Walks With Folks
Walks With Folks
Walks With Folks
Walks With Folks

A majestic visit to the Grand Kremlin Palace
Moscow Kremlin is truly a treasury that still hides plenty of mysteries and where traces of different epochs intertwine. But the first thing that one wants to find there is, undoubtedly, the place where Russian tzars lived and where they were crowned. Here on the Borovitskiy hill, we find one of the most precious pearls of this medieval collection - the Grand Kremlin Palace.
The Grand Kremlin Palace as we know it today was built in 1938-1849 by order of the Russian tzar Nicholas I after a long century of construction works by other Russian rulers. First of all, the importance of a palace in that place should be noted. In the 18-19th centuries, the Russian capital was situated in Petersburg. However, Moscow remained the spiritual center of Russia. It was particularly emphasized by the fact that even if the capital was on the river of Neva, all tzars and tzarinas went to Moscow Kremlin to be crowned.

The coronation ceremony was not the only reason to come from time to time to the ancient city: besides Russian tzar families came regularly to Moscow to take part in big Russian Orthodox church feasts such as Easter or Christmas, or to celebrate their birthdays. But where were they supposed to stay? Since the capital had been moved to Petersburg almost nothing was constructed in Moscow because all the best palaces were built in the new city of Peter the Great on one hand, and it was no more possible to stay in the Kremlin's old wooden palaces on the other hand. In the middle of the 18th century, there were attempts made by the Russian tzarina Elisabeth I to build a new palace. It was the famous Bartolomeo Rastrelli – the one who had built the Winter Palace in Petersburg - who participated in the construction of a new palace in the Kremlin's territory. However, by the end of the 18th century, one of the greatest Russian tzarinas Catherine II noticed that it didn't comply with the splendor of the Russian Empire, and therefore it was necessary to create something more majestic. Catherine II's favorite architects Bazhenov and then Kazakov got engaged with the new project, but eventually, it became obvious that it was impossible to erect anything in such an ancient place: the Kremlin's walls and even medieval churches got damaged during their works. The further Great fire started by Moskovites in 1812 to stop Napoleon's invasion burnt almost all remaining parts. Thus, by the times of Nicholas I's reign, there were many things to do on the Borovitsky hill.
The construction of the new palace was entrusted to Konstantin Thon, the Russian architect who is famous for his "Russian-Byzantine" style. In the 1830s, he was already busy building the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour next to the Kremlin's walls. This architectural style of the new palace was a genuine embodiment of the unspoken ideology of Nicholas I's reign known as 'Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality'. Two-headed eagles in the upper part of the main facade reflect the tsar's absolute power, semicircular pointed decorative elements over them remind us of the Russian Orthodox churches' architecture, exquisite stucco patterns represent the Russian people and their culture. On the top of the green roof we can find a flagpole where at different stages of the Russian history there have been different national flag which marks the Grand Kremlin palace as the official residence of Russian rulers.

St George Hall preceded by an entrance hall is the first and biggest hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace. It was called after St George Order introduced by Catherine II as the highest military reward of the Russian Empire. Details of this order can be found in the hall's decoration: medallions with its cross over the windows and arches, benches covered with black and orange fabric which represents the order's striped ribbon. Those two colors embody fire and smoke and nowadays symbolizes the victory of the USSR over nazis in the 20th century. The walls of the hall are covered with more than ten thousand names of Russian officers and generals, such as Suvorov, Nakhimov, Kutuzov, and others. Traditionally, the St George hall is the place for ceremonies to reward Russian military national heroes.
St George hall is followed by St Alexander hall which name originates from the Order of St Alexander Nevsky established by Catherine I. The decorations of the hall resonate with the order's form: gilded pylons, sofas upholstered in red velvet, huge mirrors, marble fireplaces, wood parquet. At the times of the Russian grand prince Ivan III in the 15th century there was an embassy chamber on the place of St Alexander hall.
The last hall in this enfilade is St Andrew throne hall which got its name after the Order of St Andrew the Apostle – the first and the highest order in Russia introduced by the greatest Russian tzar Peter I in the late 17th century. Its symbols decorate now the interior of the hall: blue sink on the walls, crosses and chains on the doors, but no benches because the only persons who had the right to sit here were the Russian tzar and his tzarina. Russian three last tzars – Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II – were crowned in here. Unfortunately, at the Soviet times St Andrew hall got transformed beyond recognition to host the USSR Supreme Council assemblies. Nowadays, the hall got its initial interior back and has already seen five inauguration ceremonies of Russian presidents.

There are also St Catherine hall that served as a throne hall of Russian tzarinas and a reception room during Coronation ceremonies, as well as the Cavalry hall that has always hosted personal security members of Russian rulers. They are both inaccessible to public.
Going upstairs from St Vladimir hall we find ourselves in the Terem palace built in the 17th century by order of the Russian tzar Michael Romanov. This is a genuine masterpiece of Russian architects of that epoch which exterior, richly decorated with brick tracery and colored tiles, is hardly seen from outside but astonishes by its beauty. It consists of five floors, where the third one was occupied by tzarinas and her children and the fourth one contained Russian tzars' private rooms. Original interiors didn't survive but pilasters between the windows, cornices with carvings and majolica, complex white-stone framings with drop ornaments and triangular frontals with carved decoration were reproduced with precision which in whole makes an impression of a jewelry work.

Tzarina's Golden Palace was built in the early 16th century and served as a reception room connected with marriage ceremonies, for funeral repasts when tzarinas died, and also for receptions of members of royal families of foreign states. The paintings of the Golden Palace show the holy wives and their life and are of great artistic and iconographic value.

The last but not the least part of the Grand Kremlin's Palace complex is the Faceted Chamber that is truly the oldest non-religious building in all the Kremlin. This palace was built in late 15th century during Ivan V rule by Italian architects Marco Friazinmand Antonio Solari. The Chamber was given its name after the architectural design of the main eastern facade facing Cathedral Square coated with faceted white-stone blocks, typical for Italian Renaissance's architecture. The vaults and the central pole of the square-shaped chamber are painted with frescoes representing the family tree of Russian princes and tzars. During two centuries, the Faceted Chamber with total area of 495 sq. km. had been the largest hall in Russian architecture. The Faceted Chamber served as a throne hall for state receptions and it was here that Russian tzars received foreign ambassadors and celebrated military victories. One can imagine how Russian rulers went down by a tremendous outside stairway to greet Russian people on the main Cathedral square of the Kremlin.

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