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Kremlin. Saviour Tower and Intercession Cathedral.Across the vast land of Russia are scattered a numerous number of large cities and small towns where legendary buildings are dating back from the long past. Although much of the invaluable property of the country has been lost, there still remain more than forty thousand officially-recorded historic sites. These historic places vividly demonstrate architectural talents of Russians. The historic, architectural and artistic heritage is the glory and pride of Russia.

For most of its history, Russian architecture has been predominantly religious.
Russia's most characteristic architectural feature is its onion-domed churches, which evolved when the wooden churches of the north were translated into brick and colourful tilework. Churches were for centuries the only buildings to be constructed of stone, and today they are almost the only buildings that remain from its ancient past. The basic elements of Russian church design emerged fairly early, around the eleventh century.

Only a few places in the world are destined to become a kind of symbol. One of them is Red Square in Moscow, a symbol of great emotive power. Although the square itself is not very big (695 metres long and 130 metres wide), it impresses one by the richness and variety of its forms which merge in austere harmony. The ensemble is dominated by the Kremlin and the Lenin Mausoleum which stands by its walls. The powerful tent roofs of the Saviour and St. Nicholas towers emphasize the key position of this memorial which links the old ensemble with the present day.

Kremlin is the Russian word for citadel, and that's exactly what the Moscow Kremlin was: a medieval walled city on a hill above the Moscow River. Long ago, of course, the city grew far beyond the walls, but the citadel remained the seat of a government.

For the last eight centuries the Moscow Kremlin (or Kremle) was the witness of many glorious and tragicevents of our history. There are explosions of hostile guns, celebration of holidays and boiling ofriots near the Kremlin walls. Now the Moscow Kremlin is one of the greatest museums of the world.The Kremlin palaces and chambers are keeping the state regalia, invaluable icons and treasures of the tsars.

View of the Red Square: Saviour Tower and Intercession Cathedral.

As ancient chronicles assert, the Red Square appeared at the end of 15th century, when Ivan III ordered to ruin all wooden buildings, surrounding the Kremlin and threatening with the fire, and to allot this area for a market.

In Russia the same object might have several names. Thus, The Red Square was officially given its modern name in 19th century, though the name was mentioned in the documents of 17th century. Different centuries left their traces:15th century gave the Kremlin's Wall with Spasskaya, Senatskaya and Nikolskaya towers; 16th - Place of execution. (Lobnoe mesto), and the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed; 19th century - the monument to Minin and Pozharsky, the building of Historical museum and Upper Trade Rows (GUM), 20th century - Lenin's Mausoleum.
The Intercession Cathedral.

The word "red" doesn't refer to the color of the bricks or to Communism. In Russian, the square is called "Krasnaya Ploschad". The word "krasnaya" means both "red" and "beautiful," and the latter, referring to St. Basil's Cathedral at the southern end of the square, was the original meaning. St. Basil's is once again being used for religious services, but one can still tour the inside, where the walls are decorated with antique icons.

The Intercession Cathedral. T
he most famous and important of the old Russia'a memorial buildings, the Intercession Cathedral (also called the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed) was erected in 1555-61 to commemorate the great Russian conquest of the Khanate of Kazan. It was a kind of memorial to all those who had perished in the long struggle to liberate the Russian land from foreign overlordship. And it was built by two fine self-taught masters, Postnik and Barma.This "fairy-tale in stone" has delighted people with its unique forms and colours. Before the extra tiers were added to the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower, the Intercession Cathedral was the tallest building in Moscow (65 metres).

Kremlin. Close-up of the Intercession Cathedral. Kremlin. Close-up of the Intercession Cathedral.

For more than four centuries this remarkable edifice has survived numerous fires, natural disasters and enemy invasions to delight and astound all who look upon it.
Once the courage of the architect and devotee of Russian culture, P. Baranovsky, saved the church. When ordered to prepare the cathedral for destruction he refused and threatened to cut his own throat on the steps of the church, then sent a bluntly worded telegram to the leader of the party himself relating the above. For some reason Stalin cancelled the decision to knock the church down and for his efforts Baranovsky was rewarded with five years in jail.

Ivan the Great Bell-Tower.The Ivan the Great Bell Tower is the tallest structure in the Kremlin (81 m or 266 ft). It was built in 1505-08. From the top of the tower, the view extends for some 40 km (25 miles), so it was a strategic watch tower. There are 329 steps to the top. The Bell Tower and belfry still carry 21 bells which are remarkable creations of Russian foundry art. When retreating from Moscow in 1812, Napoleon ordered the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great to be blown up, but the magnificent structure withstood the blast and only the contiguous belfries were destroyed. In 1814-1815, the entire ensemble was restored.

