The cathedral was built by the architect Domenico Trezzini between 1712 and 1733. The striking feature of the Cathedral is the golden spire that has become the symbol of the city.
The spire is topped with an angel with the cross. The angel looks tiny from below, but in fact it is 3,2 m high with a wing span 3,8m. Itís believed that our city is protected by the angel.
The cathedral together with its spire is 122,5 (400 feet) meters high. It is the highest architectural structure in the city.
The cathedral is best known as a burial place of the Romonovs. It was actualy conceived by Peter as a burial place of his family. Almost all Russian tsars from Peter the Great to Nicholas II are buried in the Cathedral. (The only exception is that of Peter II, he died of small pox in Moscow and he was buried in Moscow, where all the tsars before Peter the Great were buried in the Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin). All in all there are 32 tombs in the cathedral. Today the cathedral has a status of a museum, a museum of SPb history. However, religious services have been revived recently. They are held on Sundays.
Now we are entering one of the best architectural monuments of the 18th century,
Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral. You can take pictures inside but they kindly ask not to use flash. Please, be aware of pickpockets when coming in, near the control point.
So, you are welcome inside: The cathedral was built in the style of early Russian Baroque. The interior of this cathedral is different from the traditional Russian Orthodox Church: the large windows make it look rather like a palace. It was one of the innovations of Peter the Great. The walls, the pillars were painted in imitation of marble. Above the windows on the upper walls there are paintings on religious subjects by Russian artists (of the 18th century).. The cathedral is lit with five chandeliers made of crystal glass in St Petersburg. According to a legend one of the chandeliers was made by Peter.
Iconostasis. First of all weí ll take a look at the most elaborate part in any Russian church. We are going to see the Iconostasis or Wall with icons. Iconostasis is a wall decorated by icons. It is used to separate a church into two sections- a holly part of the church or Altar which is behind the wall, no one can go there, and another part - for worshippers. The Iconostasis is really high, it was carved by 40 craftsmen in wood, then itís carefully covered with real gold. it took them 5 years to carve this marvelous iconostasis. Some elements look like fabric, but everything you see is wood gilt.
There are 43 icons on the wall that are arranged in a traditional way, however there are some peculiar icons. To your right (on the right from the Holy gate) the icon of All Mighty God. The image is dressed in the royal vestment with royal regalias Ė scepter, orb.
To you left Ė Madonna with a baby.
The central part of the Iconostasis is called the Tsarís gate or the Holy gate. It was made of gilded bronze (in the second half of the 18th century. The central part is shape as a triumphal arch symbolizing the victory over Sweden in the Northern war).
Tsarís place. To your right there is a Canopy which is referred to as Tsarís place. It is where a tsar had to stand during the religious ceremony. Perhaps youíve noticed that there no benches, no pews in the church. According to the Orthodox tradition, the congregation should stand during the religious ceremony, even if it is of 3 hour-duration. There was no exception to the tsars as well.
As it was a royal place it is decorated with tsarsí regalias: on top we can see the crown, scepter, and sword. The stand is upholstered with crimson velvet.
Now we are approaching the burial places of the 18 century.
Let me remind you that there are 32 tombs in the cathedral. All the members of the royal family were buried acc to the traditions: The bodies were entombed two meters (6 feet) deep in the ground in special graves Then, burial places were marked by tombstones made of white Carrara marbles. Tombstones are decorated with gilded crosses and all the tsarsí tombs are decorated as well with double-headed eagles, the court-of arms of the Russian Empire. So, now we can see tombstones of the monarchs who ruled in the 18 cent.
The first one to be buried in the cathedral was Peter the Great (May 30th 1672 born). (He died in 1725, January 29th (reigned 1689-1725). By that time the cathedral was not finished, so his remains in the coffin were kept inside a little wooden chapel built within the walls of the cathedral. When the construction was finished in1733 his remains were reburied in the place he had chosen himself during his life. Peter is buried near the Southern wall.). Peter was no doubt one of the most important figures of pur history. It was he who had founded the city and introduced public education in Russia. Peter returned Russia access to the Baltic Sea, founded the Russian Fleet and started Russian industry. The first University and the Academy of Science, newspapers and magazines appeared during his life time, too. Thatís why his tomb stone is distinguished by several medals, he was awarded during his life for military service. There is a bust to Peter the Great. There are always flowers there.
Next to the grave of Peter the Great are his wife Catherine I (reigned 1725-1727)
and his daughter Elizabeth (1741-1761);
closer to Iconostasis are the graves of Ann (Peterís niece, reigned 1730-1740),
Peter III (his grandson, reigned January 1762-July 3d, 1762)
Catherine II (the wife of Peter III, reigned 1762-1796).
Now weíre going to see the burial place of the Last Royal Family. It was exactly the place which during his life Nicholas II (1894-1918) had chosen for himself and his family members to bury according to the tradition of the tsars to choose a future burial place beforehand.) No doubt youíve heard this terrifying story about the last family who was shot down together with 4 servants in 1918 by Bolsheviks (on the urgent order of Lenin). Nicolas II abdicated the throne after The February Revolution of 1917. Just before the October Revolution of 1917 led by Lenin, Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, and five children (Tatiana, Olga, Maria, Anastasia, Alexei) were arrested and brought to Yekaterinburg, where they lived in a small house for almost a year. Their 4 servants (the maiden Demidova, doctor Botkin, cook and the guard) deliberately decided to stay with the royal family and later on shared the same fate.
