History of Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg | Russia Tour Packages

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Why Visit the Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress was built to defend the city from naval attacks in the midst of Peter the Great's war with Sweden. The original earth and log bastions were constructed in 1704 under the Tsar's supervision and 5 of his closest associates.

Fortunately, at the time of its construction, King Charles XII of Sweden remained tied up in a war with Augustus II of Poland and Saxony, and in 1706 Peter ordered the bastions rebuilt in stone by architect Domenico Trezzini and engineer Burchard Christophe von Minnich.

In addition to the bastions, he commissioned Trezzini to construct the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral inside the citadel. The fortress was completed in 1733 after more than two decades of work, and luckily no external enemy ever put it to the test, either before it was completed or after.

The bell-tower served as the city’s watchtower and became its signature building. Its gilded, angel-topped cupola stretched high into the sky symbolized Russia’s aspirations to become a European power. Among the other highlights of the fortress are the Commandant’s House, the Engineer’s House, and the Mint.

To the east of the cathedral stands the Commandants’ cemetery - the designated burial location for those who served in the Russian army's prior positions.

The Peter and Paul Fortress Today

Nowadays, the fortress encompasses a tomb at the base of the elegant spire and is the last resting place of every Russian ruler, starting from Peter the Great to Alexander III. In 1998 the remains of Nicholas II and his family were also moved there to join their royal ancestors' remains.

The Trubetskoy Bastion became home to one of Imperial Russia's most infamous prisons. Used for high-ranking political detainees, it became known as the “Russian Bastille.” It housed such high profile prisoners as the Decembrist Rebellion leaders as well as writers Fedor Dostoyevsky and Maxim Gorky.

By the 1870s, the prison was converted into a history museum, which it remained for the later part of the Imperial period. Further exhibits were later moved into the Engineer’s House, both of which serve today as tourist attractions.

Today Peter and Paul Fortress is one of the most prominent St. Petersburg landmarks open to the public and can become a remarkable highlight of your St. Petersburg city tour. Don't miss it!