Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress is the founding citadel of the city of Saint Petersburg. It is from here that the whole of the city was born.

The Peter and Paul Fortress is the historical nucleus of the City on the Neva as well as one of its most interesting and beautiful architectural complexes. From as far away as the Gulf of Finland one can see the distant gilded spire of the fortress cathedral, one of the main features of the Saint Petersburg skyline.

fortress — a type of permanent fortified structure (built of strong materials and serving as a means of defence during battle), the most essential and fundamental part of the fortress is the main rampart (an enclosed fence containing gate openings)

The Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg is the only surviving permanent fortified structure in Russia planned and executed in strict accordance with the so-called bastion fortification system. Even in Western Europe only a few citadels built according to the same principles remain which are as well preserved as the fortress in St Petersburg (for example, analogous structures at Lucca in Italy, Perpignan in France and Valletta in Malta).

bastion fortification system — a method of building a fortress in which the main rampart consists of so-called bastion fronts (segments comprised of curtain walls and two adjacent demi-bastions) 

The main gate of the fortress on the Neva, the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Mint Works, the Defence Arsenal and other structures on its territory rank among the most interesting architectural landmarks of the eighteenth to the early twentieth century.

In addition, the fortress is closely tied with great military, political and cultural events, important not only in the history of St Petersburg, but in the history of the entire country: the Northern War, the assimilation of lands along the banks of the Neva, which in the eighteenth century were called “New Russian America”, the Decembrist Uprising, the social movement of the intelligentsia, the victory of the October Revolution of 1917, the War of 1941—45. 

[Peter and Paul Fortress] stands upon a large track of ground upon the banks of the Neva, and is surrounded by battlements, ramparts, a drawbridge, and a battery with guns of heavy calibre. The interior forms a large square, in which is the Governor's house, barracks, the mint, and an immense steam engine, made by Mr. Bolton, which moves the machine for flatting and coining the metals for the money; also a house in which is kept the boat built with Peter the Great's own hands ; a state prison ; and a church dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, the gilt spire of which has upon its elevated top and angel; its cupola has the imperial crown, surmounted by a cross. In the interior are two pictures of St. Peter and St. Paul. Upon the right and left side of the altar, placed upon the ground,- they shew you eight coffins, containing the ashes of Peter the Great, his son Alexis Petrowitch, his daughters Ann and Margaret, with Alexis's and his spouse, and those of the Empress Catharine the Second and Elizabeth. Here are, likewise, countless numbers of Tartar,) Turkish, Persian, Swedish, Prussian, and, latterly, French colours and standards; particularly one of the Invincible ones, taken in the last war. There is a great ceremony at this church on saints' days.

An original Journal from London to St. Petersburg, George Green, 1821

In 1617 Sweden completely closed off Russia’s access to the Baltic Sea by annexing territories to the south and north of the Neva, i.e., the Izhora Land (Ingria or Ingermanland) and Karelia. In 1699 a Russian-Danish-Saxon anti-Swedish coalition was organized. In February 1700 Saxony declared war against Sweden.


In March Denmark did the same, and in August Russia followed suit. Later on Poland, Prussia, Hannover, Mecklenburg and Turkey also partook in this war, which became known as the Northern War. Noteburg, now Schlusselburg; in the centre, on the right bank of the Neva, before St Petersburg, not far from the beginning of the Neva delta, the notation: Fortification on the Neva now destroyed (that is, Nyenskans); to the left, in the Gulf of Finland, between two shoals, the indication: Passage to St Petersburg, and this passage is guarded on the south by a battery and Crohn-Schlott, and on the north by Kronstadt (The Russian Museum, Saint-Petersburg).

In October 1702 Russia stormed the island al the source of the Neva, and took the Swedish fortress Noteburg, which had been founded under the name of Oreshek (the Nut) in 1323 by the people of Novgorod. In April 1703 from this forlress, now called Schlusselburg, a campaign was launched downstream along the Neva under the command of Field-marshal Boris Sheremetev, one of the closest associates of Tsar Piotr Alexeyevich (Peter I called the Great).

At this time the Tsar wrote Sheremetev the following: “Time, time, time. Don’t give the enemy a chance to anticipate us.” Moving quickly to the west, at the end of April Russian forces sieged the fortress Nyenskans, built by the Swedes a little above the Neva delta, on a cape at the confluence of the Neva and its largest right-wing tributary, the Okhta. By May 1 Nyenskans had surrendered and was immediately renamed Schlottburg.

On May 7 the Swedish squadron, standing at the Neva Inlet near the mouth of the Bolshaya (Large) Neva, was attacked by a Russian detachment equipped only with simple boats. The Swedish fleet, which formerly had maintained complete dominion over the Baltic, lost two frigates. This was the first naval victory in the history of Russia.

In order to consolidate Russia’s position on the Gulf of Finland, a military council summoned by Peter the Great made the decision not to reinforce Schlottburg, but rather to build a new fortress nearer to the sea at a point which could be defended by means of natural barriers better than at the cape formed by the Neva and Okhta.

