A tour of the political and spiritual heart of Russia
The vast Moscow Kremlin occupies an area in the shape of a triangle with an area of 27.5 hectares. It is located on a cliff above the Moscow River. Originally an independent city, over time its walls widened and shifted. For centuries, a flag with a double-headed eagle, a symbol of the Romanovs and Imperial Russia, flew here, and in 1917 it was replaced by red stars. Today, the Kremlin is the official residence of the president. The red Kremlin walls are 2.2 km long, 5 to 19 meters high, 3.5 to 6.5 meters thick, and have 20 towers.
Spasskaya (Savior's) tower
Four entrance gates lead to the Kremlin. The gate in the Spasskaya Tower with the Astronomical Clock, the gate in the Borovická Tower, the gate in the Trinity Tower and the gate in the St. Nicholas Tower.
Detail of the Spasskaya Tower
The Savior's Tower is one of the most beautiful Kremlin towers. It serves as a kind of gateway to the Kremlin. It was originally called Frolovská, but in 1658 it was renamed Spasská, because above its gate on the side of Red Square was a depiction of the Savior. Tsars, foreign envoys and a church procession entered the Kremlin ceremoniously through the main gate of this tower. However, it was not allowed to ride through the gate on horseback and walk with your head covered, and the tsars also had to respect this ban. An astronomical clock has been placed on the tower since 1625.
Another tower with the entrance gate to the Kremlin is the Trojan Tower. It was completed in 1499. Through the gate of this tower came the seat of the Empress and Tsarist princesses and the court of the patriarchs. It measures 80 meters in height.
From the Troja Tower there is an exit to the Troja Bridge, and from the Kremlin complex there is a gate on the other side of the bridge, a gate in the Kutafya Tower (Disorder Tower).
St. Nicholas and Sobakin's Arsenal Tower
Another tower with an entrance gate is St. Nicholas (Nikolská tower). It was built in 1491. It was named after an icon depicting Nikolai Divotvorec, located above the passage gate of the side loophole. This tower originally had a drawbridge and protective grilles. The last, fourth entrance tower is Borovická. It is built at the foot of the Kremlin hill and its name is derived from the pine forest, which originally covered the entire Kremlin hill. The tower is about 50 m high and supplies from the nearby grain warehouse and stables were brought to the Kremlin through its gate. Next to the St. Nicholas Tower stands the corner Sobakin's arsenal tower. It has the shape of an eighteen-walled. Its walls are up to four meters thick and are the largest tower in the Kremlin. A deep well has been preserved inside the tower, and from there a secret underground passage leads to the river Něglinka and further into the town. The tower is 60.2 meters high.
Beklemishevskaya (Moskvorecka) tower
The other towers of the Kremlin walls are without entrance gates. These are the Water (Sviblova) Tower, the Tower of the Annunciation, the oldest Secret Tower from 1485, the Petrov Tower, the Beklemišev (Moskvorecká) Tower, the Constantino-Jelenin Tower with a torture chamber, the Nabatnaya (Alarm) Tower, the Tsar's Tower (the youngest of the towers), Senate Tower, Central Arsenal Tower, Command Tower, Weapon Tower and two nameless turrets. The Beklemišev Tower was built in 1487 and was named after the surname of the Beklemišev boyars, who were then based in the Kremlin. The upper part of the tower was added in the 17th century.
Water (Sviblova) tower
The Corner Water (Sviblova) tower is one of the most beautiful in the Kremlin. Formerly called the Boyars of Svibl, whose court was in the vicinity of the Kremlin. In 1633, it was equipped with a pump, with which utility water from the Moskva River was fed through lead pipes. At the beginning of the 19th century, the dilapidated tower was dismantled and rebuilt, and in 1812 the retreating Napoleonic army blew it up. It was restored in 1819.
