Buildings of the Moscow Kremlin

From the twelfth century when Moscow became the administrative centre of the Russian states, its princes ruled from the Kremlin. It was the centre of tsarist rule from the 16th to the 17th century, after which, the capital was transferred to St Petersburg. It became the seat of government again from 1918 under the Bolsheviks, continuing to be so after the Soviet Union's creation in 1922 to its disbandment in 1991. It remains the seat of government of Russia to this day. The Kremlin enclosure is in the shape of an irregular triangle located at the heart of Moscow, and overlooking the Moskva River towards the south. Its circumference is almost 1.5 miles (2.4 km). The original Kremlin was built on the site in 1157.

Dating Building Name Function Notes
14th c. Annunciation Tower Citadel tower; a prison, 16th c. 31 m. tall. Contains large dungeon. Gate added 17th c., but bricked up in 1813.
1393 Church of the Nativity Worship, warehouse Originally, Church of the Birth of Christ with a side chapel of the Resurrection of Lazarus, built to commemorate Russian victory over the Golden Horde. Structure rebuilt 1514 into ground floor of a palace by Aleviz Novi, who built an arch over it and a new church. Older part of the church became Chapel of Lazarus. Structure taken down 1618, walls incorporated with Terem Palace, and new church built. Chapel of Lazarus abandoned 1684, building became a warehouse. Chapel of Lazarus discovered 1838, during construction of Kremlin Palace, and church restored. Extensive restoration from 1920.
1475-79 Cathedral of the Assumption Seat of Russian Orthodox Church transferred from Vladimir to current location 1326. Crowning place of tsars and grand dukes, and where high-level church leaders were consecrated. Kremlin's oldest church. Original building from 14th c. Rebuilt by Alberti 'Aristotle' Fioravanti from limestone with brick drums and vaulting. Contains Patriarch's Seat, and Throne of Monomakh, carved 1551. Frescoes mostly from 1640s; iconostasis from 1652 incorporates older icons. Walls lined with tombs of metropolitans and patriarchs. Damaged during fighting 1917; last liturgy held same year. Church closed, treasures disappeared. Reopened to public, 1990.
1484-86 Church of the Deposition of the Robe Private chapel of the Moscow metropolitans and patriarchs. Now, a museum. Built by Pskov craftsmen on foundations of the original church which perished in Kremlin fire 1473. Reconstructed number of times from 16th c. Restoration began 1919 to return church to original form. Iconostasis, 1627, by Nazary Istomin Savin. Church contains wooden figure collection; frescoes by Sidor Osipov and Ivan Borisov, 1644, restored 1950s.
1484-89 Cathedral of the Annunciation Private church of grand dukes and tsars. Now connected to private royal quarters by various passages. Deconsecrated 1918. Now, a museum. Built in Greek-Russian style by Krivtsov and Mishki using existing foundations and undercroft of 14th c. church. Badly damaged 1547. Restored 1562-64, with gallery being enclosed; four small side chapels, each with single dome added. Two more domes added at rear, all gilded. Porch built for Ivan the Terrible, 1572, after fourth marriage fobade his entry into cathedral itself. Frescoes in royal chapel from 1508, and those in two galleries enclosing it from 1560s. Iconostasis from 1405; contains works by various 14th-19th c. artists. Badly damaged during Revolution.
1485 Secret Tower Citadel tower for secret exiting; observation from tower; fire alert. Kremlin's oldest tower; concealed passage leads from citadel to Moskva River; observation tower added 16th c.; roof added 17th c.; fire alarm bell also added. Rebuilt  number of times; repaired 1812 after Napoleon's assault. Gateway, well, and passageway bricked up 1930s.
From 1485 Kremlin Walls Citadel fortification, escape passageways, mausoleum for notable people. Red-brick walls that follow contours of Kremlin hill, forming an irregular triangle. Contain some 400 bodies including Bolshevik figures, leaders, and personages, both Russian and foreign. Secret passage ways created within walls to move from tower to tower. Range from 5-19 m. in height, 3.5-6.5m wide, and are 2,205 long. Topped with swallow-tailed crenellations.
1487 Moskva River Tower Citadel tower protecting southeastern corner of Kremlin wall. By Marco Ruffo. Usually the first part of the Kremlin to be attacked by Tartars. Top of tower rebuilt after its destruction during 1917 revolution. 46.2 m. high.
1487-91 Faceted Palace Reception facility used by tsars. Currently, reception hall of the president's residence.