The 70 m (230 ft) high Saviour Tower is the most magnificent of the Kremlin towers, the very symbol and emblem of Moscow. From time immemorial it has been thep rincipal entrance to the Kremlin. The tower was given its name in 1658, when an iconof Christ was set up over the entrance. Before the October Revolution, men were required to take their hats off when passing through the gate.

Saviour Tower.T
he first clock was set into the tower in the 16th century. Subsequently, the clock'smechanism has been changed repeatedly. Thegigantic mechanism (about 25 tons) of the carillon occupies three storeys of the tower. Until the October Revolution the carillon played the tsaristnational anthem, and between 1917 and 1941 it played the "Internationale".The clock now only strikes the hours. The ruby star was installed in 1937.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation. Kremlin. This icon is painted on the ceiling of South Galery of The Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Gate to the Cathedral of the Annunciation.The Cathedral of the Annunciation, with its nine gilded domes, is the smallest of the three main Kremlin cathedrals, but the decoration of the interior (in particular the frescoes and icons by Andrei Rublev and Feofan Grek) makesit one of the great treasures of Moscow. The cathedral was built in 1484-89 by a team of buildersfrom Pskov as the court church of Grand Prince Ivan III. It was connected by a passage at the gallery level with the palace of the grand prince and laterwith the tsar's residence. The passage still leads from the gallery into the Great Kremlin Palace, which immediately adjoins the cathedral.

The Kazan Cathedral, August 2002

The original Kazan Cathedral was built in 1636 in honor of the Kazanskaya Icon and to commemorate Tsar Mikhail Romanov's victory over the Poles and Lithuanians in 1612. The Kazanskaya Icon is one of the city's most precious icons and was discovered by a 9-year-old girl, to whom legend has it the Virgin Mary appeared three times in dreams to tell her of the miracle-working icon's location.

Close-up of The Kazan Cathedral.Unfortunately, like most of the churches in Moscow, Kazan Cathedral was destroyed by the Bolsheviks, ironically on the very same day in 1936 that the church was meant to celebrate its 300th anniversary. If it has not been for the courageous efforts of the architect Baranovsky, who was also responsible for saving St. Basil's Cathedral from destruction and who made secret plans of Kazan Cathedral even as the building was being torn down, there would be no replica standing on the site today. Once the church had been demolished, various structures were erected on the site, including a street cafe and a public washroom. In November 1990 the Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II laid the cathedral's foundation stone and three years later, re-consecrated the newly built church.

The Kazan Cathedral.Today, Kazan Cathedral boasts a pink and white exterior replete with the ornate window frames and gables characteristic of early Muscovite church architecture, and crowned by a cluster of green and gold domes. The church was re-opened on November 4th 1993 on the celebration day of the Icon of Kazan and has been hosting regular services ever since.

The history of the State Repository of Values (Gokhran) - the vaults beneath the Kremlin, the country's biggest state secret. The secret was thoroughly guarded for more than 70 years. All Gokhran's documents were strictly classified. No more than 10 persons knew the exact amount of values kept in Gokhran. The history of creation of Gokhran was kept secret too - it incorporates too much human tragedy and drama.
Kremlin. Saviour Tower and Intercession Cathedral.

Assumption Cathedral The Uspensky Sobor, or the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, (sometimes called the Assumption Cathedral), is the largest and the most historic of the cathedrals in the Kremlin. Here princes, grand princes and tsars were crowned by the metropolitan or patriarch; here metropolitans and patriarchs were enthroned and buried, and here many a chapter in the history of Moscow and of Russia began or was concluded.

Built during 1158 - 1479, Assumption Cathedral combined traditional Russian Orthodox building techniques with ideas from the Italian Renaissance. The Cathedral of the Assumption is still the dominant part of the city's skyline. Standing on the steep left bank of the river, the cathedral is visible from a great distance to anyone coming from Murom. Up to four thousand people could gather inside it.

Entrance to the Assumption CathedralAt door level are the icon of the Savior with the fiery or severe eye (14thc.), the Dormition of the Virgin, and a copy of the old testament Trinity. To the left of the Royal Door is a copy of the revered Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

In 1812 the cathedral was occupied by Napoleon's Army, who used some of the icons for firewood, and tried to carry off some 250 kg (550 pounds) of gold and five tons of silver. Most of it was abandoned during their retreat and was recovered and returned to the cathedral.

Kremlin. The Archangel Cathedral.The Archangel Cathedral, built in 1505-08 by Alevis Novi, was the burial church of the tsars. Here all the Russian princes, grandprinces and tsars from Ivan Kalita onwards had their last resting-place.
Unlike the other Kremlin cathedrals, the Cathedral of the Archangel has silver domes, apart from the recently gilded central dome.

