- These remarkable artillery pieces and casting masterpieces, on view in the Moscow Kremlin,never fail to attract visitors’ attention.
- Back in the 18thcentury,Russian craftsmen cast the biggest bell in the world - the 200-ton tsar of all the bells.
- The Tsar Cannon, symbolizing the might of medieval strongholds, has the world’s biggest bore (890 mm) and weighs almost 40 tons.
The Tsar CannonRussian: Tsar-pushka or Царь-пушка and The Tsar BellRussian: Tsar-kolokol or Царь-колокол are remarkable exhibits of the Kremlin in Moscow. Together, they weigh over 240 tons! Both of them are placed near the Ivan the Great Bell TowerRussian: kolokolnya Ivana Velikogo or колокольня Ивана Великого and immediately attract visitors’ attention. Although these monumental exhibits are widely known, there is more to them that meets the eye.
WHY A BELL?
Russia is famous for its bell-ringing. Initially, bells were invented for instant communication over long distances, for example, to inform about a fire or enemies approaching. Gradually, bell-ringing and bell casting turned into a form of art. In this way, the congregation were summoned for church services. When holy days occurred, they were also accompanied by bell melodies. Churches in remote villages took turns to ring bells so that a melody was created using many different bells. Although traditionally, musical instruments are not used in Orthodox church services, bell ringing has a special place in the church. In Russia, there are a number of churches in the ‘ship design’ which have bell towers, with the main part located on one axis. The churches of izhe pod kolokoly‘under bells’ type have bells placed right under the dome. A special type of bell tower widespread in Pskova city located about 20 kilometers east from the Estonian border was the so-called ‘Pskov bell-tower’ where the bells are suspended and fixed to a flat part of a wall adjacent to the main part of a church building. In the 18th century, Russian craftsmen decided to cast the biggest bell in the world – the tsar of all the bells. Its height is 6.24 metres and its weight is about 200 tons.
It would be no exaggeration to say that if the Tsar Bell rang, the whole of Moscow would hear it! However, its voice has never been heard. The most widespread version of the tale states that this is because there was a fire in the Kremlin in 1737. The ball core had been cast by that time. The chiselers were working on the bell, decorating it with relief images, texts, and ornaments. The copper bell was cast in a huge pit in the ground (10 metres deep) covered in brick and reinforced by scaffolding. Those wooden constructions ignited during the fire. Fearing that the bell might melt in the fire, some Muscovites rushed to the site and started to pour water on it. A rapid change of temperature caused a big slab (11 tons) to split off the bell and the bell itself to chap massively. Another version of the tale holds that the bell cracked in the course of its production, while the fire, which luckily occurred at the right time, could have helped to conceal the fact that the bell was damaged. The bell remained in the pit for over a hundred years, and it was only in the second quarter of the 19th century that it was lifted from the pit and placed on a base designed by architect Auguste de Montferrand.
WHY A CANNON?
A cannon is a weapon symbolizing the power and strength of a medieval town. The Tsar Cannon in the Moscow Kremlin boasts the biggest bore in the world (890 mm). It was cast of bronze in 1586 in the Moscow Cannon YardRussian: Pushechnyi dvor or Пушечный двор by craftsman Andrey Chohov. Its weight is almost 40 tons and it is more than 5 metres long. The Tsar Cannon is claimed to have shot only once, with the remains of False Dmitry Ione of three #impostors# (самозванец), who claimed during the Time of Troubles to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible in the direction of Poland. There is also an opinion that the Tsar Cannon performed a purely decorative function of scaring foreign ambassadors and that firing it was forbidden. However, this version is improbable as the Russians were expecting a TatarMongol invaders of Russia and Europe invasion and creating a huge fake weapon would not have been a good strategy. It is known that in the 17th century, the cannon stood on a low stone construction which looked like a podium. Archeologists unearthed some evidence of it in the southern part of Red Square. In the 16th century, the Tsar Cannon was probably installed close to the Lobnoe Mestoplace of execution; Russian: Лобное место in Red Square pointing in the direction of the Moskvoretsky bridgeRussian: Moskvoretskiy most or Москворецкий мост leading to the Tatar quarter.
The gun carriage and the cannon balls are not authentic however – they were cast in the 19th century. It is impossible to shoot with these cannon balls. As for the gun carriage, it is not clear if there is any need for it at all, as a weapon of this type – a hand cannon – was usually fitted to the ground. Usually, hand cannons have no protruding trunnion pins to attach themselves to the gun carriage and no cascables. This had the effect of sticking out profiled elements used to get the grip of the cannon when it was lifted and put down. The Tsar’s Cannon was moved to the Kremlin only during Peter the Greatruled from 1689 to 1725’s rule. He wanted to build a zeughause (an arsenal) inside to store different kinds of weapons there.
If the Russian history is a subject of your interest and you want to know, for example, what is the oldest church in Moscow, what are the famous monasteries around Moscow, which style of Moscow architecture you can see only in this town, you can read on our website pages about the Kremlin and Red square and “History and Architecture”.
WHY EXACTLY ARE THESE CANNON AND BELL FAMOUS?
Not only because they have stood the ravages of time and are immense in size; in fact, they are monuments of casting and artistic craftwork. Both are decorated with elaborate relief images in the form of ornaments, cartouches, rosettes, and ringlets. Large portraits of two monarchs – Empress AnnaRussian: Anna Ioanovna; ruled as Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740, who commissioned the bell, and Tsar AlexisRussian: Alexey Mikhailovich; the tsar of Russia from 1645 until 1676 are easily recognized on the bell. The latter owned the bell made earlier whose remnants were used to cast the Tsar Bell. There is also an inscription detailing the history of the bell, which has the Motorins’ signature on it. The Tsar Cannon also bears inscriptions glorifying Tsar FeodorRussian: Fyodor Ioannovich; the last Rurikid Tsar of Russia (1584–1598), who commissioned the bell, and Andrey Chohov’s signature. Giant bells were cast in Moscow many times during the 16th century, but almost all of them either fell from their bell-towers and broke, or were destroyed in frequent fires (if they hung in wooden buildings). Some of them were cast by Ivan Motorin, the craftsman who made the Tsar Bell.
The same is true about the Tsar Cannon. Several similar weapons were cast by Andrey Chohov. In fact, craftsmen Ivan Motorin and Andrey Chohov, could cast both bells and artillery-type weapons. The most famous functioning copy of the Tsar Cannon is situated in Perma city located on the banks of the Kama River in the European part of Russia. The cannons made by Andrey Chohov in his workshop are exhibited in the Moscow Kremlin Museums as well as in the Military-Historical Museum of ArtilleryRussian: Voenno-istoricheskiy muzey artillerii or Военно-исторический музей артиллерии in Saint Petersburg. The war between Russia and Sweden took place soon after the Tsar Cannon was cast (1590-1595). Two cannons made in Chohov’s workshop were captured during the war. At present, they are kept in Gripsholm Castle in Sweden. Many central squares in Europe feature similar artillery monuments, e.g. in Gent, where there is a cannon called Mad Margaret, and in Edinburgh (Mons Meg).© 2016-2022 moscovery.com