Construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress began in 1703. It was designed to protect the city from any incursions by the Swedes. Within six months the earthen ramparts were in place and 300 guns were installed. Work continued on the fortress until 1725, and by then all the walls and buildings were of stone. Soon after its completion the fortress lost its military significance and instead was used as a military prison for the next 200 years.

The Peter and Paul Cathedral lies in the center of the fortress and was built on the site of an earlier wooden church. Construction started in 1712 and was finished by 1733. Peter the Great wanted to turn away from traditional Russian church architecture and his architect, Domenico Trzzini, produced a Baroque masterpiece. The spire (402 feet high) is visible from all parts of the city and is crowned by a weathervane angel.

Peter the Great died in 1725 and was entombed in the Peter and Paul Cathedral. From that time on, the cathedral became the last resting place of all the Romanov tsars that followed him. In 1998 a controversial decision was made to rebury the remains of the last Romanov tsar, his wife and children and four servants that died with them in a chapel by the entrance to the cathedral. In 1917 ex-tsar Nicholas II, his family and servants were taken to the city of Yekaterinburg east of the Ural Mountains where they were murdered by a Bolshevik firing squad in July, 1918. 

Peter & Paul Fortress