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.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.