Started by Marco Ruffo, finished by Pietro Antonio Solari. Features 500-square-metre chamber forming upper storey with vaults supported by single massive pillar; gilded and frescoed, with biblical/historical scenes by Palekh artist. Named after its diamond-patterned facade. Connected to Red Staircase (demolished 1930s, restored 1994).
1488 Water-Drawing Tower Citadel tower for defence at mouth of the Neglinnaya River; water collecting. By Antonio Gilardi. Water pump system added 1633. Red star added at top, 1937. 61.5 m. tall
1490 Borovitskaya Tower and Gate Citadel tower and entrance, previously used as service entrance. By Pietro Antonio Solari. Known as the backdoor to the Kremlin.
1490 Saints Constantine and Elena Tower Citadel tower; medieval torture chamber, later used to protect residents. Built on site of older tower. Previously featured bastion, drawbridge, and gate to Kremlin. Tent roof added 1680 and gates bricked up. Cannons installed 1707. Bridge and bastion removed 19th c.
1491 Saviour's Tower and Gate Citadel tower. Gate now official entrance to Kremlin. Built by Pietro Antonio Solari. Gothic-spired, with icon of a saviour later added above the gate. Butenop brothers clock chimes added 1851-52, but changed by Lenin to The Internationale; changed again 1944 to Soviet anthem, then changed by Yeltsin to a Glinka melody, until Putin restored anthem. Double-headed Russian eagle replaced by illuminated red star atop tower 1937. Previously known as Frolovskaya Tower.
1491 Senate Tower Citadel tower By Pietro Antonio Solari. Tent roof added 17th c. Nameless until 1790.
1492 St Nicholas Tower Citadel tower. Previously, gate was a gathering place to settle disputes. By Pietro Antonio Solari. Previously included a gateway with bastion and drawbridge. Named derived from St Nicholas icon over its gate. Part of tower and roof destroyed 1812 by the French; reconstructed 1816-19 with new Gothic roof. Four white-stone corner turrets added at base; damaged during 1917 Revolution. Repaired same year. Large star added 1937 (3.75m wide, 1.5 tonnes). 70.4 m. high (incl. star).
1492 Corner Arsenal Tower Citadel tower, part of the Kremlin's northern defensive line. By Pietro Antonio Solari. Walls sustained some damage from French invasion 1812; restored 1946-57. 4 m. thick, 60 m. high. Said to contain freshwater spring in cellars.
1493-95 Armoury Tower Citadel tower Until 1851, known as 'Stable Tower' because of proximity to tsar's horse yards
1493-95 Middle Arsenal Tower Citadel tower Reconstructed 1680, adding a roof with open lookout. Arched grotto added by Joseph de Beauvais 1821. 39 m. high.
1495 Trinity Tower Citadel tower with entrance leading to courts of patriarch, tsaritsa, and princesses. Equipped with cellar. Previously, a prison. Now, main entrance for visitors. Previously named Bogoyavlenskaya, then Znamenskaya, and later Kuretnay. Current name dates from 1658. Features miniature decorative towers with weathervanes and lancet arches. Contains two-level cellar with very thick walls. Clock installed 1585, damaged in 1812 fire. Restored 20th c. Star added 1938. Tallest Kremlin tower (80 m.).
1495 Alarm Tower Citadel tower with alarm bell to alert residents of approaching enemy, and fires. Made 'tongueless' by Catherine the Great after it being used to summon mob during Plague Riot, 1771. Bell moved to Armoury 1851.
1495 Commandant Tower Citadel tower Reconstructed 1676-86. Previously called 'Kolymazhskaya' after Kremlin's kolymazhny coach yard. Given current name in 19th c. 42 m. high.
15th c. Second Nameless Tower Citadel tower, originally a gate tower. Four-sided tent roof and watch tower added 1680. Gate later bricked up. Whole structure taken down 1770-71 for Kremlin Palace construction, then rebuilt.

