Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg was the epicenter of the Russian Empire from Peter the Great’s victory over the Swedish Empire during the Great Northern War in 1703 until the execution of Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, in 1917. You will be thrilled to tour this marvelous city at the head of the Gulf of Finland.

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1 Palace Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Palace Square is the main plaza of Saint Petersburg. It is defined by the General Staff and Ministries Buildings, the Admiralty and its garden plus the Winter Palace in the background. The centerpiece is Alexander Column. This has been the venue for social life, festivals and parades plus a major attraction for tourists. It has also witnessed several historic events. Alexander II was almost assassinated here in 1879. In 1905, hundreds of protesters were killed and wounded during the Bloody Sunday massacre. And during the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolshevik army seized the Winter Palace and ended the Russian Empire.

Palace Square, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

2 General Staff and Ministries Buildings in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The General Staff and Ministries Buildings were designed by Carlo Rossi during the Russian Empire style. When the two wings of this Neoclassical structure were finished in 1829, it became the 1,902 foot, concave perimeter of Palace Square opposite Winter Palace. This complex is now part of the Hermitage Museum. In the center is a triumphal arch celebrating Russia’s defeat of the French in 1812. On top is Chariot of Glory, a horse-driven carriage ridden by Victoria, the goddess of victory, flanked by two Roman soldiers. In antiquity, this type of sculpture was called a quadriga by the Romans or a tethrippon by the Greeks.

Palace Square, 10, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

3 Alexander Column at Palace Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Alexander I was the Emperor of Russia from 1801 until 1825. The legacy of his reign was the repulsion of Napoleon’s Grande Armée invasion during the Patriotic War of 1812. To celebrate the victory, Alexander Column was installed in the center of Place Square in 1834. The core of the 156 foot monument is a solid pillar of red granite. Surrounding the pedestal are four bronze panels sculpted by Giovanni Battista Scotti. They are detailed reliefs of angels flanking old Russian military shields, helmets and armor. Below them are sculptures of the imperial double-headed eagles. Ironically, the war monument and the panels were designed by a French architect, Auguste de Montferrand.

Alexander Column, Palace Square, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

4 Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Palace was the heartbeat of the Russian Empire from 1732 until it fell under Bolshevik control on October 26, 1917. This was the official residence for Russian emperors and empresses from Anna Ioannovna to Nicholas II, although many of them favored other palaces around Saint Petersburg. The original architect of this Elizabethan Baroque complex was Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The green and white façade facing Palace Square measures 750 feet. The palace contains about 1,500 rooms. Many of them are now part of the State Hermitage Museum.

Palace Embankment, 32, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

Great Throne Room of Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Great Throne Room of the Winter Palace was initially created by Giacomo Quarenghi in 1795 then rebuilt after the disastrous fire in 1837. Also called St George’s Hall, the enormous room is lined with Carrara marble columns of the Corinthian order. At the far end is the gilded throne. The emblem with the double-headed eagle holding the imperial scepter and orb is Russia’s coat of arms. On top is the Imperial Crown of Russia, introduced at the coronation of Catherine the Great in 1762. This room in the Winter Palace connects with The Hermitage. Elsewhere in the Winter Palace is the Peter the Great Room, also called the Small Throne Room.

Pavilion Hall in Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Catherine the Great founded the State Hermitage Museum in 1764. What began as her private art purchases has grown into the world’s largest collection of paintings and sculptures from virtually every European country. It also displays Egyptian, Roman and Greek antiquities and prehistoric artifacts. The complex consists of part of the Winter Palace – the museum’s entrance – plus six other buildings. This is Pavilion Hall, part of the Small Hermitage. It was created in 1858 by Andrei Stackenschneider.

Raphael Loggias in Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Catherine the Great admired everything beautiful and often copied what she could not own. An example is the Raphael Loggias. In the late 1780s, she commissioned a reproduction of the Gallery in the Papal Palace in Vatican City originally painted by Raphael in the 15th century. Architect Giacomo Quarenghi created this loggia, the Italian name for an exterior corridor supported by columns and arches. Then artists decorated it with bas-reliefs and paintings with Biblical stories. Notice at top is an angel banishing Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden.

