Libmonster ID: RU-14957
Author(s) of the publication: Anna NIKOLAYEVA

by Anna NIKOLAYEVA, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), R&D Information Centre, Moscow Kremlin Museums Site

One of Russia's ever first national museums, the Armory Chamber, was set up in 1806 by Emperor Alexander I's decree on the basis of the Moscow Kremlin's workshops and storehouses.

This event marked a start-out point in the history of the Kremlin memorial complex, a symbol of Russia's state hood rich in majestic architectural ensembles, monuments of culture and art, and relics of bygone ages.

One of the world's largest and superb compounds...

The complex of Moscow Kremlin museums that is marking its bicentennial jubilee includes such gems of architecture as the Dormition (Assumption), Archangel and Annuciation Cathedrals; the Church of the Deposition of the Veil of the Virgin and the Church of the Twelve; the Patriarchal Palace of the 17th century; the Ivan the Great Belltower... A collection of artillery guns and bells, and two exhibition halls are also part of this museum complex. And last but not least, the Armory Chamber. This depositary of antiquities, the oldest in our country, has the

The Crown (Cap) of Monomach, end of the 13th-early 14th centuries.

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Carriages from the Armory Chamber collection.

custody of relics collected by generations of Muscovite rulers: arms and armor, pieces of jewelry, precious fabrics and dishes, Old Russian books with artwork miniature, ceremonial carriages, state regalia and lots of other memorabilia.

These treasures were first displayed to the public in 1718 on orders of Czar Peter I in glassed-in cases on the premises of the Chamber of the Exchequer within the Kremlin. For nearly a century the priceless rarities had no repository of their own up until the early 19th century, as topnotch art experts, writers and scholars took charge and accomplished a good deal for the Armory Chamber and its collections. In 1842 to 1852 the Armory Museum was headed by Mikhail Zagoskin, an eminent historian and prose writer, and honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (his historical novel Yuri Miloslavsky or Russians in 1612 cut a wide swathe among the Russian Reading public of the day). Another prominent personality, Prof. Sergei Solovyov (history lecturer at Moscow University and member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences), superintended the Armory Museum in 1870 to 1879.

It was in for hard times in the second decade of the 20th century during the revolutionary turmoil of 1917 and civil war in its wake. The keepers performed miracles in protecting the treasure stock during the heavy fighting of late 1917 between the Red Guards and supporters of the deposed Provisional Government (as the Moscow Kremlin was subjected to intense shelling), and during the grim winter of 1918 - 1919 (famine, cold, no regular wages). In spite of all these odds the treasures of the Armory survived intact. The museum wardens kept up their regular work in itemizing the stock and in compiling and publishing catalogs, and even had their research papers published. The first exposition (enamels) after the outbreak of World War I (1914 - 1918) was opened in 1921. As the following year, in 1922, a plenipotentiary government commission was taking inventory of the Armory Museum, its custodians fought tooth and nail for every item against commission members all set to sequester many a precious article as currency for commercial needs.

The 1920s and 1940s were no bed of roses either. The reprisals of the 1930s decimated the staff of the Kremlin memorial complex (that, apart from the Armory Chamber, now comprised the Kremlin churches and cathedrals): some were dismissed, others arrested. Then came the Great

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The Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral. 1475 - 1479. Architect, Aristotle Fioravunti.

Patriotic War of 1941 - 1945 as Nazi Germany attacked this country. In the summer and fall of 1941 the Kremlin treasures had to be moved to safety in the hinterland, to Sverdlovsk (a large manufacturing city in the Urals, now Yekaterinburg). These relics returned to their penates in February 1945, as the war was drawing to a close. An exhibition was opened to the public two months later, in April.

An integrated research, cultural and memorial complex-State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin-was instituted in 1960. According to its statutes adopted in 1963, the aim was to "collect, store, study and popularize works of art and culture". In 1990 this unique ensemble together with Red Square next to it was entered into the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List*, while the museums located on the Kremlin grounds were upgraded into the Moscow Kremlin Historical and Cultural Reserve.

