Peter and Paul Fortress

Vantage Point

  • 14 Oct - 20 Oct, 2017
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Panorama

Housing a cathedral where the Romanovs are buried, a former prison and various exhibitions, this large defensive fortress on Zayachy Island is the kernel from which St Petersburg grew into the city it is today. The main entrance is across the Ioannovsky Bridge at the island's northeast end; there's also access via the Kronwerk Bridge.

Peter and Paul Cathedral is justly regarded one of the main attractions of the fortress. It was built in 1712–1733 as the main cathedral of St Petersburg, new capital of the Russian Empire. Designed in Baroque style by Dominico Trezzini, it combines typical features of West-European and Italian church architecture. It is rectangular in shape, with the dome on the eastern end and a belfry with a 402 feet high spire on the western entrance.

The cathedral is the symbolic centre of Russia because it is the burial place of many of the imperial family. For two hundred years all Russian rulers from Peter I to Nicolas II (except Peter II and Ivan VI) and their families were buried here. The lids of the tombs are decorated with large bronze cross coated in pure gold, tombs of the rulers have four bronze emblems of the Russian Empire at four corners.

In 2013 a permanent exhibition “Collection of furniture of the XVIII – early XX century” was opened for visitors. The collection is taken from the decorative and applied arts fund of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg. The decorative and applied arts fund collection of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg has about 6000 items: furniture (about 4000 items), clocks and illumination devices of the XVIII – XX centuries.

There is a monument to Peter I by well-known sculptor Mikhail Shemyakin. The monument was erected in 1991. The Art Deco-style sculpture was designed to resemble the wax figure made after the Emperor’s death. The Boat House in the centre of Cathedral Square was built at the beginning of Catherine the Great’s reign in honour of the “grandfather of the Russian fleet” – a small boat that was gifted by the English to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, the father of Peter the Great.

The square’s southern side is occupied by the Commandant’s House. The second floor was the residential quarter for the fortress’ superintendent, while the ground floor was used for offices. Today, the building houses a museum about St. Petersburg’s pre-revolutionary history.

The entire eastern side of Cathedral Square is taken up by the facade of the Mint. This semi-palace and semi-fortress was built in the French Neo-Classical style. It continues to mint Russian coins and make medals to this day.

If you leave the fortress through the Vasilievsky Gate, you will reach the helipad from where you can take an airborne tour of the city. If you head to the opposite side, skirting around the Mint, you will end up near the prison in the Trubetskoy Bastion. In 1872, a two-storey prison comprising 69 single cells was built in the inner courtyard of the Trubetskoy Bastion.