Soon thereafter a small island was selected for this purpose located on the Neva delta to the west of Schlottburg and named “het Mooiste Lust Eiland” — “the Happiest Island”, the name coming from the Dutch as Peter the Great was fond of that language. After the construction of a fortress which occupied the entire island, it remained without an official name until the end of the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was called Fortress Island, and subsequently received the name it bears today — Zayachy (Hare) Island, which is the translation of the name given the island by the Finnishspeaking portion of the local population in the seventeenth century. The new fortress, whose construction of wood and earth was begun already in May 1703, soon became the center of Russia’s activities on the Neva delta and, at the same time, the main stronghold of the Russian army in Ingria. The architect of the fortress is unknown. Some scholars suggest that it was designed by the French engineer Joseph Gaspard Lambert, a participant in the Neva campaign.

On June 29, 1703, a small wooden church was dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul in the center of the unfinished fortress, and the fortress itself was named in the Dutch manner — St Pietersburg. Very quickly the short form of the name came into use, Pietersburg, as well as the names pronounced in the German manner, St Petersburg and Petersburg. Europeans followed attentively the swift movements of the Russian troops and, of course, well understood Peter’s intentions.

The European press printed a whole line of news about the events on the Neva delta. This information was translated and circulated regularly in the first Russian newspaper Vedomosti, which began to be published on January 2, 1703, in Moscow. On August 24 Vedomosti published a report from Riga about how Peter the Great “...has commanded that a city and fortress be built right on the sea not far from Schlottburg, so that in the future all goods destined for Riga, Narva and Schantz [Nyenskansl could find harbour there, and Persian and Chinese goods would come in there as well”.

Finally, on October 4, the readers of Vedomosti were informed of the following in a report from Riga: “His Royal Highness, upon taking Schlottburg, ordered that a new and excellent fortress be built on an island one mile from the former in the direction of the Eastern [Baltic] Sea. The fortress is to consist of six bastions constructed by 20,000 labourers and to be named in honour of the ruler himself — Petersburg.” It is interesting to note that the way the city was named is explained in precisely the same way in both the famous Dictionnaire universel de commerce (1723) by the French lawyer and economist Jacques Savary (called Savary des Bruslons) and in the Concise Synoptic Description of St Petersburg by Andrei Bogdanov, the first Russian description of the newly built city.

Throughout almost the entire summer of 1703 the weather on the Neva delta was very cold and windy and the swampy islands on the river seemed even more damp than usual. Scurvy raged in the Russian camp. The Swedish forces held the mouth of the Neva within the sights of their guns until October. Nevertheless, work on “het Mooiste Lust Eiland” did not stop for a single day.

As early as September it was possible to transfer the general headquarters and main Russian military camp from Schlottburg and establish it within the protective walls of the new fortress located on the big island nearby. Detail of the engraving St Petersburg representing (he SI Petersburg Fortress as i( looked in 1704. One can easily make out the ravelin in front of the fortress gate, the Tsar Bastion (above which the flag is flying), the Naryshkin Bastion, the Trubetskoi Bastion, two curtain walls extending along the Neva, the upper part of the wooden fortress cathedral crowned with a tall spire and the roofs of several wooden houses standing in line with it.

Behind the Peter and Paul fortress a part of the nearby big island can be seen on which stood the first structures of the new city (The Saltykov-Shchedrin Public Library, Saint Petersburg) As soon as the Swedish war ships left for their winter harbour at Vyborg, Peter the Great embarked for the long island of Kotlin located in the Gulf of Finland at the entrance to the Neva Inlet. Near its eastern end (where subsequently the fortress city of Kronstadt was built) he chose the site for construction of a fort which was to become the “naval lock” of the Neva mouth (in the early eighteenth century the latter was considered to be located right near Kotlin). Erected in less than one year, the earthen St Petersburg Fortress took the shape of a multi-angled rampart, closed on all sides, with defensive bastions, a design which incorporated elements of all the then major Western European fortification systems: French, Dutch and German. And this is not surprising since in the beginning of the eighteenth century Russian engineers were familiar with the original works of the most prominent European military engineers, the Frenchman Sebastien Leprestre de Vauban, the Dutchman Menno van Coehoorn, and the German Georg von Rimpler.

In 1709 and 1710 the major essays of Coehoorn appeared in Russia in translation under the title New Fortified Structures Built on Wet or Low Lands ... the Manner in Which It Is Proper to Build a Fortress Today on the Sea or on Rivers. Somewhat later, there appeared the Russian translations of the essays of Rimpler and Vauban. bastion — the part of the main rampart protruding forward, joined to two neighbouring curtain walls (portions of the main rampart made up of straight walls joining two neighbouring bastions); the bastion is pentagonal in shape and usually consists of four solid walls — two faces (walls, facing the field for the purpose of shooting at the enemy located there) and two flanks (walls facing the space directly in front of the curtain wall for the purpose of shooting at the enemy from embrasures or loopholes if he has succeeded in approaching the curtain wall) bastion point (exterior corner) — the corner facing the field and created by two adjoining faces of a bastion. The St Petersburg Fortress consisted of six bastions and six curtain walls. Its overall plan — an irregular hexagon with bastion points at each exterior corner — followed the approximate contour of the island from east to west. Three of the six bastions stood on its southern bank, lapped by the waves of the Neva, the other three, on its northern shore, were protected by a small fork of the Neva.

Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербург) is the second largest city in Russia. It is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. St Petersburg is often described as the most westernized city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital.It is the northernmost city in the world with a population of over one million.

Population: 5 197 114 (2015)
Founded : 1703
Time zone : UTC+4
Federal District : Northwest
Area code : (00 7) 812
Postal code : 190000-199406
Former name : Petrograd (1914-1924)
Former name : Leningrad (1924-1991)