The Armory Chamber Museum is certainly the heart and soul of the memorial compound, a treasure-house of more than 4000 masterpieces of decorative and applied arts of the 14th to the early 20th century created in this and other countries. The items in custody there include the ceremonial apparel of Russian czars and the attire of high church hierarchs; a major collection of precious items wrought by Russian gold- and silversmiths as well as silverware from Western Europe... Also, pieces of weaponry, equestrian trappings, carriages, coaches and a good many other things to boot.

Some of the collections are truly one of a kind. These are the state regalia collected by several generations of Russia's rulers. A real gem in this gallery of rarities is the oldest crown of Muscovite grand dukes and czars-the Crown (Cap) of Monomach** (dated to the 13th-early 14th cent.) which, by the verdict of present-day researchers, was presented to Ivan Kalita (Prince of Moscow from 1325 on, Prince of Vladimir, 1328 - 1340) by the Golden Horder khan, Uzbek. Its style and fashion (lotus hues, golden scrolls and curlicues, and other pieces of decor) betray its Central Asian origin. The cross and the sable fur surmount came as a later-day addition created by Russian masters who gave the last touch to the regal headgear that we can see today.


See: N. Maxakovsky, "Russia in UNESCO World Heritage", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2006. - Ed.

** See: T. Makarova, "Unpuzzling an Age-old Enigma", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2002. - Ed.

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Dormition Cathedral interiors.

The czar's prayer seat (the Throne of Monomach) in the Dormition Cathedral. 1551. Moscow.

Every Russian czar had regalia of his own for state and ceremonial receptions. The orb and scepter owned by Mikhail Feodorovich (the first czar of the Romanov dynasty, ruled in 1613 to 1645) are the oldest in the Armory Chamber's stock. These wondrous masterpieces of West European jewelers of the late Renaissance must have been brought as gifts to Czar Boris Godunov in 1604 (ruled in 1598 to 1605) by a grand embassy of Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire. The crown was manufactured by Kremlin craftsmen in 1627.

The crown- and coronation-related paraphernalia also include the costumes and robes donned by later-day czars and czarinas (emperors and empresses) as well as the canopies held over the heads of the most august spouses during their procession from the Kremlin's Chamber of Facets to the Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral, the places where coronation ceremonies were held. Likewise in this set are the clothes and scepters of masters-of-ceremonies, cloaks, heraldic boots and hats, memorial medals and badges. This collection was founded on Peter I's orders after the coronation in 1724 of his spouse Catherine I as empress.

The Armory Chamber has the custody of the most rich collection of English silver of the 16th and 17th centuries, a collection unique in its workmanship and without peer elsewhere, in Great Britain, too, because Oliver Cromwell's government that came to power after the bourgeois revolution of the mid-17th century confiscated precious metal articles from the deposed king and remelted them into coins.*

The next leg of our tour of the Kremlin takes in the Dormition (Assumption) Church, the main cathedral of Russia, put up in 1475 - 1479 by Aristotle Fioravanti** of Italy. For centuries it witnessed the most significant state ceremonies like elections of grand dukes (princes) of Muscovy, and coronations of czars. Here the heads of the Russian Orthodox Church (metropolitans, patriarchs) were ordained, and here they found their last refuge, among them the first Moscow metropolitan Pyotr (Peter), the first patriarch of the Russian Church Job as well Patriarch Hermogen, who died a martyr's death in 1612 after he had refused to give recognition to the imposter False Demetrius and his government during the Polish-Swedish intervention. Most of the burial vaults are placed under the flooring and superposed by low rectangular sarcophagi bearing carved slabs of white stone with epitaphs.

The Dormition Cathedral was first supplied with wall-paintings and frescoes (icons) in 1513 to 1515. But the many fires of the 16th and 17th centuries ruined the interiors. In


See: I. Zagorodnaya, "Overseas Wonders of the Armory", Science in Russia, No. 2, 1995. - Ed.

**See: V. Zverev, "The City Beautiful", Science in Russia, Nos. 2 - 3, 1992. - Ed.

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Archangel Cathedral interiors.

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Archangel Michael and Acts, 1399. Theophanus the Greek (?)

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The Annunciation Cathedral, 1484 - 1489.

