Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral

Alexander Demianchuk/TASS
Between the Engineer’s House and the Peter and Paul Cathedral is a monument to Peter I by well-known sculptor Mikhail Shemyakin. The monument was erected in 1991. The Art Deco-style sculpture was designed to resemble the wax figure made after the Emperor’s death.

To the right of the cathedral, behind the fence, is the Commandant’s Cemetery. This was the burial ground for the fortress’ superintendents.

From the Commandant’s Cemetery, the Peter and Paul Cathedral looks like a two-masted ship ready to sail west. Architect Domenico Trezzini used the Baroque churches of Rome and the Protestant cathedrals of the Baltic countries as his prototypes. At 122.5 metres (380 ft), the cathedral is still the highest building in St. Petersburg. Its weather vane, in the form of an angel holding a cross with one hand and stretching the other high above, is one of city’s principal symbols. Its bell tower is equipped with a carillon, a special instrument used for playing the church bells and today, Cathedral Square often plays host to concerts of bell music.

The altar screen made by Ukrainian craftsman Ivan Zarudny is 30 metres (93 ft) in height and does not quite fit into the central space of the cathedral, so its upper portion has been fitted into the dome space. Some parts of the altar screen are carved from basswood and stained oak.

Peter the Great moved the family vault of the Romanov dynasty from the Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Archangel to the Peter and Paul Fortress while it was still under construction. The cathedral (without the side-altar) holds a total of 41 tombstones. It was the burial place for 11 emperors and empresses and their relatives. All of the tombstones (which were made uniform in 1864) are crafted from white Carrara marble with only two exceptions - the enormous tombs of the assassinated Alexander II and his wife Maria Alexandrovna. The Emperor’s tomb is made of green ribbed gem jade, while the Empress’ tomb has been constructed from pink rhodonite.