Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Petersburg: where history itself lives

Maria Selezneva | Live the World

November 23, 2022

When you come to a new city, it’s always interesting to visit places considered to be ‘the ones from which everything started’. So, in Saint Petersburg, there is also such a place. It's the Peter and Paul Fortress (in Russian: ‘Petropavlovskaya Krepost’) located on Hare Island. Place where history itself lives is undeniably the one you should visit for sure. Besides, it’s a fortification that has never been used for battles, and that’s what makes Peter and Paul Fortress quite unique.

This is very Saint Petersburg

© istock/Syntheticmessiah

The day of the Peter and Paul Fortress foundation is considered to be the date of Saint Petersburg foundation, too. It was on May 27, 1703, during the Great Northern War, a conflict between Sweden and a coalition of states led by Russia. Then, some territories close to the Neva River were conquered by Russian forces, and they needed to be protected. Rumor has it, that then Tsar Peter the Great,** the founder of Saint Petersburg chose the place for the future fortress** himself.

Also, Peter the Great contributed to the creation of drawings himself. It was decided that the core of the fortress would be a citadel in the shape of a hexagonal star. Initially, everything was made out of wood, and later stones were used to rebuild it. In 1712, the construction of Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral started. Later, it became a crypt for Russian emperors and empresses. Peter the Great was also buried there in 1731, more than six years after he passed away. Today, Peter and Paul Cathedral is the most beautiful building of the whole fortress. Its belfry with a golden spire, crowned by flying angel, is one of the most iconic views of Saint Petersburg. 

What happened next

© istock/VitalyEdush

Despite the fact that Peter and Paul Fortress hadn’t ever been used for war action or defense, it hosted a prison, sometimes called a ‘Russian Bastille’. The fortress went through hard times during the October Revolution, and afterward, as it faced many deaths. In 1924, Peter and Paul Fortress became a museum. At some point, it was decided to tear down the fortress and build a stadium instead of it, but luckily that project was never realized.

Museums of Peter and Paul Fortress

© istock/VitalyEdush

Now, being a part of the State Museum of History of Saint Petersburg, Peter and Paul Fortress is also a home to different museums. Not only visitors may come and see the relic of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, or hear carillon (big bell) sound during special concerts, but also take a look at exposition in the Museum of Science and Technology, or the V. P. Glushko Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology, or the Museum of Ceramics (KERAMARKH). Also, guests can learn a lot about Saint Petersburg, or Petrograd, as it was called in history. There are plenty of things to do and to see there. One of the most popular attractions of the Peter and Paul Fortress is a monument to Peter the Great, depicting him in an unusual manner: the proportions of his body were multiplied for one and half times, but the head resumed smaller. 

Being one of the oldest historical buildings in Saint Petersburg, the Peter and Paul Fortress symbolizes the city itself, connecting present to the past. Visiting this place, where history itself lives, one can sense it. Don’t forget to take pictures of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, as the flying angel looks very inspiring.

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