Shlisselburg Fortress

Shlisselburg, Russia

Shlisselburg (originally Schlüsselburg or Nöteborg) was one of the most important medieval fortresses in the northwest Russia. It is located to the head of the Neva River on Lake Ladoga. Today the fortress and the city center are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The first fortification was built by Swedes in 1299 but was lost to the Novgorodians in 1301. A wooden fortress named Oreshek was built by Grand Prince Yury of Moscow (in his capacity as Prince of Novgorod) on behalf of the Novgorod Republic in 1323. It guarded the northern approaches to Novgorod and access to the Baltic Sea.

After a series of conflicts, a peace treaty, was signed at Oreshek on August 12, 1323, between Sweden and Grand Prince Yury and the Novgorod Republic which was the first agreement on the border between Eastern and Western Christianity running through present-day Finland. A modern stone monument to the north of the Church of St. John in the fortress commemorates the treaty. Twenty-five years later, King Magnus Eriksson attacked and briefly took the fortress during his crusade in the region (1348–1352). It was largely ruined by the time the Novgorodians retook the fortress in 1351. The fortress was rebuilt in stone in 1352 by Archbishop Vasilii Kalika of Novgorod (1330–1352), who, according to the Novgorod First Chronicle, was sent by the Novgorodians after several Russian and Lithuanian princes ignored the city's pleas to help them rebuild and defend the fort. The remnants of the walls of 1352 were excavated in 1969 and can be seen just north of the Church of St. John in the center of the present fortress.

The fort was captured by Sweden in 1611 during the Ingrian War. As part of the Swedish Empire, the fortress was known as Nöteborg and became the center of the north-Ingrian Nöteborg county. In 1702, during the Great Northern War, the fortress was taken by Russians under Peter the Great in an amphibious assault: 250 Swedish soldiers defended the fort for 10 days before they surrendered. The Russian losses were 6000 men against 110 Swedish losses. It was then given its current name, Shlisselburg, a transcription of Schlüsselburg. The name, meaning "Key-fortress" in German, refers to Peter's perception of the fortress as the "key to Ingria".

During the times of Imperial Russia, the fortress was used as a notorious political prison; among its famous prisoners were Wilhelm Küchelbecker, Mikhail Bakunin and, for 38 years, Walerian Łukasiński. Ivan VI of Russia was murdered in the fortress in 1764, and Lenin's brother, Aleksandr Ulyanov, was hanged there as well.

Out of ten towers, the fortress retains only six (five Russian and one Swedish). The remains of a church inside the fortress were transformed into a memorial to the fortress's defenders. The fortress has been the site of an annual rock concert since 2003. There is also a museum of political prisoners of the Russian Empire, and a small collection of World War II artillery.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



Interesting Sites Nearby

User Reviews

Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kromeriz Castle and Gardens

Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).

It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.

After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.

UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.

Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.