Peter and Paul Fortress and the Birthday of St. Petersburg, Russia

 


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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 http://www.mmarttravel.com

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