Death of Adonis in Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

One of the most exciting aspects of visiting the State Hermitage Museum is seeing the original of so many famous paintings and sculptures. Each room contains priceless treasures to be admired. This is “Death of Adonis.” Giuseppe Mazzuola toiled nearly thirty years before finishing this masterpiece in 1709. The marble sculpture portrays when the lover of the goddess Venus is attacked and killed by a boar. The event is described in Ovid’s poem written in 8 AD about the creation of heaven and earth called “Metamorphoses.”

Punishment of a Hunter in Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Equally exciting is discovering the unexpected at the State Hermitage Museum. This painting is titled “Punishment of a Hunter.” Most of the 14 panels portray hunters and their dogs in viscous pursuit of wild game. In the center is judgement day. The bear pushes the bound hunter towards a tribunal. Below it, the animals cheer as the dogs are sentenced to hang. This amusing artwork by Dutch painter Paulus Potter was created in 1647.

Golden Drawing Room in Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Opulence! That is the best superlative to describe the Golden Drawing Room in the Winter Palace, now included in the Hermitage Museum. This was part of the living quarters of Maria Alexandrovna, the wife (consort) of Emperor Alexander II. The vaulted ceiling, etched walls, pilasters and chandeliers all glisten with gold. The Byzantine design was created by Alexander Brullov. He was a key architect on the team who restored the Winter Palace after the 1837 fire.

5 Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Along the Griboedov Canal is one of Saint Petersburg’s most iconic sites: Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. The Russian Orthodox church was commissioned in 1883 to mark the place where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. The Romantic Nationalism design by architect Alfred Parland required 24 years to complete. Also called the Resurrection of Christ Church, its prominent features are five colorful onion domes decorated with gold and semi-precious jewels.

Griboyedov Channel Embankment, 2A, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

6 Assassination at Church on Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Alexander II of Russia was the Emperor of All Russia from 1855 until 1881. He was known as the Liberator for the emancipation of serfdom. During his reign, he was the target of four assassination attempts by Narodnaya Volya. This was a revolutionary socialist group active from 1879 to 1884. They used terrorism and murder to seek political reform and the fall of Tsarist autocracy in the Russian Empire. On the morning on March 13, 1881, the rebels were successful. The first bomb exploded under the emperor’s carriage. Unhurt, Alexander II got out and was inspecting the damage when Ignacy Hryniewiecki threw a second bomb and mortally wounded the emperor. His son, Alexander III of Russia, commissioned the Church of the Savior on Blood on the spot where his father was attacked.

Griboyedov Channel Embankment, 2A, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

7 Inside Church on Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Inside of the Church on Spilled Blood is incredible. There are over 80,000 square feet of mosaics depicting saints and other religious themes. The carved wooden iconostasis, separating the nave from the sanctuary, is adorned with icons of Theotokos (Virgin Mary) and Christ Pantocrator. In the semi-dome above the altar is another version of Christ as Ruler of the Universe and the Almighty. He is holding the New Testament and giving a blessing while teaching. The church was damaged in 1917 during the Russian Revolution and then closed and abandoned in 1932 during the Soviet era. It was again attacked during the siege of Leningrad in World War II. After 27 years of meticulous restoration, the Church of the Savior on Blood was reopened in 1997. This is one of the city’s most popular museums.

Griboyedov Channel Embankment, 2A, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

8 Smolny Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Smolny Convent was commissioned as a monastery to house Peter the Great’s daughter. Instead of becoming a nun, Elizabeth became the empress of Russia in 1741. Smolny Cathedral is the 307 foot centerpiece of the large complex. The Russian Orthodox church is the exquisite work of Italian architect Francesco Rastrelli. He designed several opulent landmarks in Saint Petersburg for Empress Anna and Empress Elizabeth during the mid-18th century. Construction began in 1749. Although the exterior was finished in 1764, the interior was not completed until 1835. In 1982, this blue and white masterpiece behind the springtime tulips became a concert hall. Some of the other buildings house classes for Saint Petersburg State University.

