The Kremlin is a historic fortress and complex on the Moscow River that is sometimes referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It is the principal symbol of Russia and its origins can be traced to the very foundation of Moscow in 1147.
Originally a “grad” or fortified settlement with walls built from wood, the original walls were destroyed in 1238 by the invading Mongols. Rebuilt, again in wood, the second oaken-walled settlement was destroyed a second time, this time by the city’s infamous Great Fire of 1365. After this disaster, a third fortress went up, this time constructed of white limestone and taking on the name Kremlin. It was destroyed completely and then defiantly rebuilt for the last time in 1382, the destruction being the result of Dmitry Donskoy’s audacious open rebellion against the Golden Horde.
Ever after, Moscow became the dominant city in Russia, the epicenter of struggle against the Mongols. When Ivan III the Great finally threw off the Mongol yoke, he commissioned in 1485 a group of Italian architects, the world’s best, to upgrade the old Kremlin. The Italians, seeing the strength of the original battlements, elected not to tear them down, but rather to build over top of them. The result was the Kremlin that we know today, with exceptionally thick walls capable of defending against the largest bodies of warriors that could be thrown against it at the time. However, the strength of the Kremlin walls quickly became almost inconsequential, as Moscow soon transformed into the center of an increasingly powerful state.
Plan of the Kremlin
Still, the fortress’ strong walls quickly became an important symbol of Moscow’s importance in the Russian Empire. As the residence of Russian rulers, from tsars to the elite of the Soviet government, to today’s executive branch of the Russian Federation, the Kremlin remains today the most giddiness-inducing representation of the power vertical. There are few places this impressive in the entire world.
The Kremlin walls (interspersed with 20 towers, some literal objects of art) encompass the setting for the country’s most important ceremonies and meetings, all the while serving as one of its most exhilarating tourist destinations. There are so many sights to see, from its palace buildings to its places of worship, that the better part of a day should be budgeted in any attempt to view it all. A good example of just one important sight is Cathedral Square, the fortress’ most breathtakingly beautiful location. Centered here are the limestone-faced Cathedral of the Dormition (the location of imperial coronations), the gilded-domed Cathedral of the Annunciation (personal chapel of the Imperial Family), and the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael (burial location of many of Russia’s tsars).
Another example of impressive places in the Kremlin is what is frequently described as one of Russia’s most important museums, situated at the Armoury. This is where the country’s most prized collection of artifacts are stored, including its Diamond Fund, the storehouse for gems, jewels, and nuggets that have been collected by the Russian Empire over the century. From the 382-carat Red Spinel diamond, to the ornate crown of Catherine the Great, to the 36.2-kilogram (80-pound) Great Triangle gold nugget, all of Russia’s greatest treasures are kept here. Travel All Russia has excellent guided tour options available for seeing this important and impressive fortress. Just ask your travel specialist for details.