The Kremlin, Moscow, Russia

The Kremlin, which means The Castle, is a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, The famous Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It is the best known of the kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes 5 palaces, 4 cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. Also within this complex is the Grand Kremlin Palace which serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. Both The Kremlin and Red Square are UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1990.

The existing Kremlin walls and towers were built by Italian masters over the years 1485 to 1495. The irregular triangle of the Kremlin wall encloses an area of 275,000 square meters (68 acres). The wall's thickness is between 3.5 and 6.5 meters. Originally there were 18 towers, but their number increased to 20 in the 17th century. All but 3 of the towers are square in plan. The highest tower is the Troizkaya, which was built up to its present height of 80 meters in 1495.

The center of The Kremlin is occupied by the main and most ancient square of the city: The Cathedral Square, which still retains its original form - a unique complex of masterpieces of medieval architecture. Having been founded in the early 14th century by Yuri Dolgoruki, Prince of Suzdal, The Cathedral Square saw the construction, destruction and rebuilding of churches and chambers, witnessed all the perturbations within the history of the Russian State.

Nowadays the architectural ensemble of the Cathedral Square consists of The Cathedral of the Dormition (or The Assumption Cathedral), Archangel's Cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, The Church of Laying Our Lady's Holy Robe, The Patriarch's Palace, The Faceted Chamber, Golden Tsarina's Chamber and Churches of the Terem Palace, and The Ivan the Great Bell-Tower complex. The Cathedral Square is definitely worth visiting from April to October, when the demonstration of the ceremonial mounting parade of Horse Guard and Foot Guard of the Presidential Regiment takes place in the very heart of the Moscow Kremlin.

Archangel's Cathedral

Built from 1505 to 1508 on the location of an earlier church originally constructed by Ivan Kalita in 1333. Venetian architect Aloisio the New succeeded at combining ancient Russian style with Renaissance motifs in the architecture. The cathedral houses the tombs of the rulers of Muscovy and their close relatives. At present, the church and the tombs serve as a museum.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation

It was constructed in 1489 on the foundations of an older, early 14th to 15th century cathedral. Prior to the 18th century, it was a private church to Moscows' Grand Dukes and Tsars, hence the name "At His Majesty's Court". It once served as the location of the Treasury. Currently the south parapet and the first floor of the cathedral house interesting historical exhibits. Since 1993, services have been held on the Feast of the Annunciation.

The Ivan The Great Bell Tower

The Ivan the Great Bell Tower ensemble consists of the St. John Climacus Church and Bell Tower, the Assumption Belfry, and Filaretov's Annex. The Assumption Belfry contains an exhibition space for the Moscow Kremlin Museum, and the Bell Tower is itself a unique monument shrouded in legend that is its own kind of museum. Multimedia projectors display images of the Kremlin from different epochs and from unrealized projects on the walls. In addition, visitors have access to a roundabout gallery which offers a panoramic of the Kremlin from a bird's-eye view. The exhibition is open only in the summer.

The Patriarch's Palace and the Church of the Twelve Apostles

From 1653 to 1655, Russian craftsmen constructed the Patriarch's Palace for Orthodox Patriarch Nikon. The ground floor is reserved for administrative offices, the second held staterooms, and the third was the Patriarch's personal quarters. The Church of the Twelve Apostles, which is adjacent to the chambers, was combined with them into a single architectural structure, and was the chapel for Russia's Patriarchs. Now the church and chambers contain a museum exhibition.

The Cathedral of the Dormition

Built from 1475 to 1479, also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption, is one of the oldest buildings in Moscow. For hundreds of years it was nation's primary Orthodox church: here Russian monarchs were crowned and the upper clergy were anointed. After the October Revolution, it was turned into a museum. Starting in 1990, services occur in the cathedral on certain days.

The Church of Deposition of the Robe

Built by craftsmen from Pskov between 1484 and 1485 on the site of an ancient temple. It served as a chapel for the Metropolitans and Patriarchs and was later transferred to the Grand Prince's residence. It has frescoes and icons from the 17th century. Its gallery displays an exhibition of Russian wooden sculptures from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

The Tsar Cannon

One of the most remarkable monuments of military technology and foundry art from 16th to 19th centuries is the Tsar-gun which is the biggest in the World. Placed outside a building constructed in 1810 by architect I.V. Egotovym for the Armory Museum. The Tsar-gun was originally created by the eminent Russian cannon-caster Andrey Chekhov in 1586 in Moscow by the order of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the sovereign ruler of All Great Russia. The Tsar Cannon is located on the west side of Ivanov Square, between the Ivan-the-Great Bell-Tower and the Twelve Apostles' Church.

The Tsar Bell

The Tsar Bell is a masterpiece of the Russian casting technology of the 18th century, standing on a stone base to the east of Prince Ivan the Great Bell-Tower. It was manufactured by the masters Ivan Motorin and his son Mikhail between 1733-1735 by order of empress Anne Ioannovna. Up until now, the Tsar Bell is the largest metal bell in the World. It is 6.14 meters high, 6.6 meters in diameter, and weights about 202 tons.

The Armoury Chamber

The Armoury Chamber is Moscow's oldest and most prestigious museum located in a building constructed in 1851 by architect Konstantin Ton and is part of the Grand Kremlin Palace complex. This famous treasury museum is home to ancient state regalia, ceremonial tsar's vestments and coronation dress, vestments of the Russian Orthodox Churches hierarchs, the largest collection of gold and silverware by Russian craftsmen, West European artistic silver, ceremonial weapons and arms, carriages, horse ceremonial harness.

The museum collection was based on the priceless objects created in the Kremlin workshops, and also those that were received as gifts from embassies of foreign states, kept for centuries in the tsar's treasury and the Patriarch's sacristy. It displays around 4000 artefacts of decorative and folk-art from Russia, Europe, and East Asia from the 4th to the early 20th centuries.