History of the Moscow Kremlin can be divided into two stages: wood and stone. It development has always followed the events related to every prince, Tsar and emperor who ruled at some time in Russian history, so it can be said that in its bowels keeps in detail all Russian history. The same word “Kremlin” in the translation of ancient Russian means a fortress located within the city, the so-called Citadel.
The first wooden Kremlin was built during the reign of Ivan Kalita (1328-1341). This is not surprising since only a rich and strong prince had the money to build temples and fortifications. But this first construction was rudimentary and couldn’t serve to defend those inside in case of external attacks. At that time, the components of the interior of the kremlin were reduced into a few small buildings.
In 1366-1367 during the reign of Dmitry Donskoy, began construction of the new Moscow Kremlin, the stone. Instead of wooden fortifications, a “city of stones” emerged, expanding almost to the limits of the present. Moscow Kremlin was surrounded by the first impregnable white stone fortress in north-eastern Russia. The fortifications were lower than modern ones, but they were the ones that did not allow Lithuanian Prince Olderd to take possession of Moscow in 1368, 1370 and 1372 when he carried out his campaigns.
During the reign of Ivan III (1462-1505), the restructuring of the Moscow Kremlin began, because Dmitry Donskoy’s fortifications deteriorated and were no longer a reliable defense against the enemy. The Grand Duke’s character affected the construction, the fortifications were erected to last for centuries. For this work, not only were hired Russian architects, but also Italian. Ivan III probably did this on the advice of his second wife, Sophia Paleolog, raised in Italy.
In 1479, the architect Fioravanti, nicknamed Aristotle for his art, completed the construction of the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. The model for him was the Cathedral of the assumption in Vladimir. Both churches have five domes, but in Vladimir Cathedral there are 14 pillars, and in Moscow only 6. The walls and pillars of the cathedral are unusually thin, creating the impression of an enlarged space inward. Moscow’s Assumption Cathedral also houses the famous icon of Vladimir’s mother of God.
Italian architects participated directly in the construction of the Church of St. John Climaco, the Cathedral of the Archangel, the faceted Chamber, the Palace of Ivan III, which, unfortunately, the appearance of the Moscow Kremlin has not survived to this day, the Kremlin walls and towers. The new Moscow Kremlin, and the history of its creation, began to embody the idea of the strength and power of the still fragile Russian state.
On March 29, 1489, the Taynitskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin was placed. It was named after the fact that it contained a cache with a water source in the event of a prolonged siege of the Mongolian Tatars. First, the south wall was built, as in general, attacks always came from this side. The construction of the Moscow fortifications ended only in 1516, already during the reign of Vasily III, son of Ivan III and Sophia Paleolog.
At this time, the walls of the Moscow Kremlin, existing till today, have covered its entire modern territory. Kremlin’s internal design has also been changed and completed over the years. The Kremlin walls did not have tents in the towers (they were completed only in the seventeenth century), but they were battlements with spaces for weapons and cannons. The wall had sentry towers, large oak doors, so a large number of soldiers could cross.
All this made the Moscow Kremlin not only an impregnable fortress, but also a masterpiece of Russian architecture. In the 30s of the sixteenth century, part of the posada, adjacent to the Moscow Kremlin from the East, was surrounded by a brick wall, called Kitaygorodskaya. Some historians believe that this name comes from the word” whale”, a Union of poles used in the construction of the fortress. The wall protected Commerce in Red Square and nearby neighbourhoods.
After the Romanovs came to power, the palaces, the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, the bell tower of filaretov and the patriarchal chambers were built.
Already at the time of Peter I (1682-1725) the Palace of the Arsenal was erected. However, with the transfer of the capital to St. Petersburg, the construction of new structures was paralyzed.
During the reign of Catherine II (1762-1796), it was decided to build the Grand Kremlin Palace on the territory. For this, the architect Vasily Ivanovich Bazhenov was invited, who brought together a whole team of like-minded architects. According to the project, the palace was supposed to have four floors from the side of the Moscow River and three floors from the side of the Kremlin (due to the slopes). Construction of the palace began on 1 June 1773, but was suspended.
During the Patriotic War of 1812 the Kremlin churches were looted, part of the walls was destroyed, buildings and towers as well. Then, for three years, from 1816 to 1819, the Kremlin was rebuilt, in 1917 there were about 30 temples in the Kremlin.
During the years of Soviet epoch, the Kremlin was restored, the Kremlin Congress Palace was built on the territory (1961) and stars were installed in the towers.
It is known throughout the world of the Moscow Kremlin thanks to the events after the birth of the Soviet Union, was the center of Soviet power and a place that could only be imagined through spy novels. Until almost the end of Soviet times, photographic and video reports were not allowed for visitors except for some exceptions with special permits.
Today the Moscow Kremlin remains the main attraction of Moscow, a wonderful creation of Russian and Italian architects, a historical monument.
In addition to our free tour in Moscow, we have a special private program covering the entire historical center, including the kremlin, which you can check out on our private service platform in Russia.