Peter and Paul Fortress and the Birthday of St. Petersburg

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					Peter and Paul Fortress and the Birthday of St. Petersburg, Russia
The city of St. Petersburg is celebrating its 303 anniversary this year.
Nowadays it is a megapolis with a population of more that 5 million
people, a city with a fascinating history and culture.
However, if we could look at these lands back in the year 1703, we would
find vast marshy lands and small villages scattered here and there.
The foundation of the city dates to the time of the first construction at
this place - Peter and Paul Fortress.
Peter and Paul Fortress was founded in May 1703. After the series of
successful military actions against Sweden, Russian troops pushed the
border far northwest, thus reconstructing the original boundaries of 1613
and gaining the outlet to the Baltic sea.
Peter the Great, then 31-year-old Russian emperor, had decided to protect
the new conquered lands by constructing a fortress and by building a city
- port, which very soon has become known as St. Petersburg.
The Fortress was named after St. Peter and St. Paul, two highly worshiped
saints in Russia. The place that was chosen for the fortress was a small
island in the delta of the Neva river called the "Hare" island. The
construction works started on May 28, 1703 and this date is considered to
be the birthday of St. Petersburg.
The hexagonal shape of the Fortress made it possible to build in the
whole territory of the island. First constructions were made of earth and
wood, but already by 1706 all wooden parts were replaced with stone.
Although the Peter and Paul Fortress was built as a fortification
construction, it was never used as such: never since the 1704 St.
Petersburg lands were under the threat of Swedish invasion.
For almost two centuries it served as a main political prison of the
country. One of the first convicts became Tsarevitch Alexey, the son of
Peter I, who was against the politics of his father.
Among the famous prisoners of Peter and Paul Fortress were Dostoevsky,
Gorky, Trotsky and Lenin's older brother Alexander.
The special place in the fortress ensemble belongs to the Cathedral of
Peter and Paul. It was built in 1713-1733 by architect Tresini on the
place of a wooden church, founded in honor of apostles Peter and Paul.
The cathedral is decorated with gilded spire about 404 ft high, topped
with the weather vane shaped as an Angel, who is said to watch over and
protect the city. The Cathedral of Peter and Paul served as a royal
burial-vault. The founder of the city, Peter the Great died, while this
cathedral was still unfinished. His body was temporally placed in the
specially constructed chapel and then reburied in the new cathedral.
The last burial ceremony in the Cathedral of Peter and Paul took place in
the summer of 1998, on the eightieth anniversary of the execution of
Nicolas II, his wife Alexandra Fedorovna, their children, and servants.
The last Russian Emperor and his family are buried in the St. Catherine
chapel of the cathedral.
Anastasia Dukhnina Find more about Russian culture and history at