A tour of the fortress is best begun on Petrograd Island, from the intersection of Kamennostrovsky Prospekt and Kuibyshev Street. The streets are named in honour of Sergei Kirov (1886-1934), the leader of the Leningrad party organization in 1926-34, and Valerian Kuibyshev (1888-1935), an eminent Soviet political and military figure, respectively.

This intersection forms one of the corners of Revolution Square (formerly Trinity Square, the oldest square in the city). A few dozen steps away, connecting Petrograd and Hare Islands, a wide wooden bridge spans across the Kronwerk Strait, which since the end of the nineteenth century has been called the St John Bridge. In the past nearly everyone to enter the fortress – from members of the Emperor’s family and high-ranking foreigners participating in various formal ceremonies in the cathedral to convicts held at the fortress prison – everyone passed over this bridge. Construction of the bridge began in 1738 and was completed by 1740. In the course of restoration work in 1953, street lamps were installed on the bridge, which are exact copies of those which adorned the entrances to the pontoon bridge which, until 1892, connected the left bank of the Neva with St Petersburg (now Petrograd) Island. The posts of some of the lamps are in the form of a bundle of lances with garlands and two-headed eagles at the top; others are mounted on obelisks crowned with military helmets; all the posts are likewise adorned with representations of oval shields on crossed swords. In addition, in 1953 the wrought-iron railing was restored on the St John Bridge, with posts in the shape of lictor fasces, a bundle of rods having among them an ax with the blade projecting borne before Roman magistrates in ancient times as an insignia of authority.

From the St John Bridge the brick half-counterguard of the Menshikov Bastion is readily visible. The socle, cornice and corners of this fortification are reveted with limestone tiles. This is the way the exterior of the fortress walls looked after renovation in 1827-40.

A little farther along the right bank of the Kronwerk Strait is the huge brick building of the Defence Arsenal, the construction of which was completed in 1860. The St John Bridge leads to the rather low St John Gate pierced in the left face of the St John Ravelin. The facade of the gate, decorated with rusticated masonry, is crowned with a triangular pediment, the tympanum of which encloses a cartouche and the image of the Russian Imperial crown surrounded by various military attributes and insignia – ban-ners, halberds and drums. The date on the gate – the year 1740 – marks the completion of all stone defence structures of Fortress Island. The St John Gate is the place where one first sees a motif characteristic of and repeated in various other structures throughout the fortress, namely two pairs of pilasters. It is comparable with another motif which is also repeated in several places in the fortress, i.e., two pairs of columns. The architectural forms of the St John Gate are simple and resemble Renaissance architecture.


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4 Dec 2008

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