Ploshchad' Rastrelli, 1, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191124

9 Saint Michael’s Castle in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Paul I of Russia was the son of Catherine the Great and became emperor when she died in 1796. His 4.5 year reign was characterized by alienating Russian nobility and dismissing over 300 generals while reforming the army. He was also tentative in foreign affairs and paranoid about retribution. To solidify his defense, he commissioned a fortress. The island compound became known as St. Michael’s Castle after a reported apparition of Archangel Michael during the building’s construction. The Russian emperor’s plan was foiled and his feared realized when he was assassinated inside the castle in 1801 about a month after its completion. Mikhailovsky Castle now houses a portrait gallery operated by the State Russian Museum.

Sadovaya St, 2, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191023

10 Overview of Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Mikhailovsky Palace was built as the residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich in 1825. The prince was a son of Emperor Paul I of Russia. Alexander III founded a museum of Russian art during his reign from 1855 until 1881. In 1895, his son Nicholas II, decreed the museum should be housed in this Neoclassical palace. The State Russian Museum has grown into the country’s largest collection of Russian art dating back to the 10th century. Among its 400,000 exhibits are contemporary masterpieces by world artists. The museum complex of several buildings covers 74 acres.

Inzhenernaya St, 4, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

11 Staircase at Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Russian architect Carlo Rossi created several of Saint Petersburg’s famous landmarks during the first half of the 19th century. When he finished Mikhailovsky Palace in 1825, it was one of the city’s most magnificent estates. This main staircase – now the grand entry of the Russian Museum – showcases the architect’s Empire Style artistry. The majestic Corinthian columns lead you up the stairs from the main vestibule. The gray monochromic hue (grisaille) is offset by ornate bas-reliefs and moldings. Notice the frieze of griffins featuring pairs of lions with eagle wings. This same imagery is seen nearby at the ends of Bank Bridge over the Griboedov Canal.

Inzhenernaya St, 4, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

Empress Anna Statue in Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The State Russian Museum has over 2,000 sculptures created from the 18th through the early 20th centuries. An excellent example in Room 7 is this statue of Anna Ioannovna, the Russian Empress from 1730 until 1740. It was created a year after her death by Italian sculptor Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli. He had been invited to Russia in 1716 by Peter the Great. During his career, he created busts, statues and monuments for several Russian rulers and their families including the death mask of Peter I. His son Francesco Rastrelli became Saint Petersburg’s most prolific architect of the 18th century.

White Hall in Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

During you tour of Russian Museum, you will encounter the White Room. This is the only unchanged room of the palace. Stop and savor its magnificence. From the inlaid floor to the artwork on the ceiling, this room is extraordinary. Standout features include Corinthian columns, marble fireplace, golden chandeliers, intricate molding, gilded bas-reliefs, friezes depicting muses and the original furniture. During the early and mid-19th century, this was a music salon for hosting concerts by famous musicians.

Ilya Repin Painting in Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Ilya Repin (1844 to 1930) was a gifted Russian artist. He specialized in realism paintings. The subjects in his art tended to be commoners and peasants often in historic settings. One of his famous works can be found in Room 35 of the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg. “Demonstration 17 October 1905” illustrates people’s celebration after Nicholas II reluctantly signed the October Manifesto. The act granted the population basic civil liberties and formed a new legislative body called the Duma. The painting was created in 1911.

Petrov-Vodkin Painting in Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Among the hundreds of Russian artists featured in the Russian Museum is Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (1878 – 1939). He was a contemporary of Ilya Repin yet they had very different styles. While Repin focused on realism, Petrov-Vodkin’s style was unorthodox and avant-garde. Evidence is his version of the Russian Orthodox icon Our Lady of Kazan, the Holy Protectress of Russia. The title of Petrov-Vodkin’s 1915 oil on canvas is “The Mother of God of Tenderness Towards Evil Hearts.”

12 City Duma Tower in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Nevsky Prospekt is a primary boulevard in Saint Petersburg and a popular shopping and entertainment district. Many landmarks are located on this street including the City Duma Tower. The Neo-Renaissance bell tower was constructed in 1804. This city hall housed the offices of Saint Petersburg’s mayor and city council members. The City Duma system of governance was established in 1785 by Catherine the Great. During the 19th century, the City Duma Tower also served as a lookout for fires and was an optical telegraph station.

