The Boyen Fortress in Giżycko was built between 1843 and 1855 as a point of strategic importance as it blocked the pass between lakes Niegocin and Kisajno. In early April 1843, King Frederick Wilhelm IV gave the order to start construction of the fortress. A plan was developed according to which an earth-and-brick fort was to be erected on the plan of a hexagon. The fort was to be connected with the mainland by four access roads, and the entire structure was to be surrounded by a 2303m long wall. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone, which took place on 4 September 1844, was the beginning of the proper construction of the fortress.
In 1846, a decision was made to honour one of the supporters and initiators of the fortress, General von Boyen, by naming the fortress after him. Its bastions were named Hermann, Ludwig, Leopold (all of which were the General’s given names) as well as Schwert, Recht and Licht (which stood for the symbols that could be found in the General’s coat of arms, i.e. Sword, Law and Light).
The Fortress was designed for a garrison of approximately 3000 soldiers. The Giżycko Garrison was formed in 1859. From 1889 on, Giżycko served as the Commander’s Post, and in 1902, the Fortress Boyen came to house an artillery arsenal.
On the brink of World War I, the natural ground formations combined with the battlements erected near the fortress were to fend off the Russian Army, which was about to enter Eastern Prussia, until the situation was decided on the western front. At that point, the fort in Giżycko also played a key role in the military mobilisation in Mazuria, and once the mobilisation was complete and most of the forces marched out of Giżycko, the town was left with a party of about 4000 soldiers commanded by Colonel Busse. The party carried out numerous raids on the units of the approaching Russian Army, and later, in August 1914, effectively defended the Boyen Fortress against the Russian offensive.
After World War I, the function of the fortress was changed to include, for instance, a hospital within its walls. Just before World War 2, the Boyen Fortress was one of the gathering points of the German Army, which later invaded the territory of Poland from Eastern Prussia. The crew of the Lötzen Fortress was part of the Nord Army pushing towards Mława and Modlin and fought in numerous battles, including that on The Wizna River. During the war, the fort served as a training centre for soldiers from General Vlasov’s army, who had defected to the German side. When the town was attacked in January 1945, the Fortress was abandoned without resistance.
In 1945, the Boyen Fortress was taken over by the Polish Army, which used it to a limited extent. In the 1950s, a decision was made to use the fort as a location for a number of food companies, which resulted in much transformation and a lot of damage, and, most importantly, the construction of new buildings which differed greatly from the fort’s original architecture. This situation continued until the early 1990s, when most of the companies were closed down. It is since than that the Boyen Fortress has been a popular tourist destination.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.