Peter and Paul Fortress

Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Peter and Paul Fortress fortress was established by Peter the Great in 1703 on small Hare Island by the north bank of the Neva River, the last upstream island of the Neva delta. Built at the height of the Northern War in order to protect the projected capital from a feared Swedish counterattack, the fort never fulfilled its martial purpose. The citadel was completed with six bastions in earth and timber within a year, and it was rebuilt in stone from 1706-1740.

From around 1720, the fort served as a base for the city garrison and also as a prison for high-ranking or political prisoners. The Trubetskoy bastion, rebuilt in the 1870s, became the main prison block. The first person to escape from the fortress prison (now an important destination for tourists) was the anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin in 1876. Other people incarcerated in the 'Russian Bastille' include Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich, Artemy Volynsky, Tadeusz Kościuszko, Alexander Radishchev, theDecembrists, Grigory Danilevsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mikhail Bakunin, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Leon Trotsky and Josip Broz Tito.

During the February Revolution of 1917, it was attacked by mutinous soldiers of the Pavlovskii regiment and the prisoners were freed. Under the Provisional Government hundreds of Tsarist officials were held in the Fortress. The Tsar was threatened with being incarcerated at the Fortress on his return from Mogilev to Tsarskoe Selo, but the threat was not followed through and he was placed under house arrest.

On October 25 1917 the Fortress again quickly came into Bolshevik hands. Following the ultimatum from the Petrograd Soviet to the Provisional Government ministers in the Winter Palace, after the blank salvo of the Cruiser Aurora at 21.00, the guns of the Fortress fired 30 or so shells at the Winter Palace. Only two actually hit, inflicting minor damage, and the defenders refused to surrender– at that time. At 02.10 on the morning of October 26 the Winter Palace was taken by forces under Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, the captured ministers were taken to the Fortress as prisoners.

In 1924, most of the site was converted to a museum. In 1931, the Gas Dynamics Laboratory was added to the site. The structure suffered heavy damage during the bombardment of the city during WW II by the German army who were laying siege to the city. It has been faithfully restored post-war.

The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral (1712–1733), which has a 123.2 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 also interred there, in the side St. Catherine"s Chapel, on the 80th anniversary of their deaths, July 17, 1998. Towards the end of 2006, the remains of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna were brought from Roskilde Cathedral outside Copenhagen to finally rest next to her husband, Alexander III.

The newer Grand Ducal Mausoleum (built in the Neo-Baroque style under Leon Benois"s supervision in 1896-1908) 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 only thirteen. The latest burial there 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 (constructed to Antonio Porta"s designs under Emperor Paul), the Trubetskoy and Alekseyevsky bastions with their 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 (May 27) are normally centered on the island where the city was born.

The sandy beaches underneath the fortress walls are 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.

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Founded: 1703
Category: Castles and fortifications in Russia

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4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jens Weber (7 months ago)
I haven't seen all there, but the space history museum is definitely great. spacecraft history from a different perspective, and well done. I have been to the Smithsonian exhibition as well - this one doesn't have to hide, even though the representation is much simpler.
W. T. (7 months ago)
I’m not recommend this place comparing to other tourist destinations. Maybe I had visited so many amazing place and expected too much. For me it was a bit hard to get there. So I took n Uber there..
Hugo Philippe (8 months ago)
The fortress is open for visitors and free of charge as long as you only want to wander around. There are some statues and you can admire the architecture, but to get inside you have to purchase tickets. The ticket counter is to the left if you enter from the northern end. I'd advice only to buy entrance for the church, as it is the most interesting part, but if you have some time on your hands, the other attractions are affordable enough.
Janet For Heaven's Cakes - 4hcakes (8 months ago)
What an amazing visit! We were lucky enough to have this included on our Cruise Excursions 2 day tour. (Tour guide Andre). Beautiful burial place of the Romanov family and their ancestors.
steve kerr (8 months ago)
Breathtaking and stunning. What they don't tell you at the ticket office is your ticket is only valid for 5 areas, and will have to purchase another for other areas. Needs atleast 2 days (ticket is valid for 2 days)
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