Nevsky Prospect, 33, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191186

13 Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Kazan Cathedral is enormous measuring 295 feet long and 235 feet tall. The Russian Orthodox church was patterned after St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Kazanskiy Kafedralniy Sobor represents the height of Andrey Voronikhin’s career. This architect was the father of this early 19th century, Neoclassical architecture called the Russian Empire style. The cathedral’s namesake is Our Lady of Kazan, an image of the Virgin Mary from the Middle Ages. This sacred art is considered to be the Holy Protectress of Russia and is credited with saving Russia from Napoleon’s attacks in 1812. Inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan is a reproduction of the sacred art.

Kazan Square, 2, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

14 Narva Triumphal Arch in Saint Petersburg, Russia

One of the world’s most famous triumphal arches – the Arc de Triomphe in Paris – was commissioned in 1806 to celebrate France’s victories during the Napoleonic Wars. So when Russia defeated Napoleon’s Grande Armée invasion during the Patriotic War of 1812, they built the Narva Triumphal Arch in 1814 and a permanent version twenty years later. The Narva Triumphal Gate features sculptures of angels and soldiers holding laurel wreaths. On top is a six-horse quadriga (chariot) driven by Victoria, the winged Roman goddess of victory.

Ploshchad' Stachek, 1, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190020

15 St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral was built on the Kryukov Canal in 1762 for the Russian Navy. The cathedral was designed by Savva Chevakinsky while the Admiralty Board’s chief architect. The façade is Elizabethan Baroque. Also called Rococo Style, the style was popular in Saint Petersburg in the mid-18th century during the reign of Elizabeth of Russia. The domes and spires of St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral resemble those on the Peterhof Palace chapel and Catherine Palace.

Nikol'skaya Ploshchad', 1/3, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190068

16 New Holland Arch in Saint Petersburg, Russia

New Holland Island in central Saint Petersburg is a wedge-shaped islet defined by two canals and the Moyka River. It was created in 1719 by command of Peter the Great as a port for the Imperial Russian Navy (Admiralty Board). Warehouses and shipbuilding facilities were soon added. The tsar also commissioned a modest summer palace on the island. In 1779, this Neoclassical archway with Tuscan columns became the entrance to New Holland Island from the river. New Holland Arch was designed by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe. The arch is 75 feet tall and constructed with red granite blocks.

New Holland Island, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190121

17 Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg’s largest Russian Orthodox church is Saint Isaac’s Cathedral with a seating capacity of 14,000 people. Architect Auguste de Montferrand spent over four decades building this masterpiece then died when it was finished in 1858. The Neoclassical design features 112 red Karelian granite columns and angel statues beneath the ribbed gilded dome. The cathedral’s namesake is Isaac of Dalmatia. Saint Isaac the Confessor was a third century BC monk from Constantinople. Peter the Great declared Isaac to be the patron saint of the Romanov Dynasty that ruled Russia from 1613 until 1917 because he was born on the feast day of Saint Isaac.

St Isaac's Square, 4, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

18 Saint Isaac’s Cathedral Rotunda in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Your neck will get sore while savoring the rotunda of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. Inside of this 84.6 foot dome is an incredible ensemble of religious artwork created by 200 artists. Above the dozen angels and marble columns is an 8,600 foot painting by Karl Briullov of the Virgin Mary encircled by the Apostles and saints. A white dove is suspended from the cupola, representing the Holy Spirit. For a much-deserved closer inspection, walk up the stairs to the rotunda platform. Then, look down at the elegantly appointed nave decorated with over 900 pounds of gold, marble, bronze plus semi-precious malachite and lapis lazuli. Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is one of four Saint Petersburg churches managed by the State Museum-Monument. Isaakievskiy Sobor became a Russian Orthodox church again in 2019.