On July 17th 1918, all of them were shot down in the basement of that house by a firing squad.. After the tragedy the bodies (were dumped down a mine shaft 30 km away. Grenades were tossed in after them in an unsuccessful attempt to collapse the mine. The bodies were then dragged out) were doused with acid and buried in a swamp Ė all except for two of the children, Maria and Alexei whose remains were burned and hidden in a distance from the others.
70 years after the murder the royal remains were found and tested due to DNA analyses. So on July 17th 1998 Nicholas II and his family and four servants found their rest in this chapel. All of them were buried under one tomb stone.
On the walls there are memorial white marble plaques with the names of those who are buried in crypt beneath. The central two are of Nicholas II and his wife Alexander, to the left of them are of two elder daughters Olga and Tatiana, next to their plaques a bigger one is of Alexei. In the centre we can see the icon with images of Saints the Martyrs, their features are of the whole family of Nicholas II. In 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church canonized them with the rank of Saints the Martyrs.
Now we are moving further to see the burial places of Nicolas parents.
Alexander III (1881-1894), the father of the last Romanov, Nicholas II. (Alexander III was distinguished for being a Russian giant, broad shouldered, strong man. Thanks to his strength the whole family was saved by him during a derailment happened near Kharkov on their way to Livadia from St Petersburg. Alexander III was able to hold a roof of the carriage for some minutes until the safe-guards came to the rescue of the tsarís family). His wife, a Danish princess Mary Dagmar, was the only one from the last Romanovís family, who escaped the arrest of the Bolsheviks (revolutionaries) having emigrated in good time to her native country in 1918. In 1928 she died in her native country where she was buried. In 2006 year her remains were brought from Denmark.
Now weíre going closer to the colorful tombs which are in front of you.
The green tomb is to Alexander II (1855-1881), it is made of solid piece of jasper. It is of 5,5 tons heavy. The tomb of his wife is made of rhodonite, six and a half tons heavy. They present the most interesting examples of Russian stone-carving. It took about 11 years to carve and shape these monoliths.
(You should remind your clients again about Alexander II, who he was: the Tsar-Liberator, who abolished serfdom in February 19th 1861, but was assassinated in March 1st 1881. In the marriage between him and Maria were 6 children, but he had some more 3 children from his mistress Catherine Dolgorukova, whom he married officially later after the death of his first wife. The marriage wasnít accepted to be official by the members of the royal family, all three children got the last name as the Yurievskys. On the wall you can see a silver wreath. It was brought by one of the descendants of Alexander.
Now weíre in the section where monarchs were buried in the first part of the 19 century.
In the second row at the window side is the tomb of the only legitimately born child of Catherine II, Paul I (1796-1801). Next to him is the tomb of his wife Maria Fyodorovna (an Austrian Princess, they had together 10 children). The elder son, Alexander I (1801-1825), is next to their parents. He is known as a conqueror of Napoleon. (And the last one is his wife Elizabeth, with whom he had two daughters, but they died in the childhood. Thatís why according to the new regulation of succession to the throne adopted by Paul I, if the royal family didnít have a male child born, the next brother was to succeed the throne. So, Constantine, the next brother of Alexander I, had to succeed, but abdicated in favor of Nicholas I). So after his abdication the next brother Nicholas I (1825-1855) succeeded the throne ( in December 14th) 1825. The tomb of this Tsar is in the first row.( Next to him is his wifeís tomb, of Alexandra Fyodorovna, a German Princess, a daughter of Fredrich Wilhelm III.
∑ You know, Peter the Great in his second marriage with Catherine I had 11 children, nine died as babies, five children are buried in this cathedral, only brass plaques are fixed on the wall above the tomb of Constantine.
∑ Now we are leaving the Cathedral. Mind the step near the door.
Before leaving the cathedral I would like to show some pictures to you arranged on the walls of the passage connecting the cathedral with the Vestry or Grand Ducal Mausoleum. Letís go along, and you will see first on the left hand side wall some pictures of the funeral ceremony of July 17th 1998, when the found remains of the last Romanovs were to rebury in Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral. You can see ceremonial squad carrying the coffins of the royal family through Peterís gate to the cathedral, and some members of the Romanovs, who are alive, but live outside Russia, either in the USA, or France, Italy, Belgium and some other countries. They accepted the invitation from the then President of Russia Boris Yeltsin and the governor of St Petersburg Vladimir Yakovlev to witness the burial ceremony in this cathedral on July 17th 1998. So you may see these people in the pictures. Keeping on walking along the same left side wall we can see some descendants of the Romanovs, who live still, but abroad. At the end of the passage there is no entrance to the Vestry so far, as it is being restored. Going out we can see some pictures on the other wall. They are both of cells and interiors of cells of the Trubetskoy Bastion; the former Prison The next pictures are of different periods of both reconstructions of the cathedral and the spire.