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Peter and Paul Fortress - the most famous landmark of St. Petersburg

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Main view of the Peter and Paul Fortress
Main View of the Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress is located on the Hare ('Zayachy') island in the delta of the Neva river. It is the oldest construction in the St. Petersburg, Moreover, the construction of the city began just from the Peter and Paul Fortress on 27 May (May 16, old style), 1703.

The Russian state turned into an empire during the Northern War, when all the countries of northern Europe fought against the Swedes. Peter the Great, the first Russian emperor who founded St. Petersburg, personally chose a place for the construction of a fortress, and his gaze fell on 'Zayachy' Island.

Brief history of the Fortress

As it was written earlier, the Peter and Paul Fortress, first of all, was built with a defensive purpose. The fortress was built according to all modern trends of that time - in shape it was an elongated six-pointed star.

From a bird's eye view, it is also a form of a fortress that reminds many of a turtle. The construction was led by the French engineer and General Joseph Lambert. The fortress was built very quickly - in just one year.

«Golovkin» Bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress
«Golovkin» Bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress

The fortress consists of six bastions, which are named after the associates of Peter the Great: «Trubetskoy», «Zotov», «Naryshkin», «Menshikov», «Golovkin» and «Gosudarev». The latter was supposed to be named after Tsarevich Alexei, but this did not happen - he was accused of conspiracy and became the first prisoner of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Also on the territory of the hare island there are two ravelins - an additional fortification, one in the eastern part - named «Ioannovsky» and one in the western - «Alekseevsky».

Since the first day the fortress was built, it has never been attacked. Therefore, the fortresses have found another use: It has become the main prison in Russia for political prisoners. One of the first prisoners of the fortress was Tsarevich Alexei, who was kept in the Trubetskoy bastion. He died or was secretly murdered in the fortress in 1718. After another palace coup, when Elizabeth Petrovna came to the throne, her political opponents — Biron, Osterman, Minich, Mengden and others were planted in the fortress. From there they were sent into exile.

In the middle of the XVIII century, the Peter and Paul Fortress was rebuilt in stone, because it was originally wooden. The Kronverk was dug - it is an earthen rampart in the shape of a crown, located in the northern part of the fort. Later, in the middle of the XX century, a second bridge over the canal was built.

Kronverk of the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg
Kronverk of the Peter and Paul Fortress

The real pearl of the fortress is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which was built inside the fortress by the Italian architect Domenico Trezzini in 1712-1732. The main recognizable feature of the cathedral is a forty-meter spire with a cross and an angel on its top.Also, the Peter and Paul Cathedral was the tomb of Russian emperors from Peter the Great to Alexander III.

In 1924, the Peter and Paul Fortress turned into a museum complex, which is still a carrier of history and is one of the main symbols of St. Petersburg. Imperial tombs and royal chambers are available for visitors to the fortress. Also on the bell tower of the cathedral is the largest collection of bells in the world, which is also worth seeing.

Midday Shot

During the time of Peter the Great, a shot from the cannon of the Peter and Paul Fortress was heard in honor of military victories, on holidays, and also to warn residents about the rise in the water level of the Neva. Initially, the cannon stood on the «Gosudarev» bastion, but later it was moved to the «Naryshkin» bastion.

Midday shot at the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg
Cannon on the «Naryshkin» bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress

Since 1873, a new tradition has appeared in St. Petersburg - a shot from a cannon at exactly noon. Residents of the city even checked their watches by the shot. The gun was silent only in times of revolutions and wars. However, nowadays the gunshot can be heard every day at 12 noon.

Peter and Paul Fortress is a majestic monument of architecture! In order to see it, it is worth going to St. Petersburg. If you are ever in our city, we can provide you with Russian language lessons, individual or group walks around the city with English-speaking guides, as well as accommodation in comfortable hotels. All information is on our website, we are waiting for you!

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