The second tallest building in St. Petersburg
I discovered there is more than one church in St. Petersburg named Peter & Paul. The first one I visited is the Peter & Paul Cathedral next to the Peterhof Palace about an hour drive outside of the city limits of St. Petersburg. Although beautiful, it is more reminiscent of a country church than a grand cathedral. The second one I visited is the Peter & Paul Fortress, a multiple building complex, which contains the oldest church in St. Petersburg titled the Cathedral of the Saints Peter and Paul. This is where all the Russian Rulers are buried, including the Romanov family.
That is Some Serious Russian History!
In 2015, I visited this fortress while on a 3-week trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. As with most, if not all the cathedrals and castles and palaces I visited, I came away impressed. This time not so much with shiny gold spires but because of the reverence of the place.
Many people were lining up to enter the Grand Ducal Mausoleum to view all the tombs of Russian Royalty buried here. Peter the Great was buried here in 1715. His family members are also buried here. In 1998 the entire Romanov family remains were brought together to be entombed from the various places they had been buried before. There is also much to read along the hallway walls of each member of the Romanov family. Everything you see speaks of heavy history, of torment and tears, and sacred honor, so deep is the Russian history in this place.
Internment and Imprisonment; A Captive Russian History to See
There is a jail on the grounds. It is called the Trubetskoy Bastion Prison.
"I didn’t take photos because it was so dark and depressing"
Many notable Russian dissidents were confined here such as Maxim Gorky and Leon Trotsky. I just wanted to get through the tour and move on to somewhere outside since it was a sunny summer day. To think many of the prison cells had no windows, no natural light coming through. It’s a wonder how these prisoners survived through sheer will power alone. They weren’t treated very well but at least this history is preserved and available for public viewing.
Escape to Fresh Air Beach
Upon walking outside, I wanted to move away and find somewhere with a natural feel to it, so I spied the Neva River and walked towards it. I came upon a small strip of a rocky, sandy beach that I had to hop down to get closer. Once on this “beach” and looking back to the high walls surrounding the fortress made them seem even higher and secluded. But the sun was shining, and I found a few people who were enjoying it. People come here year-round I found out, even in winter with heavy snow on the beach, because that’s what Russians do. It’s a little stretch of privacy right up against the very close and heavily flowing Neva river with the backdrop of the fortress.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Available on This Tour
Upon leaving the fortress, I happily discovered The Hop-On Hop-Off bus pick up station was just across the street from the entrance. This is another good reason why purchasing the Petersburg Card was handy. You can change your independent touring plans as you see fit. Luckily the wait for the next bus wasn’t long so we sat down at a snack bar and waited. I saw many more people enjoying the summer sun on the lawn that surrounds the front and sides of the fortress. There is a little river that runs around the fortress, perhaps it was used as a moat, but it didn’t seem deep. I saw fathers and their sons playing with motorized toy boats on it. There were some larger people-size boats too. I imagine in Winter it freezes over. But this was summer, and it was time to soak up some light in a dark history filled in the Peter and Paul Fortress.