Peter and Paul Fortress
The historical center of St. Petersburg is the Peter and Paul Fortress founded by Peter the Great in 1703. The Fortress was supposed to defend the future capital against the enemy in the North of Russia.
The fortress was first built of earth, and later of stone. By the end of the 18th century the walls of the fortress had been faced with granite. The thickness of the bastions is up to 20 meters.
Built as a military fortification, the Peter-and-Paul Fortress soon lost its original strategic designation and was converted into a political prison. It was one of the most dismal political prisons of tsarist Russia, and contemporaries often referred to it as "The Russian Bastille". Actually, one of the first prisoners of the fortress was Peter the Great's son, Alexei, who was imprisoned there for taking part in a conspiracy against Peter's reforms.
All Russian tsars since Peter the Great used the fortress as a political prison. In the 18th-19th centuries many outstanding people of the country, who were fighting for emancipation of serves and civil rights, were incarcerated there.
The prisoners tried to communicate using a special rapping code which was invented in the beginning of the 18th century. The Russian alphabet was written and enumerated in five columns and six rows. The prisoner rapped first the number of the row and then the number of the column. For almost a century, all political prisoners in Russia used that rapping code (they learnt it in advance).
The St. Peter and Paul Cathedral was designed in 1712 and completed in 1733, on the territory of the fortress. The golden spire of St. Peter and Paul Cathedral is visible from afar. For a very long time the cathedral remained the tallest building in the city as well as in Russia (122.5 meters high). The spire is crowned with a ball; on the top of the ball there is a figure of an angel holding the cross. There is also a Grand Prince' Burial Vault, where the Russian Emperors are buried in the Cathedral. Peter the Great, the founder of the city, is also buried there.
On the bell-tower there is a tower clock with chimes. It used to chime "God, save the Tsar". Nowadays it chimes the national anthem four times a day.
Every day at 12.00 sharp the cannon of the Fortress makes a blank shot. Formerly the cannon shot announced the beginning and the end of a working day, a flood, or any important event.
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