Petersburg was founded as a fortress for defence of access to the Baltic sea for Russia, which was won during the Northern War. Fortress was founded on the Zajatchij (Hare) island May 16 (May 27 by old style), 1703.
The fortifications were earthen at first. More then 20000 soldiers and peasants of vicinity country worked at the construction site in first period. Conditions of life were severe and that work considered as a penal servitude. "...They [workers] carried an earth for the construction in matting bags or flaps of their coats. As I have heard near to 100 thousands peoples were lost under the construction of this fortress" - wrote a contemporary observer.
Late autumn 1703 300 guns were mounted on the bastions of fortress. Also there were the Guard-house, Chemist's shop, Arsenal, Senate building, Commandant house and wooden church in the fortress. The Kronverk with esplanade was constructed on the another bank of effluent north of fortress.
From 1706 till 1740 earthen fortifications were replaced by brickwork. New walls has a 12 meters height and 2.5 meter thick. The fortress has 6 bastions and 4 gates. Walls of bastions has a thick more than 4 meters. In 1730-th two ravelings (Alekseevskij and Ioannovskij) were constructed for covering of the gates.
In 1782 walls faced to Neva river were covered by granite by the order of empress Catherine II. In 1790 the decorative sentinel turrets were constructed on the bastions.
In 1808 during the Russian-Swedish war and in 1812 during the Napoleonic war the fortress was in the full war preparedness, however it has never been in action for all it's history.
The Cathedral construction began summer 1712 by the projects and control of Domenico Trezini. The construction was finished in June 29, 1703. In 1756 bell tower of Cathedral was demolished by fire because of thunderbolt and was restored in 1757 with some alterations. The angel image by A.Rinaldi project was mounted on the spire of it in 1757 also.
All russian czars from Peter the Great till Nikolai II has been buried in Cathedral with exception of Peter II (buried in Moscow) and prince Ioann (killed in Shclisselburg).
The fortress used as the jail since it's foundation. 22 sailors of mutiny ship "Revel" were the first prisoners of Trubetzkoj bastion. The story goes prince Aleksey, only son of Peter the Great was a captive of the fortress. Author of book named "About poverty and richness" I.Pososhkov was the first political prisoner of this jail in 1725. Famous book-pamphlet "Traveling from Saint-Petersburg to Moscow" was issued in 1790. It's author A.Radishcev was arrested immediately and accommodated in a ward of the jail in Trubetskoj bastion.
So called "Secret House" in Alekseevskij raveling with 20 single person wards was built in 1790-th. It became main political prison of Russian empire.
October 16, 1820 - mutiny of Semenovsky regiment occurred. More than 3000 soldiers were got to the dungeons of the fortress.
December, 1825 Decembrist insurrection was happen. Near to 200 conspirators were got to the jail. Investigations lasted till 1826, after that all prisoners leaved the fortress, some for the hard labour in Siberia and others for the death on the gallows.
"Guests" of the fortress were "revolution democrats" (Chernyshevsky, Michailov, Pisarev, ...), terrorists of "Narodnaja Volja" (Karakozov, Barannikov, Polovanov, Zheljabov, ...), member of conspiracy society "Zemlja & Volja" (Nechaev, Shelgunov, ...) and many others. Some of them were in the prison within 20 years (Beideman). There were the famous Russian writers as a prisoners of this jail, Fedor Dostoevskij for example ("Petrashevskij" case). Must be named also Aleksander Uljanov ("Terror's fraction of "Narodnaja Volja"), which was an older brother of Vladimir Uljanov more famed under nickname "Lenin".
In 1872 new jail with 36 single person wards was built in Trubetskoj bastion. In 1895 the "Secret House" in Alekseevskij raveling was abolished and destroyed. All it's prisoners were sent to Schlisselburg's prison.
Since 1900-th Trubetskoj bastion of Peter and Paul fortress was used as the military jail. 13 ministers of defeated "Vremennoe Pravitelstvo" (Provisional Government) were one of the latest prisoners in there in October, 1917 - March, 1918. Finally, the insurgent's sailors of Kronshtadt were in the jail of the fortress for the short time in 1921. That times the history of the jail of the Peter and Paul fortress was finished.
It is not easy to define the impressions because as local St.Peterburger I have inside and every were in the fortress oftentimes. It is not right to visit in summertime, whan the livin' is easy. Tourists are crowding and the rates are high. Try to do it winter, in stormy monday in November with dirty weather and dribble rain and flooding is strictly desirable. Then you could get a right impression about that gloomy northern stronghold...