Bell tower: 1505-08
Belfry: 1532-43

Ivan the Great bellower and Assumption Belfry Temporary exhibitions now held in building's hall (created 1950s) on ground floor. Bell tower: by Marco Bono, being Kremlin's tallest structure (later increased to 81 m.) until 1707. Assumption Belfry: by Petrok Maliy. Four-storey construction with gilded dome. Houses 19th c. 64-tonnne Resurrection Bell in centre; the largest of the 21 bells. Tent-roof part of building (Filaret Annexe) commissioned 1624; badly damaged with belfry 1812 by French troops attempting to destroy tower. Restored 1819 by. D.I. Gilardi.
1505-08 Cathedral of the Archangel Michael Burial place for rulers of Muscovy. Now a museum. By Alevisio Novi. Side chapels added 1500s. Central dome replaced 18th c.. Frescoes date from 1652-1666, iconostasis from 1813 (original destroyed by French troops). Most icons are from 1679-81. Contains tombs of all Muscovy/Russia rulers from 14th c. to Peter I (except Boris Godunov), and many family members. Romanov vaults located in central part of cathedral. Closed during 1917 Revolution.
Fl. 1508 (original), 1844-51 (current) Armoury Palace Original building used for arms storage, then storehouse for treasures. Semi-public museum 1806. Now, museum housing treasures of tsars, and Diamond Fund. Russia's oldest surviving museum. Current building by Konstantin Ton in same style as Great Kremlin Palace. Contains suite of apartments with high-vaulted ceilings, and two-tiered chamber on the ground floor.
1516 Kutafya Tower Citadel tower, protecting bridges leading to the Kremlin. By Aliosio de Carcano. Causeway leading through the tower to Troitskaya Bridge added 1668. Restored 1970s. 13.5 m. high.
1586 Tsar Cannon Intended for defence of the Saviour Gate, but never fired in battle. Was used to fire ashes of the False Dmitri back towards Poland. Cast by Andrei Chokhov. 40 tonnes, 5.34 m long, 890 mm calibre.
1635-36 (rebuilt) Terem Palace Rebuilt as residence of Tsar Mikhail Romanov, continuing as imperial residence until 1712. Now part of Great Kremlin Palace complex. Layered casket structure incorporating two existing mediaeval churches, one built on top of the other (Church of the Nativity), and two levels of service quarters. Royal suite for Mikhail Romanov built above. Structure topped by golden-roofed 'terem' or tower-chamber. Rooms restored in 17th c. style by F. Solntsev 1837. Further restoration 1930s.
From 1640 Patriarch's Palace and Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles Church and palace of the patriarch. Now, Museum of Seventeenth-century Life and Applied Art. Both form same structure, style based on old churches of Vladimir and Suzdal. Features four supporting columns, five cupolas, and two-tiered covered balcony at northern face, inset with polychrome tiles. Vaulted Cross Chamber (Krestovnaya palata) within the palace, measuring 19 m. by 13 m. Iconostasis in cathedral transferred here from destroyed (1920s) Ascension Monastery.
1652 Poteshnyi Palace Seat of Boyar Miloslavsky, afterwards, theatre for Potekhi (comic performances). Under Peter I, Office of the Police. 19th c., base for the Commandant of Moscow. Later, private apartments of Stalin. Now, Office of the Kremlin Commandant, but under restoration to become Church of The Virgin's Prayers. Reconstructed as a theatre after Miloslavsky's death. Reconstructed again, 19th c., with its front transferred to eastern facade, a northern wing added, and decorated in neo-Gothic. Attempt made at end of 19th c. to restore original appearance.
1655 (original), 1836 (current) Tsar Bell Bell. Never rung. Designed and cast by father and son Motori, Russian craftsmen. Completed after a third attempt. World's largest bell (6.14 m. high, 6.6 m. wide, almost 200 tonnes). Religious reliefs appear on exterior.
1680 Tsar's Tower Citadel tower

