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ABOUT RUSSIA / GEOGRAPHY AND NATURE / PEARLS OF RUSSIA / KREMLIN CATHEDRALS


Pearls of Russia

Cultural heritage

Kremlin Cathedrals

Cathedral Square is the Kremlin's main square. Basically its architectural ensemble emerged in the second half of the 15th century. All major events were marked there even in ancient times. Solemn services on the occasion of big religious feasts were held on the Square. All nobles of the Russian state gathered there for Russian Czars' weddings, crowning and funeral ceremonies. Foreign ambassadors were received on the Square in front of the Red Porch of the Granovitaya Palata (the Palace of Facets). There are outstanding monuments of the Old Russian architecture in Cathedral Square: the Uspenskiy Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Assumption), the Archangelskiy Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Archangel) and the Blagoveshchenskiy Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Annunciation), the Church of Rizopolozheniya (the Church of Priestly Ordination), Granovitaya Palata (the Palace of Facets), Ivan the Great Bell Tower with a belfry, Patriarch's Palace and Residence. Besides their religious functions all oldest Kremlin Cathedrals located in Cathedral Square at present serve as museums of masterpieces of the Old Russian art. The Kremlin's Uspenskiy Cathedral is in the center of Cathedral Square as if guiding all other monuments around. The Cathedral is situated at the site where there were three temples before, in the 12th -14th centuries. The last one of them, the white-stoned cathedral was built in 1327 but by the end of the 15th century it became dilapidated and too small. In 1472 the Russian craftsmen Krivtsov and Myshkin began building a new cathedral similar to the Uspenskiy Cathedral in Vladimir. But because of bad wall laying the cathedral collapsed before work was completed. In 1475 the Italian architect Aristotle Fioravante was invited to supervise the construction of the Uspenskiy Cathedral. Using Vladimir's Uspenskiy Cathedral as a prototype Fioravante managed to create the plain and solemn temple with 5 cupolas that even today astonishes by the harmony and proportionality of all its architectural forms. The composition of its interior is absolutely unique for Russian temples. As designed by Fioravante it is a spacious secular hall with round pillars instead of traditional pillars. The original Iconostasis or icon wall of the Cathedral and wall paintings made by Russian masters under the direction of the famous icon-painter Dionisiy unfortunately did not last till our times (only a few fragments of them are still around its altar part and the Pokhvalskiy Pridel or side-altar in English). In 1642-43 these frescoes were replaced by the new ones which also were repeatedly "renovated" as times went by. But the themes of wall paintings were preserved. In 1653 the old Iconostasis was replaced by the new grand one. It was created by Russian icon-painters from Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Ostashkov. Among them were such masters as Iosif Vladimirov and Konstantin Anan'in. The Iconostasis was adorned with silver-minted frameworks. Not only major religious, but state events as well were being marked in the Uspenskiy Cathedral from 1498 on. All of the Russian Czars were crowned there. In 1547 Ivan the Terrible was crowned in the Cathedral and in 1721 - Peter the1st. This is the Cathedral where metropolitans and patriarchs of the Russian Church lie buried. The oldest of the burial places is the one of Metropolitan Peter dating back to 1326. The 10th and last Russian Patriarch Adrian was buried in the Uspenskiy Cathedral in 1700. By the order of Peter the Great the Patriarchate was abolished in1703 and the Holy Synod took over the leadership of the Russian Church. The Blagoveshchenskiy Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Annunciation) is located next to the Grand Kremlin Palace. Originally it functioned as a house-church. The one-domed Blagoveshchenskaya church, that was standing there in the end of the 14th century, was considerably reconstructed. By the end of the 15th century the house-church was pulled down and on its ground floor a new cathedral was built in 1484-1489. Evidently, the architects from Pskov, who built it, were sticking by the basic structural parameters of the preceding temple. The Cathedral was crowned with 3 cupolas and surrounded by the open gallery for promenades that had passages leading to Cathedral Square. When in the sixties of the 16th century the Cathedral was being restored after the fire of 1547, the gallery was vaulted, its corners were decorated by four pillars made in the shape of one-domed churches and two more domes were installed on the top of the building itself. During that time the Cathedral gained a new status becoming the Czar's Palace temple. The gallery was connected with the Czar's Palace by the open passage. The Iconostasis of the Blagoveshchenskiy Cathedral is one of the oldest Russian ones. It contains icons of the 14th-19th centuries. Icons of Jesus with praying Mother of God and Ioann the Forerunner as well as the festive ones apparently date from the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century. The central icons ( Jesus Christ, Mother of God, Ioann the Forerunner, the Apostle Pavel) and their general conception are ascribed to Theophanus the Greek and the icon of the Archangel Michael was probably the work of Andrei Rublev. Festive icons damaged in the fire of 1547 were believed to be done by Prokhor of Gorodets and Andrei Rublev. The Church of Priestly Ordination (Rizopolozheniye) is located on the west side of the Uspenskiy Cathedral. Architects from Pskov built it in 1484-85 at the site of the metropolitan's private church that was burned down. The Church is small but it is distinguished by a number of original decoration solutions and forms. All its frescoes were done in 1644 by the Czar's icon-painters Sidor Osipov, Ivan Borisov and Semen Abramov. The distinctive feature of the Church's wall murals is the absence of the Doomsday composition on its western wall. The four-tiered