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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg

The Peter and Paul Fortress is main tourist destination of St. Petersburg, Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and constructed to Domenico Trezzini plans from 1706 to 1740. It sis also called as citadel of St. Petersburg. The fortress was established by Peter the Great on May 16, 1703 on small Hare Island by the north bank of the Neva River. Built at the height of the Northern War in order to protect the projected capital, the fort never fulfilled its martial purpose. The citadel was completed with six bastions in earth and timber within a year and it was rebuilt in stone from 1706 to 1740.
From around 1720, the fort served as a base for the city garrison and also as a prison for high ranking or political prisoners. The Trubetskoy bastion, rebuilt in the 1870s, became the main prison block. The first person to escape from the prison was the anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin in 1876 which is now an important tourist spot.

The Government ministers were the last prisoners at the Fortress. In 1924, most of the site was converted to a museum. In 1931, the Gas Dynamics Laboratory was added to the site. The structure suffered heavy damage during the bombardment of the city during World War II by German army who were laying siege to the city. It has been faithfully restored post-war.
The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which has a 123.2-metre bell-tower and tallest in the downtown and a gilded angel-topped cupola.The cathedral is the burial place of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III. The newer Grand Ducal Mausoleum which was built in the neo-Baroque style under Leon Benois's supervision in 1896-1908 is connected to the cathedral by a corridor. It was constructed to remove the leftovers of some of the non-reigning Romanovs from the cathedral where there was room for new burials. The mausoleum was expected to hold up to sixty tombs, but by the time of Russian Revolution there were only thirteen.

Other structures inside the fortress include the still functioning mint building was constructed to Antonio Porta's designs under Emperor Paul, the Trubetskoy and Alekseyevsky bastions with their grim prison cells, and the city museum. According to a centuries-old tradition, a cannon is fired each noon from the Naryshkin Bastion. Annual celebrations of the city day on May 27 are normally centered on the island where the city was born.

The sandy beaches underneath the fortress walls are among the most popular in St. Petersburg. In summer the beach is often overcrowded, especially when a major sand festival takes place on the shore.

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