“Thunder,” says Julia tentatively.
Even as I am trying to force my brain to agree with her, I know darn well that horrendous noise wasn’t thunder. That we are standing in a building erected in the early 1700s, in which almost all the former tsars and emperors of
Around me I see other tourists realizing the same thing, their gazes rudely yanked from the magnificent frescoes and icons on the walls and ceilings of the cathedral, to meet the eyes of other startled tourists.
“No,” says the tour guide, “Not thunder, nor is it the start of another revolution. It is the noon cannon.”
She adds that they are so used to it, they forget to warn tourists. Sighs of relief, eyes back to the frescoes that adorn the Cathedral of Peter and Paul in
In 1703, Peter the Great decided that a
Though badly damaged during the WWII siege of
This photo is the closest I have to true color, the best I could do under fluorescent lighting.
Along the sides and front left corner of the great hall are the marble tombs of all
Off one corner of the cathedral is a small room known as the Catherine Chapel. In it is a small tomb, the final resting spot of the meager remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Alabaster plaques on the walls list each family member and the appropriate dates.
Almost a century ago, the tsar and his family, along with their servants, were murdered by Bolsheviks following the revolution of 1917. They were the last of the Romanovs, the family that had ruled
Yet to be added are the remains discovered last year of his son Alexis and daughter Maria. Genetic testings thus far have shown the newly-discovered remains to be Nicholas’s children.
At 404 feet and three inches high, the gilded spire of the bell tower within the Peter and Paul Fortress, with its angel holding a cross, can be seen from all over
This fortress, this cathedral, is our introduction to the riches and beauty of
Just before we leave, we are introduced to an important employee of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. I don’t catch its name, but all I need to know is that this cat is the official cathedral mouser. Such an important position in a place with such valuable antiquities.
We exit the cathedral by a side door, walk out into the courtyard to a softening rain. I am silent walking back through the main gate and climbing aboard the coach.
Tsar Nicholas and his family had been murdered ninety years ago, yet I have heard about them—and the sway the mad monk Rasputin had over them—all my life.
The Peter and Paul Fortress
Now, seeing the small marble tomb that encased the pitifully few bones that remain of this last Romanov family, I feel as never before how Russia is coming to terms with its tortured past.
The double-headed eagle emblem of Imperial Russia, and of the current Russian Federation.