Kremlin's smallest tower. Built atop wall between Saviour's Tower and Alarm Tower. Features eight-sided tent roof topped with gilded weathervane, chimneys girdled by white-stone bands, and high corner pyramids with gilded little flags. Named after earlier wooden tower from where young Ivan the Terrible threw dogs to their deaths

1702-36 Arsenal Intended as military store and armaments museum, but mostly redundant when completed. Currently, an army barracks. Damaged one year after completion. Rebuilt by Matvei Kazakov, completed 1796. Blown up by Napoleonic troops 1812. Reconstructed 1828 in keeping with original blueprints.
1776-1787 Senate Palace (President's Building) Commissioned by Catherine the Great for meetings of Moscow branch of the Senate. After the Revolution, used for meetings of USSR Council of Ministers; also contained Lenin and Stalin's private study. Official residence of Russia's president since 1991. By Matvei Kazakov, in neoclassicist design. Contains circular hall (25 m. diameter, 27 m. high) with a dome that has 24 windows.
1816-35 (current) First Nameless Tower Citadel tower used originally for storage of gunpowder. Later used for defensive purposes. Original construction destroyed by fire 1547. Rebuilt 17th c. Taken down 1770-71 for building of the Kremlin Palace, then rebuilt. Destroyed by French 1812. Rebuilt by Joseph de Beauvais 1816. Gateless, 34 m, high.
1818 (current) Peter's Tower Originally citadel defence, later, service building for gardeners. Destroyed 1612 during Polish invasion, later restored. Destroyed again 1812 by Napoleon. Rebuilt by Joseph de Beauvais 1818. 27 m. high.
1819-22 Alexander Gardens Gardens Laid out over path of Neglinnaya river after being channelled into underground pipe.

Great Kremlin Palace

Imperial family residence, later, centre of Soviet power. Currently used for state and diplomatic functions, bestowing orders on recipients, swearing-in the president, accommodation for visiting heads of state. One part is a museum. By Konstantin Ton in yellow and white facade with medieval Russian and Byzantine characteristics. Contains over 700 rooms, and five large reception halls dedicated to the chivalric orders of the empire.
1870 Secret Garden Gardens Wooded area on southern slope of Borovitsky Hill towards the river.
1913 Monument to Revolutionary Thinkers Originally erected to mark 300th anniversary of Romanov dynasty. An obelisk. Converted by Lenin into current form with inscribed names of Marx, Engels, Bakunin, Hume, amongst others.
1924 Lenin's Mausoleum Holds embalmed body of Lenin. Designed by Alexei Shchusev in step-pyramid cube form, in red granite and black labradorite.
1934 Presidium Originally, a school for 'Red Commanders', afterwards, housed the Presidium of Supreme Soviet. Built over the Chudov Monastery, and the Ascension Convent (destroyed 1929). Presidium demolished 2016. Remains of previous structures now on view, with plans to rebuild them.
1959-61 State Kremlin Palace Originally, the Palace of Congresses of the Communist Party. Currently used for social functions and theatrical performances including performances by Kremlin Ballet Company. Built on site of the former Palace of Congresses. Its construction caused damage to historic buildings. Glass and concrete; 120m long, extends underground by 15m. Contains over 700 apartments and a 6,000 set auditorium. Renamed in 1992.
1967 Tomb of the Unknown Solider Memorial Granite plinth topped by giant helmet and furled banner. Holds remains of a soldier transferred from mass grave of those killed fighting Nazis at Kilometre 41 on Leningrad Highway.


The Kremlin Opens to the World as Putin Orders Greater Access. The Moscow Times, 16 June 2018.

Moscow Info
, 2000-2017.

Richardson, D. and J. Reynolds. The Rough Guide to Moscow, 5th edn. New York; London; Delhi: Rough Guides, 2009.








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