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PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS FORTRESS

About Fortress | Plan

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The history of St.-Petersburg began on a small island off the northern bank of the Neva where on May 16 (May 27, New Style), 1703, by order of Peter the Great, the foundation stone was laid for the fortress named Sankt-Petersburgh, the town of Saint Peter. The new citadel was to protect the lands on the Neva recaptured from Sweden in the course of the Great Northern War. Sited most advantageously on what was called Merry Island by the Swedes and Hare Island by the Finns, where the river branches off into two arms, in close vicinity of the sea, it controlled every possible avenue of the enemyís advance.

The fortress became the nucleus of the new city; the resplendent future capital of the Russian Empire named after it. Officially denoted the Fortress of St.-Petersburg, it was also casually called the Peter and Paul Fortress. The latter, now by far the more common name is associated with the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul built in its territory.

The foundation stone of the first wooden church ďof three spiresĒ was laid on June 29, 1703. Soon after, the construction of a monumental stone edifice with a tall belfry crowned with a slender glittering spire was begun on its site. With the erection of the cathedral, the St. Peterís Gate and other structures, the fortress became a major ensemble inspired by traditions of West-European architecture.

The fortress was brimful of versatile activities. In the first decades of the 18th century the island was one vast building site. The garrison quarters, the townís first Lutheran church, the chemistís shop, the Senate and the Mint were there. Some of the casemates were leased to merchants for use as storehouses. The fortress was the site of various ceremonies and victory salutes. As time went by, the Russian emperorsí burial vault was established inside the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul.

The citadel on the Neva was more than once alerted but was never involved in hostilities. As early as the 18th century the fortress became notorious as the ďRussian BastilleĒ, the principal prison for political offenders.

1917 marked a sharp turn in the fate of the fortress, which became one of the centers of the revolutionary events in February and October. In the early 1920s it was made into a museum.

Today the fortress has acquired the status of a museum-reserve. About two million visitors come to the fortress every year. Permanent exhibitions and exposition halls, scientific departments and administrative offices of the Museum of the History of St.-Petersburg and also unique collection stores are placed here.

The museum stores are located in the old ramparts of the fortress. There are more than one million art and historical objects dedicated to the history of St. Petersburg. The museum founders since 1907 started to build the museum collection. Among the most valuable items are paintings and prints depicting different views of the city and objects of applied art of the XVIII Ė XX centuries. The museum possesses the outstanding collections of drafts, made by famous Russian and foreign architects and showing all stages of St. Petersburg development, architectural fragments: relief, stained-glasses, ceramic panels.  Collection of photographs and documents keep the most important events of the history of St. Petersburg and Russia. The numismatics, archeological collection, collections of posters, old technique, banners and everyday life objects along with the art items compose the outstanding constantly increasing collection.

 

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