iconostasis was done in 1627 by the group of craftsmen under the direction of the well-known master Nazariy Istomin- Savin (the icon of Trinity, as is thought, was done by him). The Archangelskiy Cathedral stands on the south - princely - corner of Cathedral Square facing the Blagoveshchenskiy Cathedral. Under the order of Ivan Kalita the white-stoned temple, at that time the biggest one in the Kremlin, was built in 1333 instead of the wooden Church of the Archangel Michael occupying the site since the 13th century. From that moment and till the end of the 18th century the Cathedral served as the burial vault first of Grand Dukes and then of Czars as well. Under Ivan the 3d the dilapidated Cathedral was dismantled and the new Archangelskiy Cathedral was built at its site in 1505 v 1508 by the architect Alevisio Novi. The Cathedral's architectural structure is traditionally Russian: it is a five-domed, six-pillared temple with crosses and cupolas. The Renaissance influence on its decor still seems obvious. The interior draws attention by cross-like arrangement of pillars that is traditional for the Russian architecture. The architectural decor's horizontal divisions are matched by murals of the iconostasis and wall paintings. The Cathedral building was never rebuilt but it was burned and repaired many times. Under the design of V.Bazhenov in 1772 it was reinforced by the white-stoned counterfort on the south side. For the first time the Archangelskiy Cathedral was icon-painted in the second half of the 16th century (today only fragments of those murals remain). In 1652-1666 by the order of Alexey Michailovitch the Cathedral was repainted. Icon-painters worked under the supervision of Simon Ushakov. The main subject of the Cathedral's murals is the depiction of holy warriors and related topic, all devoted to the Archangel Michael accordingly. The Patriarshie Palatie (Patriarch's Palace) was built in the middle of the 17th century to the order of Patriarch Nickon. Construction works were done under the direction of Alexey Korolkov and Ivan Semenov. The Patriarshie Palatie is a single monolithic building with a house-church incorporated. The most considerable changes in its structure occurred in 1721 due to the abolition of the Patriarchate and establishment of the Holy Synod. Under the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles there were two through-passage arches that were used for getting to Patriarch's Palace from Cathedral Square. On the north side of the Palace there is an open gallery on pillars that connects it with the Patriarch's residential chambers. In 1922 the gallery was rid of all additionally built structures , the Palace's old chambers were opened up and portals of the original church were restored. The main outer entrance hall now comprises the historical and memorial section of the museum exposition. As a whole the exposition contains religious artwork and utensils used by Patriarchs of the Russian Church. The Krestovaya palata (the Cross chamber) surprised contemporaries by its size and wonderful vaults in the middle that had no pillars. It used to serve as a hall for grand receptions. The palata's original interior was lost. In 1793 the architect M.Kazakov rebuilt the vaults, changed the shape of windows and constructed new portals. There are different household articles exhibited in the palata's show-cases now and they help to imagine how the interior of chambers looked like in real life as well as all the diversity of kinds, genres and technique of arts and crafts as well as handicrafts not only in Russia but in other countries also. One can see copper-made items of the 17th century, tableware made of precious metals for grand occasions, the Gospel setting unique in minutest details of its implementation and smartness (for example, the front plate of the setting dating back to1633) as well as gifts from foreign ambassadors to the Czar's court, etc. The next exposition hall is the Trapeznaya (the Refectory) of the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles. It contains samples of the Russian decorative needlework of the 17th century. The Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles was built at the site of the old Solovetskie tchudotvotsie (Solovets miracle men) temple and part of Boris Godunov's court. Originally it was called the Church of the Apostle Philipp. The Church's roofs and crosses were covered with copper sheets and gilded. In 1680 the Church was rebuilt and it was given the current name. Like other Kremlin structures the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles was time and again repaired. The Iconostasis of the 17th century-the beginning of the 18th century was brought from the Cathedral of the Kremlin's Voznesenskiy Monastery. It is made of the carved gilt wood in the traditions of the Moscow Baroque style. Works of icon-painters belonging to the Stroganov school are of the most interest. Ivan the Great Bell Tower. In1505-1508 the architect Bon Friazin built a belfry of about 60 meter high at the site of the Church of Ioann Lestvitchnik. In 1598-1600 Boris Godunov decided to build a new temple that should have been higher than all Kremlin churches and cathedrals dominating the Kremlin ensemble. Ivan the Great Bell Tower was built on and became 81 meter high. Because of the new height it began to serve also as a fire and watch tower. The basic principle of the Bell Tower's architectural composition is a gradual transition from massive and solid lower tiers to lighter and well-proportioned upper ones. Besides the Bell Tower itself the whole ensemble also incorporates a belfry built in the thirties of the 16th century and the so-called Filaretova pristroika ( Filaretov's annex) built in 1624 with a hipped roof. Both structures were considerably damaged when Napoleon's gunners tried to blow them up. They were restored in the 1810s by the architect I.Gielyardy (the design was worked out by I. V. Egotov and L.Ruska) with their dimensions and shapes close to the original ones and features of the modern classicism added.

District: Downtown
Address: Kremlin, Moscow
Underground: Revolution Sq.



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