February 3, 2011

Moscow : The Kremlin

Kremlin is a Russian word which means fortress. So there are actually many kremlins in Russia. But around the world, Moscow's Kremlin is referred to as THE KREMLIN.

Having been included in UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Moscow Kremlin is a must visit attraction in the city of Moscow.


If you've never heard of this Kremlin before, lemme give you a history lesson. *puts on glass and opens the text book aka google*

It is an intriguing ensemble of buildings with an architectural variety that reveals a long and fascinating history. Laid out as an irregular triangle, covering an area of approximately 28 hectares, with high walls totaling over 2km in length, this vast fortress has been the residence of Russian rulers, tsars, emperors, soviet leaders, and presidents.

There are many buildings and churches within the walls of the Kremlin. All built at various times. The first Kremlin (then made of wood) was built in 1156, the red walls that you see now were built in the 15th century.

It is now the location of ceremonies, the official residence of the Russian president, and a museum with the 4 palaces, 5 cathedrals and churches, and 20 towers that have survived the centuries, as well as the government buildings. The government buildings and palaces are not opened to the public, but tourists have access to other areas such as the cathedrals and churches, the bell tower and the gardens.

How to go there: The nearest metro station would be Biblioteka imeni Lenina. This station is right in front of the Trinity Tower entrance.

Admission was pretty strict, bags need to be scanned and we had to go through metal detector gates like those found in airports. Large bags are not allowed in, you can store them inside lockers at the Alexander Garden (below the Trinity Tower entrance). 
Kutafiya Tower 

entrance to the Kremlin - the Trinity Tower

Once you enter the Kremlin via the Kutafiya Tower and Trinity Tower, you will see the State Kremlin Palace on your right.

This modern glass and concrete structure was originally called the Palace of Congresses. It's not really a palace, but a 6000 seater auditorium, built to host Communist Party conferences. It was later renamed to State Kremlin Palace and now hosts performances by the Kremlin Ballet company.

On your left side would be the massive yellow and white Arsenal. 

Home of the Kremlin guards, it was originally built as a massive weapons depot. Around its exterior lie more than 800 cannons, captured by the Russians during Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Moscow. Sadly, you cannot enter this area. 

You then enter Ivan Square. On the left side of the square is the Senate building, which presently houses the president of Russia’s office and next to it is the Supreme Soviet building. This square marks the boundary of where you can go, with guards happily blowing whistles at you if you ever stray from the allowable tour area. But I guess it's understandable, since it is home to the Russian president, and the seat of his administration. 

The Senate & Supreme Soviet building

At the side of the square lies the Tsar Cannon, and the Tsar Bell, the largest bell in the world.

Impressive as it may look, this 200-tonne bell has never been rung, for it has a big chunk out of it as the Kremlin caught fire when it was being cast and cold water hit the hot metal.

This 40-tonne cannon, designed to add meat to the Kremlin's defensive fire-power, also never fired shot. 

Tourists must stay to the right of Ivan Square, where the cathedrals and churches and bell tower are clustered around another plaza called Cathedral Square.

We have Ivan the Great's Bell Tower.

Inside, they had an exhibition with artifacts from old Russia.

After that we walked up to the cathedrals and churches and toured all 5 of them.

The Assumption Cathedral

This is the main cathedral of the square. Solemn services and the coronation of tsars and emperors took place here.
The Annunciation Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Annunciation was the private church of the tsars. Weddings, baptisms, and other services were typically held here.
The Archangel Cathedral

This is the cathedral that is the final resting place of the early tsars. While we were in this church, there were singers dressed in monk costumes (or were they real monks I wasn't sure) singing a hymn. We didn't understand a single word but it was good. All church choir singers are good singers, no? At least, from what I see in movies la.
The Church of the deposition of the Robe of the Holy Virgin

This church was the private church of the metropolitans and patriarchs. Today it houses a fascinating collection of wooden figures and carvings.
The Twelve Apostles' Church 

The Twelve Apostles' Church is the one with the blue dome

There's also the Faceted Chamber,


where most important events in Russia's history were marked here with festivities.
Completing the lot is the Terem Palace, the main residence of the tsars in the past.

These cathedrals and churches and their interiors are remarkably beautiful. You can see ornate frescoes and iconostases and other incredible artistic and religious creations. Sadly, we weren't allowed to take photographs inside. 

Now, if you notice, sometimes I used the word cathedral and sometimes I used church. This is another lesson for you. Pay attention please.

A church is basically a Christian place of worship while a cathedral, is also a Christian place of worship, albeit bigger. However, the fundamental difference between a church and a cathedral is that the latter contains the seat for bishop. Then, there's also chapel and basilica. But I'm not gonna elaborate on that. Maybe another class. ;p

Heading to the Borovitskaya Tower gate, we passed by The Grand Kremlin Palace.

Too bad this palace is off limits to the tourists. I wanna see its grand interior design. :(

Borovitskaya Tower gate & Armoury Chamber & the queue to enter the Armoury

Another main attraction in the Kremlin is the Armoury Chamber. This is the oldest museum in Russia, which boasts the finest and impressive collections of priceless Tsarist artifacts, Russian and foreign jewelry and armour. The ground floor houses the Diamond Fund of Russia, a separate collection containing the most valuable gems of the country.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see both of them as we were short of time. There are only 4 sessions of admission per day and you also need to buy additional tickets, on top of the general entrance fee into the Kremlin, for the entrance to the chamber.

The Middle Arsenal Tower

    The Secret Garden

I can say that the Moscow Kremlin is an all in one sight that gives you an equal pleasure that you can get from watching a historical monuments. It was really an overwhelming experience.

the Kremlin view from outside

Well.. that's about it. Class dismissed.

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