The Moscow Kremlin is Russia's main attraction. It holds numerous secrets and fascinating tales – such as that Napoleon's escape from the Kremlin, the painting of Kremlin brick from white to red, the murdered Tsarevich Dmitry, great treasures and other incredible events. Hundreds of books were written about all this and Kremlin guides are the main guardians of these stories.
The Tsar Bell and the Tsar Cannon are major tourist attractions. No one knows why exactly Empress Anna Ioannovna decided to order a 200 ton bell, but after 18 months of preparations, on November 25, 1735 the six-metre (19-feet) bell was cast. As soon as the bell cooled off, the chisellers got to work and spent the next two years decorating it. It was still in a pit, standing on an iron grate, when a big fire broke out in 1737: the wooden dome over the pit burned and, legend has it, the bell fell to the bottom of the pit, which caused a large piece to chip off. Both parts spent the next 100 years in the pit, until the engineers and architects came up with a way to get them out. The bell was never rung – it is impossible due to its weight and structural features. For the same reason no shot was ever made from the bronze Tsar Cannon, the barrel of which has a diameter of 120 centimetres (4 feet).
The oldest fully preserved building in Moscow is the Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral, built as a main Moscow cathedral by Aristotele Fioravanti in 1479. It is built in the likeness of the Vladimir Assumption Cathedral. In the late 15th or early 16th centuries the cathedral was painted by the famous icon painter Dionisius, some of his paintings survived to this day. The Dormition Cathedral for many years was the place of the coronation of the Russian tsars, even during the reign of Peter the Great, when the capital was moved to Saint Petersburg. Now the cathedral works as a museum, but sometimes the Patriarchal cathedral services are performed there.
At the Ivanovskaya Ploschad (Ivanovskaya Square) of the Kremlin you will find the Ivan the Great Bell Tower with Uspenskaya (Assumption) Belfry and the Filaret's Annex. Construction of a bell tower in memory of Ivan III on the spot of the Church of Saint Ivan of the Ladder-under-the Bell was initiated Bon Fryazin and continued by Petrok Maly (both of them Italians). It was completed by the supposedly Russian craftsman Fyodor Kon.
The bell tower acquired its modern-day look around 1600 and until the construction of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg it was the tallest building in Russia. Around the bell tower were the courtyards and household buildings of the boyars (aristocrats) and service class people as well as the clerk offices that later became government ministries. As the Kremlin walls were losing their defensive importance, everyday life moved outside of the fortress.
To get a good look at the Kremlin, walk across the Bolshoy Kamenny Most (Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge) that in the Middle Ages used to house residential houses, shops and offices. The bridge was given its modern-day makeover by the architects Vladimir Shchuko, Vladimir Gelfreich and Mikhail Minkus. The view from the bridge can be found as a sketch on the reverse of the cover of the Internal Russian passport.
Visitors enter the Kremlin through the Kutafiya Tower, which leads to the Troitskiye (Trinity) Gate via the Troitskiy Most (Troitsky Bridge). The fortress is first mentioned in 1156. At the same time, the Kremlin as we now know it was founded by Ivan III in the first half of the 15th century. The Tzar decided to modify the fortress, replacing soft white stones and wooden structures with something more rigid – and in order to do that, he invited architects from Italy. Since then all rulers added something new to the Kremlin. Ivan III gave it the Dormition Cathedral, designed by the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti in 1479. In 1600 Boris Godunov reconstructed the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, making it the tallest building in the country – and it remained one until the 18th century. Following the fire of 1701, Peter the Great ordered to remove all wooden structures from the Kremlin. In 1787 Catherine the Great commissioned architect Matvey Kazakov to erect the Kremlin Senate on a hill – once it housed the office of the communist leader Vladimir Lenin. Currently the Moscow Kremlin is also the residence of Russia's President – that is why this historic site is available to tourists only partly.
The Kremlin's Annunciation Cathedral was the family chapel of the Moscow tsars. Inside, pay special attention to the floor consisting of sheets of agate yellow-red jasper (otherwise known as imperial jade) and to the wall frescos of Feodosy – the son and student of a famous Russian icon-painter Dionisius.
The former name of the Armoury Chamber – the Big Treasury – speaks for itself. The Armoury holds a collection of state regalia, including the famous Crown of Monomakh, which signified the royal authority, as well as military decorations, bejewelled weapons, religious vestments, the dresses of Russian empresses, golden-embroidered fabrics, harnesses and horse-drawn carriages of the 15th-18th centuries.
The bronze Tsar Cannon with a diametre of 120 centimetres (4 feet) barrel never fired. The Cannon was cast by craftsman Andrey Chokhov in 1586. The cannon never took part in any actual battle, although it was intended to shoot both stone cannon balls and buckshot. The cast iron cannon balls that were placed near the Tsar Cannon in mid-19th century do not actually fit the barrel.