Cathedral Square (Sobornaya Platchaid) is one of the oldest squares in Moscow and forms the architectural center of the Kremlin. The square as we know it today was built in the 16th century. Festivities were held here on the occasion of the Tsar's anointing, coronation and celebrations of the victory of Russian troops. There is the Facet Palace (Granovitaja Palata), the Dormition Church, the Church of the Rizpoloženija, the Archangel Church, the Blagoveshchensky Church, the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great and the square is closed by the Church of the Twelve Apostles.
The Dormition Church (Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin) is the oldest, most important and also the most ornate church in the Kremlin. It stands on the north side of the Temple Square. The Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti of Bologna built it between 1475 and 1479, following the example of the Dormition Church in Vladimir. The coronations of Russian tsars took place here. The tall temple is topped by five massive gilded domes. It is entered through a beautiful portal with 17th-century frescoes and ornate carved doors. The five-row iconostasis dates from 1652, but some icons date back to the early 14th century. The walls are lined with the tombs of metropolitans, patriarchs and other important church leaders. Monomach's throne, made for Ivan the Terrible in 1551, is decorated with carved scenes from the life of Vladimir Monomach, Grand Duke of Old Russia. During the Napoleonic Wars, the temple was used by French soldiers as stables.
Church of Rizpoloženija
The Rizpoloženija Church (Church of the Imposition of the Robe of the Virgin Mary) is a smaller church between the Dormition Cathedral and the Facet's Palace. It was built between 1484 and 1486 and served as a private chapel of patriarchs and metropolitans. Today, it houses a collection of wooden church statues.
The Archangel Temple (Temple of the Archangel Michael) stands on the southern edge of the Temple Square. It was built between 1505 and 1508 by the Italian architect Alevisio Novi on the site of an older church. The temple enjoyed the respect and popularity of princes and tsars, who were buried here until St. Petersburg became the capital.
The Blagoveshchensky Cathedral (Church of the Annunciation) was a former court sanctuary of the Moscow Tsars, and weddings and baptisms took place there. The temple is topped by nine golden domes – domes. The interior is decorated with frescoes with biblical scenes made by the monk Feodosias in 1508. The real pearl of Old Russian art is the local temple iconostasis, created by Theofan Grek, Andrej Rubljov and Prochor of Gorodce. The extended terrace of the church and the so-called stairs of Ivan the Terrible allowed Tsar Ivan to attend services without having to enter the church. Because the monarch took the sacrament of marriage too lightly, the church forbade him to enter the temple.
The bell tower of Ivan the Great
The multi-storey tower with a golden dome was built in 1508. According to the original plan, this building was to combine the palaces and temples in the middle of the Kremlin, and at the same time to serve as the main observatory of the fortress. From the 81 meter high tower it was visible at a distance of 30 km. Later, a small bell tower and the so-called Filaret's extension were added to the bell tower from the north. In 1812, when Napoleon withdrew from Moscow, his troops placed bombs under all Kremlin buildings. The explosion destroyed the small bell tower and the outbuilding, but the massive tower of the bell tower of Ivan the Great withstood the explosion. Today, 21 bells hang in the bell tower, the largest of which weighs about 64 tons.
The Faceted Palace (Granovitaja Palata) is the most impressive Kremlin palace and at the same time the most ancient secular building in Moscow, belonging to the set of buildings of the Great Kremlin Palace. It was built in 1491 by Italian builders Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solario. Its name refers to the decoration of the facade, which is planted with limestone facet slabs. On the upper floor there is a large square hall with an area of 495 m2, 9 meters high, decorated with historical biblical scenes. The cross vault of the hall is supported by a massive square column. In this room, the Tsar gave an audience. On the south side of the palace, the Bloody Staircase leads to the Temple Square, where the relatives of the young Peter the Great were murdered in 1682. Stalin had the staircase demolished, it was restored under Boris Yeltsin.
