The Kremlin in Moscow is not only the world-famous seat of the Russian president, but also a fantastic open-air museum with monumental splendour buildings from the 15th to 19th centuries.
The Kremlin in Moscow is the seat of the Russian president and the city's trademark par excellence. No tourist is allowed to leave Moscow without visiting the Kremlin. The impressive former castle in the centre of the city is also the oldest part of Moscow. Together with Red Square and the world-famous St Basil's Cathedral, the Moscow Kremlin has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.
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PICTURES: Moscow Kremlin
Creation of the Kremlin in Moscow
Today's Kremlin was built in the late 15th century by Grand Duke Ivan III from a 300-year-old bulwark erected on the banks of the Moskva. The former defensive fortress in the form of a citadel is still remembered today by the mighty surrounding wall. It is over 2 km long, 5 m thick, 19 m high and peppered with 20 impressive defence towers.
The most famous among them is the 71m-high Spasskiye worota ("Saviour's Tower") on Red Square, which serves as the official entrance gate to the Kremlin and is adorned with a 6m clock. Visitors are allowed to enter the "stone heart of Moscow" through the Iroitskoya bashnya ("Trinity Tower").
Until the beginning of the 18th century, the Kremlin also functioned as the seat of power for the Grand Princes of Moscow, then Tsar Peter I moved the Russian capital to St. Petersburg until 1918. Nevertheless, the Kremlin continued to function as the centre of spiritual and cultural life in Moscow. Over the centuries, the Kremlin suffered repeated enemy attacks, such as Napoleon's troops, but it was immediately rebuilt. Its current appearance dates from the early 19th century.
The Kremlin today
Today, the Kremlin is not only the seat of the Russian government and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, but also the largest open-air museum in the world, covering an area of almost 30 hectares. The Kremlin houses magnificent palaces, monumental churches and fascinating museums.
The buildings in the Kremlin all date from different eras and form a breathtaking architectural ensemble. The wealth of the Russian tsars from the 15th to the 17th century is reflected in the masterful construction and magnificent furnishings of the palaces and cathedrals.
Highlights of the Kremlin
The Great Kremlin Palace houses the chambers and offices of the Russian government. The Palace of Facets with its reception hall, the Golden Tsar's Palace, the Terem Palace and a number of palace churches are also part of the palace.
Also near the Great Kremlin Palace is the Armoury, which houses 4,000 exhibits of precious weapons, armour, thrones, robes, armour and royal treasures. More weapons and cannons can be seen in and in front of the Arsenal, which today serves as the command centre of the Kremlin guard.
The Senate Palace, a round columned palace with two wings in bold ochre, is also called the "Russian Pantheon". The former seat of the Soviet government is now home to the Russian president.
The communist monstrosity of the State Kremlin Palace has absolutely nothing to do with the magnificent buildings in the surrounding area. Unfortunately, several historic buildings in the Kremlin had to make way for the construction of this monstrosity. Formerly the seat of the party, it is now used as a venue for operas and ballet performances.
Churches in the Kremlin
The snow-white Cathedral of the Assumption with its golden domed roofs was for a long time Russia's most important cathedral, where tsars were crowned, ceremonies held and acts of state proclaimed.
The Cathedral of the Annunciation was the house church of the Moscow Grand Princes and is decorated with magnificent frescoes by famous Russian painters.
The cruel ruler Ivan the Terrible is buried in the Archangel Cathedral in the company of other Russian Grand Princes and Tsars. The Ivan the Great Bell Tower, at 81m, was Moscow's tallest building for a long time.
The Robe Laying Cathedral is the fifth in the group of snow-white sacred buildings with golden domes. It is the house church of the Russian patriarchs and houses a magnificent iconostasis from the 17th century.
In contrast to the sacral buildings, a snow-white palace with silver domes is the Patriarchal Palace. This is the former residence of Russia's highest ecclesiastical dignitary, which now functions as a museum about Russian culture in the 17th century.
Tsar Cannon and Tsar Bell
In addition to the fantastic buildings, the once largest cannon in the world, the 40-ton "Tsar Cannon" and the 200-ton "Tsar Bell" can also be visited within the Kremlin walls. The 6m high bell was actually supposed to ring down from "Ivan the Great", but could never be lifted out of the pit where it was cast.
When a piece of the bell broke off after a fire, it was not hung in the bell tower and placed on its stone pedestal in the Kremlin in 1836. To this day, it claims the title of the world's largest bell.