The Moscow Kremlin, usually referred to as simply the Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It is the best known of kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.
The site was continuously inhabited by Finno-Ugric peoples since the 2nd century BC. The Slavs occupied the south-western portion of Borovitsky Hill as early as the 11th century, as evidenced by a metropolitan seal from the 1090s, which was unearthed by Soviet archaeologists in the area. Vyatichi built a fortified structure (or 'grad') on the hill where the Neglinnaya River flowed into the Moskva River.
Up to the 14th century, the site was known as the 'grad of Moscow'. The word 'kremlin' was first recorded in 1331 (though this was disputed by etymologist Max Vasmer). The grad was greatly extended by Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy in 1156, destroyed by the Mongols in 1237 and rebuilt in oak in 1339.
Dmitri Donskoi replaced the oak walls with a strong citadel of white limestone in 1366–1368 on the basic foundations of the current walls; this fortification withstood a siege by Khan Tokhtamysh. Dmitri's son Vasily I resumed construction of churches and cloisters in the Kremlin. The newly built Annunciation Cathedral was painted by Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev, and Prokhor in 1406. The Chudov Monastery was founded by Dmitri's tutor, Metropolitan Alexis; while his widow, Eudoxia, established the Ascension Convent in 1397.
Grand Prince Ivan III organised the reconstruction of the Kremlin, inviting a number of skilled architects from Renaissance Italy, like Petrus Antonius Solarius, who designed the new Kremlin wall and its towers, and Marcus Ruffus who designed the new palace for the prince. It was during his reign that three extant cathedrals of the Kremlin, the Deposition Church, and the Palace of Facets were constructed. The highest building of the city and Muscovite Russia was the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, built in 1505–08 and augmented to its present height in 1600. The Kremlin walls as they now appear were built between 1485 and 1495. Spasskie gates of the wall still bear a dedication in Latin praising Petrus Antonius Solarius for the design.
After construction of the new kremlin walls and churches was complete, the monarch decreed that no structures should be built in the immediate vicinity of the citadel. The Kremlin was separated from the walled merchant town (Kitay-gorod) by a 30-meter-wide moat, over which Saint Basil's Cathedral was constructed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The same tsar also renovated some of his grandfather's palaces, added a new palace and cathedral for his sons, and endowed the Trinity metochion inside the Kremlin. The metochion was administrated by the Trinity Monastery and boasted the graceful tower church of St. Sergius, which was described by foreigners as one of the finest in the country.
During the Time of Troubles, the Kremlin was held by the Polish forces for two years, between 21 September 1610 and 26 October 1612. The Kremlin's liberation by the volunteer army of prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin paved the way for the election of Mikhail Romanov as the new czar. During his reign and that of his son Alexis, the eleven-domed Upper Saviour Cathedral, Armorial Gate, Terem Palace, Amusement Palace and the palace of Patriarch Nikon were built. Following the death of Alexis, the Kremlin witnessed the Moscow Uprising of 1682, from which czar Peter barely escaped. As a result both of them disliked the Kremlin. Three decades later, Peter abandoned the residence of his forefathers for his new capital, Saint Petersburg.
Although still used for coronation ceremonies, the Kremlin was abandoned and neglected until 1773, when Catherine the Great engaged Vasili Bazhenov to build her new residence there. Bazhenov produced a bombastic Neoclassical design on a heroic scale, which involved the demolition of several churches and palaces, as well as a portion of the Kremlin wall. After the preparations were over, construction halted due to lack of funds. Several years later, the architect Matvey Kazakov supervised the reconstruction of the dismantled sections of the wall and of some structures of the Chudov Monastery, and constructed the spacious and luxurious offices of the Senate, since adapted for use as the principal workplace of the President of Russia.
During the Imperial period, from the early 18th and until the late 19th century, Kremlin walls were traditionally painted white, in accordance with the time's fashion.
Following the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the French forces occupied the Kremlin from 2 September to 11 October. When Napoleon retreated from Moscow, he ordered the whole Kremlin to be blown up. The Kremlin Arsenal, several portions of the Kremlin Wall and several wall towers were destroyed by explosions and fires damaged the Faceted Chamber and churches. Explosions continued for three days, from 21 to 23 October. Fortunately, the rain damaged the fuses, and the damage was less severe than intended. Restoration works were held in 1816–19, supervised by Osip Bove. During the remainder of Alexander I's reign, several ancient structures were renovated in a fanciful neo-Gothic style, but many others were condemned as 'disused' or 'dilapidated' (including all the buildings of the Trinity metochion) and simply torn down.
On visiting Moscow for his coronation festivities, Nicholas I was not satisfied with the Grand, or Winter, Palace, which had been erected to Rastrelli's design in the 1750s. The elaborate Baroque structure was demolished, as was the nearby church of St. John the Precursor, built by Aloisio the New in 1508 in place of the first church constructed in Moscow. The architect Konstantin Thon was commissioned to replace them with the Grand Kremlin Palace, which was to rival the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in its dimensions and the opulence of its interiors. The palace was constructed in 1839–49, followed by the new building of the Kremlin Armoury in 1851.
After 1851, the Kremlin changed little until the Russian Revolution of 1917; the only new features added during this period were the Monument to Alexander II and a stone cross marking the spot where Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia was assassinated by Ivan Kalyayev in 1905. These monuments were destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
The Soviet government moved from Petrograd to Moscow on 12 March 1918. Vladimir Lenin selected the Kremlin Senate as his residence. Joseph Stalin also had his personal rooms in the Kremlin. He was eager to remove from his headquarters all the 'relics of the tsarist regime'. Golden eagles on the towers were replaced by shining Kremlin stars, while the wall near Lenin's Mausoleum was turned into the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
The Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent, with their 16th-century cathedrals, were dismantled to make room for the military school and Palace of Congresses. The Little Nicholas Palace and the old Saviour Cathedral were pulled down as well. The residence of the Soviet government was closed to tourists until 1955. It was not until the Khrushchev Thaw that the Kremlin was reopened to foreign visitors. The Kremlin Museums were established in 1961 and the complex was among the first Soviet patrimonies inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990.
Although the current director of the Kremlin Museums, Elena Gagarina (Yuri Gagarin's daughter) advocates a full-scale restoration of the destroyed cloisters, recent developments have been confined to expensive restoration of the original interiors of the Grand Kremlin Palace, which were altered during Stalin's rule. The Patriarch of Moscow has a suite of rooms in the Kremlin, but divine service in the Kremlin cathedrals is held irregularly, because they are still administered as museums.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.