May 27, 1703 is considered the date when St. Petersburg was founded. It was just on that day that Peter I laid down the first stone in the foundation of Peter and Paul Fortress on Hare`s Island. The fortress became the main Russian citadel on the Neva River, in the period of the Great Northern War with Sweden for the outlet to the Baltic Sea. Later, it was just on this place, in the Neva estuary, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe arose – St. Petersburg.
Peter and Paul Fortress is near Vasilievsky Island. Although the Northern War with Sweden ended in 1721, 18 years after the fortress was built, hostilities were carried out far from it, as the victory of Russian troops at Poltava in 1709 weakened Sweden.
The fortress was designed by Peter I himself and French architect Lambert. The fortress was built a glance at the fortification requirements of that period of time. Instead of common walls, a system of strong bastions was constructed.
All six bastions of the fortress were given the name of Peter`s closest favorites (Gosudarev, Naryshkin, Menshikov, Trubetskoy, Golovkin, and Zotov). Each of them supervised and partially funded construction of his bastion. The bastions had 50 guns each making the fortress a strong citadel. To defend the citadel from the land the crescent-shaped earth mound was constructed that was called the Crownwork. Several years later it was replaced by the stone the Crownwork.
Almost at the time when the bastions were constructed they began to erect the main tem-ple of the fortress – Peter and Paul`s Church. Its full name is the Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul. Originally, it was built of wood, and in 1714 architect Domenico Trezzini constructed a stone church. Almost at once its 123-meter spire became the main symbol of the city.
The tombs of Russian emperors are located under the right-hand altar of St. Peter and left-hand altar of St. Paul. Before Peter the Great they were buried at the Archangel Cathedral of Moscow Kremlin but he ordered to move the burial vault of Russian monarchs to St. Petersburg.
Apart from being the burial place of Russian monarchs, Petropavlovsk Fortress has also been the main jail for high-ranking or political prisoners almost since the day of its construction. At Trubetskoy Bastion prisoners were kept many of whom were outstanding historical persons. Today this is a museum where you can see the conditions the prisoners were kept in.
Just opposite the cathedral you can see a group of buildings – the Mint Works. It is considered one of the oldest city`s enterprises. After they began to issue Russian money at the mints of Moscow and Perm, St. Petersburg`s Mint specialized in coinage, as well as embossing orders and medals.
Gorkovskaya Metro Station is within a walking distance of the fortress (accessed through the Ioannovskiy Bridge). There are over a dozen of various museums and expositions on the territory of this fortress. You should climb the walls of the fortress (you can do it by way of Gosudarev Bastion) to have a magnificent view of St. Petersburg. Also you should visit Petropavlovsk Cathedral, burial vault of Russian emperors. If you wish, you may visit some other museums or expositions:
1. Commandant’s House. Exposition devoted to the history of St. Petersburg (1703-1918)
2. Nevskaya Kurtina. Exposition devoted to the history of Peter and Paul Fortress
3. Trubetskoy Bastion Prison
4. Ioannovskiy Ravelin. Space and Rocket Engineering Museum.
5. «Pechatnya», Old Engraving Museum
6. «Neva Panorama» - tour of Gosudarev Bastion (king`s bastion)
7. Coach Barn. Exhibition Halls
8. Boat House. Peter`s Boat.
9. Main Guardhouse.