so called 'Russian Bastille'. Its status was only changed in 1918 when it became a city museum.

At the very centre of the fortress is Peter & Paul Cathedral. At its height of 122.5 m (366FT) it makes the tallest architectural construction in the city. The cathedral played the prime role in the religious and political life of Russia since St. Petersburg had become its capital in 1712 all the way up to 1918.

It was also a symbolic centre of the Russian Empire as it is a burial site of many of the imperial family. For 200 years all Russian rulers form Peter I to Alexander III (except Peter II and Ivan IV) and their families were buried here. The idea of burying rulers in a church was based on the idea of divine rule, which was widespread throughout all Christian countries.

Peter the Great, his wife Catherine I, Empress Elizabeth, prince Peter III, empress Catherine the Great, Paul I and his spouse Maria, Emperor Alexander I (during whose reign Napoleon was defeated), Nickolas I, Alexander II (whom Spilled Blood Churh memorial is dedicated), Alexander III and more were buried there. The ashes of the last imperial family (Nickolas II, Alexandra, their daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and son Alexey), who had been murdered in 1918, were transferred to the cathedral in 1998.

The last Romanov, who died in 1992 in France, is also buried there.

Besides the above mentioned facts, Peter & Paul Cathedral is undoubtedly a unique baroque construction, that miraculously survived The Siege of Leningrad. Considered Swiss architect 'Domenico Trezzini's best work', it ranks among the most remarkable monuments of baroque architecture.

The fortress is a must-see during your first visit to St. Petersburg. It is from here that the city started and grew. You will walk on the fortress grounds, visit the cathedral to see tombs of the Romanovs, walk through the 150m (450FT) secret passage in the fortress wall, pass by the first Petersburg Mint that still runs and produces coins and medals, and, maybe, hear the loud cannon shot at noon, carrying on the centuries-old tradition of announcing lunch time.

Fortress Open: daily, 10:00am - 8:00pm.

Cathedral closed: on Wednesdays (October-April).

Tourists' remarks

" ... The Cathedral of St. Peter & Paul (next to Peter & Paul Fortress) is a plain looking church from the outside, but it has a stunning baroque interior. A statue of Peter the Great stands between this and the fortress, rubbing his finger brings good luck ..."

" ... You can't come to St. Petersburg and not visit Peter and Paul Fortress. I've been here several times--it's so large, each time there's always something new for me to check out. There's actually a lot of small museums and exhibits scattered throughout the fortress. The Cathedral is the main building to see. I'm amazed that so many emperor's are still here, laid to rest in beautiful marble tombs. The gift shop in the cathedral has some neat baubles for sale. The other exhibits are less popular, which is nice, because you can enjoy them quietly without other tourists in your way. But some of them can be a little hard to find. As someone interested in Petersburg history, I especially enjoyed the prison cells and the temporary exhibit in the center of the fortress. The rocket museum was also pretty impressive (so many rocket engines!). Sadly my Russian isn't quite up to reading about the technical specs of engine machinery. Don't expect the smaller exhibits to have much English signage ..."

" ... The only negative is that the food options at the fortress are pretty crummy. The little fast food stands inside are sub-par, as is the silly dungeon-themed restaurant next to the rocket museum ..."

" ... Peter and Paul Fortress is one of the first buildings constructed in the city. It has been home to many unwilling guests, including Dostoyevsky. In its dungeons, Peter the Great killed his son and Catherine the Great buried her enemies alive. All the czars from Peter the Great to the last Romanovs are interred in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral there. Be sure to visit the small room in its cathedral where Nicholas II and his family are entombed. Outside, you'll see an unusual statue of Peter the Great: It's the object of some derision in Russia as the great czar is seated most unheroically in an armchair. Past the statue and to the right is the Trubetskoy Bastion, where numerous prisoners awaited their fate. ..."

" ... Being first generation in this country from my father's Russian side it was very moving to come to a country and city that I'd heard many stories about growing up. We were in St Petersburg 3 years ago and spent several days albeit as independent travelers. The Peter and Paul Fortress was very interesting -- the high walls and view of the Neva was amazing. Going into the Cathedral to see the crypts was a very moving moment ..."

"... There's a massive bell tower in the cathedral, and as we walked into the fortress (it's on this kind of island on the Neva) the bells were all chiming - it was a really gloomy, overcast day, so it was pretty creepy. The buildings are really beautiful, though ..."
 

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