Early on the fortress became one of the main centres of the celebration of Russian military victories. As already mentioned, the first salute from the fortress walls rang out in 1704 in honour of the victory on Lake Peipus, and this tradition continues even today. In 1710, during the celebration of the taking of Vyborg, captured Swedish banners were carried into the wooden fortress cathedral, and this ceremony marked the beginning of the collection in the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral of relics of Russian military valour.

For a long time the fortress housed the boat, which was built in England in the seventeenth century and presented to Peter I’s father, Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, and which became in 1688 the first vessel in which the young Peter studied navigation by sailing the River Yauza in the environs of Moscow and Lake Pleshcheyevo near Pereslavl-Zalessky. In the spring of 1723 the boat was transferred to St Petersburg, where it was festively welcomed by “the sounds of music, cymbals, horns and a whole assortment of other instruments and with cannon fire”, and mounted on a pedestal on which, among other things, was written “Child’s play has brought manhood’s courageous triumph.” At the end of the summer the small vessel, the “Grandfather” of the Russian Navy, was solemnly accompanied by the thunderous sound of a military salute as it led the Russian fleet out to the Gulf of Finland, after which it was turned over to the Commandant of the St Petersburg Fortress for preservation. On several occasions to follow the boat was made a “participant” in various ceremonies. One such occasion took place in 1724 when the relics of the patron saint of St Petersburg — the Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky — were brought from Vladimir to St Petersburg, and again in 1803 during the celebration of the centennial of the founding of the city on the Neva.

On November 8, 1889, in the Defense Arsenal located in the kronwerk, the 500-year anniversary of Russian artillery was celebrated. Of no less interest were several “non-military” observances which took place in the fortress. Thus, each spring, beginning in the second half of the eighteenth century, the thawing of the Neva and opening of the navigation season were celebrated in special way. The main figure in this celebration was the Director of the City Shipyard, built in 1781 on the right bank of the river just below the top of the delta for the construction and repair of merchant vessels. After three cannon shots from the St Petersburg Fortress the Director of the Shipyard sailed out to the fortress at the head of a whole flotilla of sailboats, saluted the fortress with seven cannon shots, and after a reply salute, turned and headed for the opposite bank to the Winter Palace and saluted the main residence of the Emperor. Following 1831 the ceremonial crossing of the Neva to salute the Winter Palace was hea ed by the Commandant of the fortress. However, the “non-military” role of the fortress was not limited to such festivities. From 1711 to 1714 the fortress housed the Senate, at that time the highest collegiate directive organ in the country, established “in place of His Majesty, the Tsar’s own person”. In 1719 it was decided to transfer from Moscow to St Petersburg the production of money. Thus, the Mint Works was opened in the St Petersburg Fortress in 1724. Up until the October Revolution of 1917 it remained the main centre for minting Russian coins, closing its doors only for the temporary periods of 1728—38 (in connection with the move of the Imperial court to Moscow) and 1799— 1805 (in connection with the construction of a new building for the mint and its re-equipment). In 1876 the St Petersburg Mint Works became the sole mint in Russia. The Mint Works became the site in 1829 of the “collection of samples of foreign weights and measures”. This greatly aided the work which was carried out in the 1830 so standardize weights and measures in Russia. Under different titles from 1796 to 1860 the fortress housed the main organization charged with holding government funds in pre-revo-lutionary Russia, the Treasury Department. As in many Western European cities at the beginning of the eighteenth century, windmills stood on the fortress bastions. At the end of the 1710s the fortress casemates were rented out to St Petersburg merchants as warehouse space. At this time the main apothecary was also located in the fortress. Even in the first years of the fortress construction and repair of various vessels took place on the site of the future kronwerk. In 1805 the kronwerk was almost completely taken over by the City Shipyard. In 1808 a shipbuilding school was established at the kronwerk shipyard.

In 1838—40 the fortress housed one of the first electro-technical workshops in the world. From 1731 to 1858 the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral was officially the main city cathedral, and thus one of two main centres of religious life in St Petersburg (the second centre being the St Alexander Nevsky Monastery located upstream on the Neva). When in 1858 St Isaac’s Cathedral officially replaced the Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral as the main centre for worship, the latter became the cathedral of the Tsar’s family and the court. Up until the beginning of the eighteenth century the burial vault of the Romanov dynasty (ruling from 1613) remained the Archangel Michael Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, where in even earlier times all the Grand Princes of Moscow and Vladimir, beginning with Ioann I Danilovich (the Kalita) and all the tsars descending from the line of Rurik were buried. In 1708 the wooden Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral was made the second burial vault of the Romanov family. And in 1725 it was made the main buial vault of the Romanovs’ when, after Peter I’s death, the coffin with his body was placed on a special base in the as yet unfinished church. (The coffin was interred in the cathedral in 1731). In the beginning of the twentieth century members of the Romanov family were likewise buried in the Grand Ducal Burial Vault built specially for this purpose in the fortress next to the cathedral. Beginning in 1873 cannon shots were fired daily from the fortress informing St Petersburg citizens of the approach of midday (12:00 noon). Shots were also fired from the fortress to warn of flood danger.


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4 Dec 2008

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