St Isaac's Square, 4, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

19 Nicholas I Monument in Saint Petersburg, Russia

When standing in Saint Isaac’s Square (Isaakievskaya Ploshchad), your attention is fixed on the namesake cathedral. Then you notice this Monument to Nicholas I. The equestrian statue was designed by Auguste de Montferrand, sculpted by Robert Salemann and unveiled in 1859. There are four allegorical statues on the marble pedestal. Around the red Finnish granite base are reliefs of key events of his regime. Nicholas I was Emperor of All Russia from 1825 until 1855. His reign was characterized by a rigid adherence to the Russian Orthodox religion, absolute control of politics and extreme nationalism. Yet when he died, he left behind a weak military, economy and government.

St Isaac's Square, 11, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

20 The Bronze Horseman in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Bronze Horseman is an iconic monument to Peter the Great at Senatskaya Ploshchad (Senate Square). This huge sculpture by Étienne Maurice Falconet demonstrated the absolutism (supreme central power) established by Peter I toward the end of the Tsardom of Russia and strengthened when he founded the Russian Empire in 1721. This tribute to Peter Alexeyevich was commissioned by Catherine the Great. In 1782, it was erected atop Thunder Stone. The boulder originally weighed over 1,650 tons. The name Bronze Horseman is a misnomer. The sculpture is cast from copper.

Senatskaya Ploshchad', Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

21 Russian Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The Russian Academy of Arts was founded in 1757 by Ivan Shuvalov. He was a rumored lover of the unmarried Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, and later became the Russian Minister of Education. After this building along Academy Quay was finished in 1789, the instructors taught Neoclassical painting techniques to students. It morphed into different art academies until 1991 when it became the Saint Petersburg Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In the center of the photo is a pair of 3,500 year old Egyptian sphinxes. They originally belonged to Pharaoh Amenhotep III and were brought to Saint Petersburg in 1832.

University Embankment,17, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 199034

22 Menshikov Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia

When this waterfront estate was built in 1711 on Vasilyevsky Island, it was the residence of Alexander Menshikov. He was the first General-Governor of St. Petersburg. When Peter the Great died in 1725 and his wife, Catherine I of Russia, became empress, Menshikov was fundamentally the ruler of Russia. Menshikov Palace was the epicenter for the social life of aristocrats until it was confiscated in 1727 after Menshikov was exiled. It is now a Russian and European art museum encased by early 18th century décor and furniture. Many of the showcased pieces belonged to Alexander Menshikov. The palace is managed by the State Hermitage Museum.

University Embankment, 15, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

23 Kunstkammer Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography – best known as the Kunstkammer Museum – was founded by Russia’s first emperor in 1718. The riverside museum was built in 1734 and again two decades later after a fire. The collection of over one million artifacts portrays the culture of Russia plus several countries. The museum’s macabre highlight is the Natural Sciences Collection. The name belies this assortment of 1,100 deformed human and animal fetuses and body parts floating in glass jars. These anatomical curiosities were a passion for Peter I.

University Embankment, 3, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 199034

24 Rostral Columns in Saint Petersburg, Russia

A rostral column is a naval monument glorifying victory at sea. They were first used by the Romans and Greeks during the Hellenistic period (323 BC to 146 BC). Two of the most famous are the pair on Strelka, the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island. The beacons were created in 1811 to mark the channels for Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva, two armlets of the Neva River flowing through central Saint Petersburg. On special occasions, a gas flame rises 23 feet above the 105 foot red towers.

Birzhevaya Ploshchad', Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 199034

25 Rostral Columns Allegories in Saint Petersburg, Russia

At the base of the two Rostral Columns on Vasilyevsky Island are three sculptures by Jacques Thibault and one by Jozef Camberlein. The figures are allegories representing Russia’s largest rivers. On the northern beacon are Volga (2,193 miles) and Dnieper (1,368 miles). On the southern pole are Volkhov (139 miles) and this one Neva (46 miles). Flanking it are symbolic figureheads. In ancient Rome and Greece, it was common to attach to a rostral column the ram (rostra) from the prow of a captured enemy ship.

Birzhevaya Ploshchad', Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 199034

26 Old Stock Exchange in Saint Petersburg, Russia

During the reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725), the First Russian emperor was unwavering in his drive to embed Western practices into Russia. This included founding a stock exchange. Construction of the bourse (stock exchange) required more than 100 years after Peter I’s death. Gracing the pediment of the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange is a sculpture of Neptune riding a chariot driven by seahorses. The god of the seas has a commanding view from Vasilyevsky Island of the Winter Palace across the Neva River. This Neoclassical building was the Central Naval Museum from 1939 until 2011. It is now owned by the Hermitage Museum.

