Day 8: Peter & Paul Fortress, Pushkin Museum & Mariinsky Ballet
In the morning we took a tour of the city in our bus to see the Bronze Horseman at St. Isaac’s Square, Church of the Savior on the Blood, and Peter and Paul Fortress & Cathedral. St. Petersburg was founded in 1703, meaning it’s younger than Boston and New York.
The Bronze Horseman
Church of the Savior on the Blood
The Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress was built to defend a young St. Petersburg and was originally constructed with earthen walls that were eventually replaced by the granite-faced brick. The first photo is the fortress from a distance. Below that are photos of the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which finished construction in 1733. It was designed in a Western style meant to symbolize Peter the Great’s profound reorientation of Russian culture. The cathedral contains the tombs of Peter, Catherine the Great, and Alexander. After a long delay, Nicholas II, Tsaritna Alexandra, and their children, all of whom were shot, incinerated, and buried in an unmarked mineshaft in 1918, were added to the cathedral. Nicholas II and his family’s remains were moved to the cathedral in1998 in a commemorative procession and funeral.
Below is a photo of the Chapel of St. Catherine the Martyr that was constructed inside St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the late 18th century during restoration work after a fire. In the chapel is the tomb of Princess Marfa Matveevna. She was married to the older brother of Peter the Great, Tsar Fyodor Alexeevich.
Below is where the reigning tsar would sit when he attended services.
Tomb of Catherine the Great
Tomb of Tsarina Alexandra
We visited the Trubetskoy Bastion, dating back to the mid-18th century. It was used to hold political prisoners including the assassin of Alexander II, Vera Figner (political revolutionary who was eventually sent to Siberia, but freed after the October Revolution and author of Memoirs of a Revolutionist), writer Maxim Gorky, and Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky. The bastion was eerie; it’s where people were sent to be tortured, many committing suicide to escape the horrors they endured. I didn’t take any photos, but if you would like to see some, they can be found here.
In the afternoon, we went to the Pushkin apartment-museum. Alexander Pushkin was the first great figure of Russian literature. He is known for lyric verse and narrative poems, including Eugene Onegin and The Bronze Horseman. He spent most of his adult life in St. Petersburg and his last residence was this apartment on the Moika Canal near the Winter Palace and the Hermitage. The apartment gave a sense of the upper-class domestic life and the transition from the 18th to 19th century. Pushkin was also known for marksmanship and perhaps a propensity to fight, having fought in 29 duels. He was fatally wounded in a duel with a man who insulted his wife.
After dinner, we went to the Mariinsky Theatre, which is often called the Kirov when its ballet company tours in the United States. Below is a photo of the intricately decorated dome of the theater. We took the public bus to and from the theater and it was HOT. I was a little nervous about pick-pocketing because it was so crowded but my fears were not realized.