The Peter & Paul Fortress

St. Petersburg’s earliest defence

On the small Hare Island, named so after the Finns, Peter constructed this fortress as a bulwark against the Swedes during the Great Northern War that lasted 21 years. This is the oldest architectural monument in the city. This is where St. Petersburg began, before it became the cultural icon and capital of the Russian Empire. It was built to medieval Russian design, despite the year 1703, but with West European styles. The structure contains all the essential features of a fortress including a citadel, walls, cathedral, prison and a soldier’s barracks.

The western gate of the fortress is the main city gate, adorned with bas-reliefs celebrating the victory over Sweden. The two-headed eagle made of lead and placed on the gates weighs more than a ton.

The architect of the fortress was Domenico Trezini and the first architect of the city. For a long period of time the fortress was used as a political prison and so was off-limits to the general public. The architectural centre of the ensemble of the Fortress is the Cathedral of the Saints Peter and Paul. The historical and artistic value of the building is extremely high. The spire of the belfry with its guardian angel play an important role in the city’s landscape and is one of major landmarks in the centre of St. Petersburg.

The height of the church and its belfry spire is 122.5 metres, often climbed by Peter and hus guests to take a good look at the growing city. The Cathedral is also a burial place of Russian Emperors from the time of Peter I. In 1998 the remains of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family were buried in the Cathedral. Today the Peter & Paul Fortress houses the Museum of the History of the City, one of Russia’s significant historical museums.

Travel to St Petersburg