The Palace of the Patriarch and the Church of the Twelve Apostles
It stands in the north of the Temple Square behind the Dormition Cathedral. It was built between 1653 and 1655 for Patriarch Nikon. The palace consists of a tall domestic church of the Twelve Apostles, which has survived as the only one of the original five churches, and a set of living and ceremonial rooms. One of the most interesting parts of the former residence of the patriarchs is the Cross Hall – originally a ceremonial audience hall. For the first time in the history of Russian architecture, a vault without a central supporting column was used to bridge such huge spaces (280 m2). From 1763, the hall boiled a cross – oil for church ceremonies. So far, you can see a marble furnace with silver boilers. Worship services and liturgical items are also on display in the premises.
Ivan Square and the largest bell in the world
Ivan Square is located to the east of the bell tower of Ivan the Great. There used to be government offices here. Tsarist ordinances were also proclaimed in this square, announcing to convicts the extent of their punishment. Today, the Tsar's Cannon and the Tsar's Bell stand here. The Tsar's Bell (Car Kolokol) weighs 200 tons and is the largest bell in the world. Preparations for its casting took almost two years, and the first attempt failed. After casting in 1735, the bell remained in the casting pit. During the great fire of the Kremlin in 1737, it cracked during firefighting. He remained at the bottom of the pit for a hundred years. It was not until 1836 that it was pulled out of the pit with great effort and built on a pedestal. A fragment weighing 11.5 tons fell off when lifted. The bell is 6.14 meters high and averages 6.6 meters.
Ivan Square and the largest fortress cannon in the world
The Tsar's Cannon (Tsar Rifle) was originally intended to defend the Spasskaya Tower, but was probably fired only once, after the defeat of the Poles, when the remains of Tsar Lzidimitri were fired from it. The cannon was cast in 1586 in a rifle factory in Moscow. Measured by caliber, it is the largest fortress cannon in the world.
The Great Kremlin Palace and the Terem Palace
The Great Kremlin Palace is a complex architectural complex of secular and ecclesiastical buildings, built at different times since the 15th century. The palace has about 700 halls and chambers. Natural and artificial marble was used for the interior of the palace so that its color and the patterns within the building did not repeat anywhere. On the upper floor there are a number of lavishly decorated reception lounges. Today, there are presidential offices. Behind the palace is the Terem Palace, which was built between 1635 and 1636. In this palace, on the third floor, were the living rooms of the tsar and his family, the tsar himself inhabited five rooms. The Tsarist rooms were the most inaccessible part of the whole of Těrem. Very rarely was a visitor allowed to enter one of the living quarters. The palace also has a magnificent throne room.
Armory and Diamond Hall
The building is the oldest museum in Russia. The origin of this jeweller's shop of Moscow princes dates back to the 14th century. The current appearance of the building was created on the basis of a project by Constantine Ton in the years 1844 – 1851. Among the exhibits are ceremonial armor, tsar's personal belongings, thrones, Faberg's eggs, priest's robes, coats of arms, coronation jewels and crowns, such as the crown of Vladimir II. Monomach, which crowned the first Christian ruler of Russia. The Diamond Hall is actually a collection of gems, precious metals and jewelry, such as the crown of Catherine the Great, the 190 carat Orlov diamond, the 89 carat Shah diamond, the diamond orders that Stalin awarded to marshals and others.
Tajnický sad is a park that occupies a large area in the southeastern part of the Kremlin. It is adjacent to Ivanovo Square. From this quietest part of the Kremlin you can watch the crowds of tourists passing the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.
In the area of the Kremlin there is also the Church of St. Lazarus, which is the oldest church building here (it was built in 1393), the Kratochvíle Palace, the Arsenal, the Presidium, the Former Senate (now the government building) and the Kremlin Congress Palace.
Kremlin Downhill Palace
The palace was opened on October 17, 1961 and is thus the newest point of the Kremlin. Originally, it hosted party conventions, today it hosts ballet, opera and concert performances. It has an incredible capacity of 6,000 spectators.
Kremlin at night
Night view of the Kremlin from the Great Moskvoretsky Bridge (from the Moscow River).
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