The town of Kronstadt is built on level ground and is thus exposed to inundations, the most famous being in 1824. On the south side of the town there are three harbors: the large western or merchant harbor, the western flank of which is formed by a great mole joining the fortifications which traverse the breadth of the island on this side; the middle harbor, used chiefly for fitting out and repairing vessels; and the eastern or war harbor for vessels of the Russian navy. The Peter and Catherine canals, communicating with the merchant and middle harbours, traverse the town. Between them stood the old Italian palace of Prince Menshikov, the site of which was later occupied by a pilot school.
The modern town's most striking landmark is the enormous Naval Cathedral, built from 1908 to 1913 and considered to represent a culmination of the Russian Neo-Byzantism. The older St Andrew Cathedral (1817), formerly Kronstadt's pride and beauty, was destroyed on communist orders in 1932. St John of Kronstadt, one of the most venerated Russian saints, served there as a priest from 1855-1908.
Among other public buildings are the naval hospital, the British seamen's hospital (established in 1867), the civic hospital, admiralty (founded 1785), arsenal, dockyards and foundries, school of marine engineering, and the English church. The port is ice-bound for 140–160 days in the year, from the beginning of December to April. A very large proportion of the inhabitants are sailors.
The Kronstadt Sea Fortress used to be considered the most fortified port in the world. Kronstadt still retains some of the "forts", small fortified artificial islands. Formerly, there were 42 such forts, situated in line between the southern and northern shores of the Gulf of Finland. Some fortifications were located inside the city itself and one was on the western shore of the Kronslot Island (on the other side of the main navigational channel).
Nowadays, the construction of the Saint Petersburg Dam has led to some of the forts being demolished. The dam also permitted Kronstadt and some of the forts to be reached without using a boat. Among the most important surviving forts are the Fort Konstantin, the biggest in the Gulf of Finland; the Fort Rif on the western shore of the island; and the particularly well-preserved Chumnoy Fort (Plague Fort). The largest and the newest of the forts, constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, is Fort Totleben, named after Eduard Totleben.
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