Inside the Archangel Cathedral.. Though built at the eginning of the 16th century, the Archangel Cathedral was painted only in the second half of that century.

Only part of this painting has survived - in the altar and on the west portal. In 1652-66, a large team of artists from Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Vologda painted the cathedral's frescoes, repeating the motifs of the sixteenth century painting.

Kremlin. View of the Archangel Cathedral.
Kremlin. View of the Archangel Cathedral.

The Arsenal was built between 1702 and 1736, with some interruptions in the work. The general plan of the building was sketched out by Peter the Great himself;

The Arsenal.The Arsenal was partly destroyed by fire in 1737, and was reconstructed in 1786-96 by the engineer Gerard. It was given its present aspect between 1815 and 1828, after the French attempts to blow up the Kremlin before abandoning Moscow made radical rebuilding necessary.

After the rebuilding it was intended that the Arsenal would be used as an army museum: hence the 875 cannon lining the outside walls. The stucco reliefs of military trophies on the walls reflect the same intention.

The Tsar Cannon.The Tsar Cannon is an interesting specimen of sixteenth century foundry work. It was cast of bronze in 1586 by the Russian master Andrei Shchokhov. It weighs nearly 40 tons and has a barrel 5.34 m (17 ft) long and a bore of 890 mm (35 in). This is the largest bore of any cannon in the world. The cannon balls weigh a ton each.

The Senate building.Opposite the Arsenal, on the edge of Senate Square, stands the imposing Neoclassical Senate building.
The building was commissioned by Empress Catherine the Great to house meetings of the Moscow branch of the Senate, an advisory body that she had set up in 1711, and has been the official residence of the Russian President since 1991. After its construction, the commandant of the Kremlin doubted the stability of the building's large green dome, which is clearly visible from Red Square, and the architect was forced to climb up onto the cupola and stay there for more than an hour before he was convinced of its integrity. The cupola sits above the building's impressive grand hall, which was used formerly for meetings of the USSR Council of Ministers.

The building also used to contain the former quarters of Lenin and Stalin's study, under which a secret passage was discovered that may have enabled the Director of the Secret Police, Beria, to overhear the dictator's conversations. The Senate Building looks onto Senate Square, where in February 1905 the terrorist Ivan Kalyaev, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, threw a bomb at the carriage in which the uncle of Tsar Nicholas II, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, was traveling.

Walls of Kremlin. View of the Moscow River.
Walls of Kremlin. View of the Moscow River.

he Konstantino-Yeleninskaya Tower.The Konstantino-Yeleninskaya Tower served as the Kremlin torture chamber in medieval times and stands on the site of the white-stone Timofeyev Tower, through whose gates Dmitry Donskoy led his troops in 1380 to the historic battle of Kulikovo against the Mongol and Tartar armies.

The Lobnoye Mesto, a circular stone platform on Red Square not far from St. Basil's Cathedral, was built in the early 16th century and used primarily as a platform from which the Tsar's edicts were read out, special church sermons were given and the sentences of convicted criminals were aired. The platform's name derives from its location, on a steep slope or "uzlobie" in Russian. In Orthodox Moscow this place symbolized the hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem, on which Christ was crucified. In translation from the ancient Hebrew Golgotha means "lob", head or forehead, hence the connection.

Raised platform in Red Square once used for public executions, 2002.
Raised platform (Lobnoe Mesto) in Red Square once used for public executions.

Lobnoye Mesto was also a place where holy relics were displayed so that the people of Moscow could honor them, where the boyars Boris Godunov and Vasily Shuisky were proclaimed Tsar and where the heir to the throne was traditionally carried on his 14th birthday, so that the people could see their future Tsar and not allow an impostor to assume the throne. The platform was also the site from which Ivan the Terrible begged for the peoples' forgiveness in 1547, after Moscow was almost completely destroyed by a fire that the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church pronounced to be God's punishment for his barbaric actions. It is a common misconception that the Lobnoye Mesto was the square's execution site, but most executions were in fact carried out on the slope behind St. Basil's.

Statue to Minin and PozharskyIn the small garden outside St. Basil's stands an impressive bronze Statue to Minin and Pozharsky, who rallied Russia's volunteer army during the Time of Troubles and drove out the invading Polish forces.

They were an interesting duo - Dmitry Pozharsky was a prince, while Kuzma Minin was a butcher from Nizhny Novgorod.

Statue to Minin and Pozharsky

For more information about Moscow Kremlin please check their official website. (English version of this site will be available soon)

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