The Grand Kremlin PalaceRussian: Bolshoi Kremlevsky Dvorets or Большой Кремлевский дворец is a unique architectural ensemble and a landmark museum in Moscow. It used to serve as the residential chambers of emperors and members of their families, and today it has the status of the grand residence of the President of Russia. The palace is open only for guided tours according to a schedule approved by the Federal Protective Service in advance. The emperors’ private chambers with authentic furnishings, a throne and order halls, luxurious interiors and murals – the palace never fails to impress with its beauty and grandeur.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE PALACE
As far back as under the rule of Empress Catherine IIreigned from 1762 until 1796 architect Vasily Bazhenova Russian neoclassical architect, graphic artist, architectural theorist and educator suggested erecting a new giant palace in the Kremlin, but his project was not brought to life due to its complexity and high cost. The new Kremlin residence appeared later by order of the Empress’s grandson Nikolas I. The palace took 10 years to be built, from 1838 to 1849. Outstanding Russian artists and architects N. Chichagov, V. Bakarev, N. Shokhin, P. Gerasimov, and F. Solntsev came together to work on it.
The project was developed by a recognised master, Konstantin Thonan official architect of Imperial Russia during the reign of Nicholas I. At that time was under way and Emperor Nikolas I himself participated in the pursuit of the architectural style for the palace. The “Byzantine-Russian” architectural traditions were chosen for the new residence.
On the site of the old 15th-18th century buildings a palace was created which strikes with its dimensions and structural harmony. The length of the Grand Kremlin Palace is 125 metres, its height is 47 metres, its total floor space is 25.000 sq.m. It gives the impression of a three-storey construction from the outside, though in fact, there are only two of stories.
Interestingly, the experts who did an in-depth study of the project found out that the exterior of the Grand Kremlin Palace in many ways resembles the older palace buildings of the 15-18th centuries which had stood on the same site. For instance, the windows of the bottom layer of the present palace correspond to the ‘podklet’ (cellar) arches of the 15th century palace. The gallery outside corresponds to its outer passages, and the terrace resembles the old ambulatories. There used to be an Interior Garden in the palace too, which is a kind of imitation of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovichwas the tsar of Russia from 1645 until 1676’s hanging gardens. The palace comprises the most valuable parts of the previous constructions: Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich’s Terem PalaceRussian: Teremnoi dvorets or Теремной дворец, nine churches (the oldest of them dates back to the 14th century), and the 15th century Hall of FacetsRussian: Granovitaya palata or Грановитая палата. There are about 700 rooms in the residence, a huge entrance hall, and five majestic halls.
In 1849 the consecration ceremony took place in the palace with Emperor Nicolas I himself present. At the same time construction of the Armoury ChamberRussian: Oruzheinaya palata or Оружейная палата started in the western part of the Kremlin. Its completion finalised the ensemble of the Grand Kremlin palace. The buildings are joined by an air bridge. After the revolution of 1917 and the relocation of the Soviet government to Moscow a large part of the palace was used to provide housing. Nowadays Ceremonies of inauguration of the President of the Russian Federation, high-level meetings, and state awards ceremonies are held in the Kremlin palace.
Visitors can get into the Kremlin Palace from the side of the Cathedral of the AnnunciationRussian: Blagoveshchensky khram or Благовещенский храм on Cathedral squareRussian: Sobornaya ploshchad or Соборная площадь. Adjaicent to it is the front staircase of the Hall of Facets of the Kremlin embellished with figures of lions and covered with special golden protective bars.
The palace exterior has expressly austere looks: it is decorated with a large number of stucco enhancements which partially resemble the 17th century decoration. To ensure the palace blended into the existing ensemble, “Russian style” elements were used in its exterior design – those typical of the earlier constructions in the Kremlin. If you take a look from above, you can see that the first storey of the palace protrudes thus forming an open terrace. Its arched windows are separated by thin partition walls and resemble a covered gallery from the outside. The second storey with its two tiers of windows is visually divided by wall piers and decorated with ornamental “Russian style” window surrounds featuring double arches and a drop ornament in the middle. The palace finishes with a “podium” – an architectural platform which is topped with gold balustrade railing. It is decorated with ‘kokoshnikiRussian: кокошники’, i.e. semicircular decorative elements, and the historical coats of arms of the tsardoms which used to constitute the Russian Empire: the Tsardoms of Moscow, Kazan, Astrakhan, Tavrida, Finland, and Poland.
