St Petersburg: Peter & Paul Fortress

This Sunday’s Russian series takes my readers to the Peter & Paul Fortress in St Petersburg. This was one of the film locations for the War and Peace TV mini-series from 2007. I apologise in advance to my readers for the lack of photos inside the fortress. I think we had 15 minutes altogether to spend in the fortress.

Some Info on the Fortress

  • The fortress was founded by Peter the Great and was built in 1703 and from 1706-1740.
  • It occupies Hare Island or Zayachy Island (Заячий).
  • For a couple of centuries, the fortress served as the ‘Russian Bastille’, a prison for high-ranking and political prisoners.
  • Inside the fortress is the Peter & Paul Cathedral and the St Peterburg’s Mint, which is still in use today and is not part of the museum. The cathedral has the tallest Orthodox bell tower in the world at 123 metres (404 ft). Since 2008, there are now regular services in the cathedral.
  • The Grand Ducal Burial Chapel/Vault/Mausoleum is for the non-crowned members of the Russian royalty and built from 1896 to 1908.
  • The statue of Peter I (or Peter the Great) by Mikhail Shemyakin from 1991 is meant to be a true representation of the czar who founded St Petersburg. If you want to know what Peter looked like, the face is based on the death mask. (Either way, he gave me the creeps so I didn’t want to touch his skeletal hands for ‘good luck’.)
Historical Museum on Russian Military across the Peter & Paul Fortress

Historical Museum on Russian Military across the Peter & Paul Fortress

Statue of Peter I by Mikhail Shemyakin and the Guardhouse (dating back to the 1740's) in the background

Statue of Peter I by Mikhail Shemyakin and the Guardhouse (dating back to the 1748-49) in the background

Unfortunately, as my Instagram photo points out, our tour group arrived far too early so I did not get a chance to visit the Peter & Paul Cathedral. We had to leave at the same time the doors opened so you’ll have to google photos of what it looks like inside.

Built between 1712-33 (and later rebuilt in 1780), the Peter & Paul Cathedral is the first and oldest landmark in St Petersburg. It is in this Cathedral where all the Russian emperors (czars) and empresses (czarinas) are buried, with the exception of Peter II and Ivan VI. The remains of last czar, Nicholas II, and his family are buried in the Catherine Annex.

The back of the Peter & Paul Cathedral

The back of the Peter & Paul Cathedral