Birzhevaya Ploshchad', 4, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 199034

27 Brief History of Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg, Russia

From 1700 to 1721, Peter the Great battled against the Swedish Empire during the Great Northern War. In 1703, he captured Nyenskans, an early 17th century Swedish fort at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Neva River. He ordered the citadel to be rebuilt along with this one. Peter and Paul Fortress was constructed on Hare Island. Both were designed to protect his planned capital city, today’s Saint Petersburg. The Swedes never attacked the fort. A year before Peter I became Russia’s first Emperor in 1721, the fortress was converted into a prison. It maintained that role for nearly 200 years until it was liberated during the February Revolution in 1917. One month after this political uprising, the Russian Empire collapsed and its last emperor, Nicholas II, was executed. By the end of 1917, the Soviet Republic was proclaimed and Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) was the leader.

Peter & Paul Fortress, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197046

28 Monument to Peter I at Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Peter the Great, who ruled from 1682 until 1725, is acclaimed to be Russia’s most accomplished leader. He also had a commanding physical presence at six and a half feet tall. Yet his hands, feet and head appeared too small for such a large man. When the emperor died in 1725, a death mask was created by sculptor Carlo Bartolomeo Rastrelli. He also created molds of Peter I’s extremities. These were used in the late 1980s by Russian sculptor Mihail Chemiakin to create the Monument to Peter I. It was unveiled at Peter and Paul Fortress in 1991. Although the bronze sculpture is nearly life size, critics argued the emperor’s head is inaccurately small.

Peter & Paul Fortress, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197046

29 Cathedral at Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg, Russia

In 1712, Peter the Great commissioned architect Domenico Trezzini to build Peter and Paul Cathedral within the protective walls of Peter and Paul Fortress. The Russian Orthodox church was not finished until 1733 during the reign of Anna of Russia. After it was damaged by lightening in 1756, its restoration required twenty years. Inside are the graves of all but two of the Russian Empire rulers from 1725 until 1917. The cathedral’s gilded, 404 foot bell tower and spire is a visible landmark from many of the historic places in central Saint Petersburg. It is also the city’s second tallest structure. Next to the cathedral is the Grand Ducal Mausoleum. It was designed by David Grimm and finished in 1908 to contain the tombs of other members from the House of Romanov, the ruling dynasty of Russia for nearly 200 years.

Peter & Paul Cathedral, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197046

30 Cathedral Central Altar at Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The interior of Peter and Paul Cathedral is as impressively decorated as several of the imperial palaces in and around Saint Petersburg. The dominate color is gold. The arch above the central altar is supported by Corinthian columns. Next to them are winged statues of Peter and Paul, the cathedral’s namesakes and patron saints. Toward the base is an icon of Theotokos (Virgin Mary) with the Apostles gathered at her feet. The gilded crown represents Christ enthroned.

Peter & Paul Cathedral, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197046

31 Peter I Tomb at Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg, Russia

In 1725, Peter the Great died at the age of 52 from a bladder disease and suspected cirrhosis. About a month later, his six year old daughter Natalia succumbed to measles. They were interred on the same day at Alexander Nevsky Monastery. In 1731, their bodies were moved to Peter and Paul Cathedral within Peter and Paul Fortress. The former Russian emperor’s white marble sarcophagus topped by a bronze cross is one of the most visited sites in Saint Petersburg.

Peter & Paul Cathedral, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197046

32 Nicholas II Family Graves at Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, was executed along with his family in 1917 by a Bolshevik firing squad. Their bodies were then secretly buried. In 1979, the unmarked graves of Nicholas II, his wife and three daughters were discovered and verified by DNA. In 1998 – about 80 years after their death – they were interred in the Chapel of St. Catherine within the Peter and Paul Cathedral. In 2007, the remains of his son and fourth daughter were uncovered.

Peter & Paul Cathedral, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 197046