HALLS OF THE PALACE
The entrance hall of the palace is an enfilade of marble halls with polished granite columns. An enormous grand staircase leads to the first floor. An arched vault, red carpet, front door of the palace facing the Moskva river are easily recognised by the memorable scenes of of inauguration ceremonies of Russian presidents. It was up this staircase that Russian Presidents B. Yeltsin, V. Putin, and D. Medvedev went before taking the oath. On top of it every visitor sees a large-scale painting “Who Comes to Us with a Sword Shall Perish by the Sword” painted by S. Prisekin in 1983.
The round walk-through hall in the centre of the palace is called Vladimirsky. It is dedicated to the Holy Great Prince Vladimira prince of Novgorod, grand prince of Kiev, and ruler of Kievan Rus' from 980 to 1015 Order. The Kievan prince who ruled in the late 10th – early 11th centuries was able to unify the eastern Slavic tribes and adopted Orthodox Christianity as the state religion. The hall is Pantheon-shaped and is lit the same way from the top through a round window.
The oldest room in the palace (and the whole of Moscow) is the Hall of Facets, built in 1487-1491 by Italian architects Marco Ruffo and Antonio Solari. Its exterior is decorated with rustic masonry and resembles constructions of the Italian Renaissance. You enter through the Red Porch, where complaints to the tsar were lodged in the 15th – 17th centuries. In the hall you will see unique frescoes with iconographic scenes, parquet work rare in its beauty, and interiors radiant with gold.
The Georgievsky Hall is the hall of the most honourable order of the Russian Empire – the order of the Saint Great Martyr George the Conqueror. The order was introduced by Catherine II in 1769 to be awarded for service and courage in battle. The hall hosted meetings of holders of a St. George Cross. Names of 545 large army units and of over 10000 family names of officers and generals were cut out on the walls. A. Suvorov, M. Kutuzov, P. Bagration, F. Ushakov, and P. Nakhimov are among them.
The Alexandrovsky hall was named after the Order of Saint Pious Prince Alexander Nevskyfamous by his military victories over German and Swedish invaders established in 1725 by Empress Catherine I in honour of the saint patron of Saint-Petersburg.
The Andreevsky hall is dedicated to the highest order of the Russian Empire and present Russia – the Order of Apostle St. Andrew the First-called. The Andreevsky hall was initially considered to be the main imperial hall of the Moscow Kremlin, and the emperor’s throne was installed there. Even today you can see the restored throne under a baldachin decorated with velvet and ermine fur. In the Soviet time its place was occupied by a monument to V. Lenin, and the hall housed Communist Party Congresses and the USSR Supreme Council Sessions. Inaugurations of the President of Russia take place here today. Above the throne you can see the image of the Eye of Providence – the All-Seeing Eye of God in the beams of fame. It represents the Dominion of God over the governors.
The Ekaterininsky hall is dedicated to the female order of St. Catherine. This hall, which used to be a throne hall of emperors too, is situated remotely from the main halls of the palace. It is closed for visitors.
The palace also has the unique Terem Palace, which was the residence of the Moscow tsars in the 17th century. It was built in 1635-1636 on the foundation base of a 15th century palace and is made up of enfilades. There is a bedroom at its back and the tsar’s private chambers next to it. The visitor will be amazed at the luxuriously rich interiors, beautiful glazed tiled stoves, and exquisitely painted walls. You can get to the Terem Palace from the Vladimirsky hall. Next to its entrance you will see the famous Boyar PlatformRussian: Verkhospasskaya Ploshchadka or Верхоспасская площадка, which is definitely worthy of attention. It was the place where boyars and the tsar’s servants gathered and waited for the tsar. The platform was usually occupied by representatives of the highest-rank nobility. The amazing porch of the Terem Palace is an authentic monument of the 17th century. Right opposite the porch, behind exquisite safety bars depicting unicorns and lions (the symbols of the tsar’s power) there are nine churches whose onion domes are visible from the street. This is the Church of the Saviour behind the Golden BarRussian: Khram Spasa za Zolotoi Reshetkoi or Храм Спаса за Золотой решеткой.
The ‘Malachite Foyer’ with portraits of all the Russian governors from the beginning of Rus’ history is also open for visitors. The columns in the hall are painted to resemble malachite. The palace chambers part (“the owner’s half” of the palace), where the families of the Russian emperors lived, is extremely interesting. The original interiors have been preserved in this part of the palace: unique furniture sets, furnishings, and décor.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com