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Ivan the Great Bell Tower

The magnificent Ivan the Great Bell Tower soars above the Kremlin complex to a height of 81 meters and from its highest windows you can see for almost 30 kilometers across the sprawling city of Moscow. The bell tower was built for the Kremlin's Assumption, Archangel and Annunciation Cathedrals, which did not have their own belfries, on the site of Moscow's first ever bell tower, which belonged to the 1329 Church of St. John Climacus-under-the Bells. The Ivan the Great Bell Tower was constructed by the Italian architect, Marco Bono, between 1505 and 1508, and its magnificent, white octagonal tower was later increased to its present height by the addition of two extra tiers. This extension was carried out in 1600, on the orders of Boris Godunov, by the Russian craftsmen Fyodor Kon, who also added a gold inscription to that affect below its gilt dome.

The bell tower was the tallest structure in Russia until Konstantin Ton finished the construction of the mighty Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and not only boasts some 329 steps, but a foundation that was sunk 10 meters below ground level. The adjacent four-story Assumption Belfry was built by the Russian architect Petrok Maliy between 1532 and 1543 and contains the biggest of the Kremlin's 21 bells - the Resurrection Bell, cast in the mid-19th century by Zavyalov and weighing an immense 64 tons. The tent-roofed section of the building, the Filaret Annex, was commissioned by the Patriarch of the same name in 1624 and hosts occasional temporary exhibitions.

Napoleon took a great interest in the Ivan the Great Ball Tower when he captured Moscow and the Kremlin during the campaign of 1812. A story goes that on hearing that the cross on the central dome of the Cathedral of the Annunciation was made of solid gold, he immediately gave the order for it to be taken down. Unfortunately, the French leader confused the cathedral with the Ivan the Great Bell Tower and its gilded iron cross. The Bell Tower resisted all attempts by Napoleon's French engineers to remove the cross and it was only when a Russian peasant volunteered to climb the tower that they were finally able to lower the cross on ropes to the ground. When the peasant approached Napoleon looking for a reward, the French leader had him shot instantly as a traitor to his own country.

When Napoleon began his retreat from Moscow in 1812, he ordered that the Ivan the Great Bell Tower be destroyed in his wake. Fortunately, the tower withstood the blast and only the adjacent belfry was damaged. The entire ensemble was restored between 1814 and 1815

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Additional Photos by Sasko Glavica (Fante) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 615 W: 62 N: 1030] (5429)
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