"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Russian Journals, Part Eight, The Big, Bad Kremlin

Chapter Two

Cathedral Square certainly was not something I expected to find in the Moscow Kremlin, not the beauty, the antiquity, the peacefulness, the heart of the Kremlin.

Bell Tower of Ivan III( (the Great).

Completed in 1600, the Ivan the Great Bell Tower is said to stand in the exact center of Moscow. At 266 feet tall, the bell rang in warning when enemy forces approached. The tower was commissioned by his son, Vasily III. The bell tower and the adjoining Assumption Belfry serves as bell towers for three cathedrals in the square, as they do not have their own. The ensemble holds 24 large bells.

Detail atop belfry.

During the reign of Ivan III, also known as Ivan the Great (1440 – 1505), Russia land holdings tripled in size. He freed Russia from the Golden Horde (the Mongols). He was the grandfather of Ivan IV, known as Ivan the Terrible.

Assumption Cathedral

This cathedral is where all the Russian tsars were crowned. It is also called the Cathedral of Dormition. Since its construction began in the latter 15th century, it has been considered the most important church in Russia.

There's that tourist getting into the photo again.

Detail of gate lock. I was fascinated with these old locks.

Detail beside door.

Making our way into the cathedral. No photos permitted

Church of the Deposition of the Virgin’s Robe, built in 1484-88.

Be sure to click on the photo below and check out the unique drums supporting the domes.

Above, rooftop detail of Upper Savior’s Cathedral and Terem Palace Churches. Now a part of the Russian president’s residence, the palace previously was the home of the families of Russia tsars.

The plain building in the center is Ivan III’s Palace of Facets. This is where the imperial thrones are located. After their coronations, this is where the celebrations were held. It is the oldest secular structure still standing, having been completed in 1491. (Remember, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”)

Across the square is the Annunciation Cathedral. This church, built by order of Ivan the Terrible, is where the royal families’ private Orthodox services were held. On the far left, not pictured here because of some construction, is a covered porch built for Ivan The Terrible. He had gotten himself cross-threaded with the Russian Orthodox Church when he married his fourth wife, because divorce was not allowed by the church.

The tsars, when confronted with a the problem of ridding themselves of an unwanted wife, simply shipped them off to a convent where they were required to become nuns. I suppose this was much more humane than how Henry the VIII of England rid himself of wives.

So, Ivan was not permitted inside the church, but had to stand outside to hear the ceremony.

Above is the Archangel Cathedral, built in the early 1500s. It contains many tombs of Russian princes, including Ivan IV (the Terrible) and his son Ivan V, whom he killed during an argument.

Entrance to the Archangel Cathedral.

The Patriarch’s Palace and Church of the Twelve Apostles is the building pictured below. It contained living quarters. As with all the cathedrals and churches inside the Kremlin walls, it now houses icons, fabrics, and treasures of the Russian empire.

During our visit, we went inside only the Assumption Cathedral where we gaped at the richness of the décor, the priceless icons, and the frescoes. The guide book I have used to identify my photos contains numerous pictures of the riches contained in all these buildings.

The faceted palace, with the Terem Palace on both its left and the Palace’s unique domes at the right. The smaller church with the single golden dome is The Church of the Laying of Our Lady’s Holy Robe. At the right is the Assumption Cathedral, the showpiece of the Kremlin’s Cathedral Square. No photograph’s were allowed to be taken inside.

Okay, enough of palaces and cathedrals and kremlins. Time to float this boat.


  1. I noted that no run-of-the-mill architecture is visible in these photos. My, my. They don't build stuff like that here in Beloit.

    We have lots of churches but the collections plates never accumulate enough for an inkling of the gold and ornamentation the Russian leaders put into theirs. (I suspect you knew that! I just felt like putting my two cents in regarding my home town).

    It must cost a fortune just to keep all that gold sparkling.

    Thank God for cameras and kind travelers like you who share their photos.

  2. Booked holiday for next June. Your Journals have spurred me on. Thankyou