Annunciation Cathedral interiors.

1642 and 1643 an artel (team) of masters supervised by Ivan and Boris Paiseins, and Sidor Pospeyev (court icon-painters) restored the frescoes back to their original splendor; this is what our visitors can see today.

Erecting and decorating a church, master masons of the Middle Ages sought to create their model of the Cosmos where all the elements were intertwined and subordinated to a definite guiding idea. That is why the Kremlin churches are more than repositories of holy art masterpieces, they are also a gate to the sacred kingdom of consciousness, to the world of political, ideological and historical realities of the bygone ages. The icons and frescoes of the Dormition Cathedral are a shining example of all that-they portray in bold relief the idea of statehood and the abiding faith in God and Mother of God (Theotokos) to whose protecting veil Russia has always turned for aid and succor.

The church iconostasis was wrought in 1653 at the behest of Patriarch Nikon in compliance with the Greek canon. Its upper range, the patristic one, pictures the genealogy of Jesus Christ according to the Bible and the Gospels of the New Testument. The tier below depicts the prophets who predicted the Incarnation. The central row, the deesis, puts worshipers in mind of the Judgment Day (Doomsday), and the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The centerpiece of the lowermost tier is the icon Dormition (Assumption) thought to have been painted for the consecration of the church in 1479. In keeping with medieval tradition, it relates several events after the Virgin's decease (Dormition): the church fathers and "wives of Jerusalem" bidding their last farewell, angels taking the apostles amidst clouds to the heavenly abode and last, Mary ascending to the open gate of paradise to meet her beloved son.

Standing in the Church of Dormition is the Throne of Monomach, the czar's prayer seat made in 1551 for Czar Ivan the Terrible (1533 - 1584). A unique monument of history and of wood-carving art, the seat has at its base four fantastic beasts of prey supporting an intricate square structure supplied with pillars, balusters and cornices, and surmounted with an ingenious marquee which, in turn, is adorned with numerous kokoshniks (Russian woman's head-dress), rosettes and vases.

Another gem of the Kremlin's architectural ensemble is the (New) Archangel Cathedral built in 1505 to 1508 by the Italian architect Alevise Friasin as the burial vault for Muscovite and appanage princes, and then Russian czars up until, the early 18th century when the Russian capital was moved to St. Petersburg, where a new necropolis was established in the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

In 1564 and 1565 the church was decorated with mural paintings. But, as it happened to the Dormition Cathedral, they had become dilapidated by the mid- 17th century, and

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The Church of the Deposition of the Protecting. Veil. 1484 - 1485.

came to be renovated by a team of masters headed by the famous icon-painter Simon Ushakov. Serving as a proem to this divine and artistic gallery are the frescoes in the loggia before the entrance illustrating the tale of how the Kiev an prince Vladimir adopted the Christian Faith.

The frescoes on the Western wall and adjacent arches picture a narrative on The Creed (short statement of the main doctrines that make up the fundamental teachings or Christianity) and on the Judgment Day. The frescoes on the northern and southern walls tell the story of the acts (feats) and miracles of Archangel Michael, the lord of the heavenly host who takes the souls of the dead to the Throne of God.

The motif of the glorification of autocratic rule is furthered in the images of saint princes and princesses, such as Vladimir* and Olga**, Boris and Gleb, Peter and Fevronia of Murom, and Michael of Chernigov. The white tombstones above the burial vaults of more than 60 grand dukes (princes) and czars depict their portraiture. It was only in the 1950s that the original frescoes of the Archangel Cathedral came to be recovered from the numerous later-day palimpsests (overpaints). In 1978 to 1980 some of the murals were further renovated.

The iconostasis of the Archangel Cathedral goes back to the latter half of the seventeenth century. The earliest image is that of Archangel Michael and His Acts; its style and details of artistic execution allow to date it to the year 1399 and attribute it to the brush of the famed icon-painter Theophanus the Greek. As legend has it, the august image of Archangel Michael, the lord of the heavenly host and guardian of all Christians, appeared in a dream to Yevdokia, the widow of Grand Duke (Prince) Dmitry Donskoi; this vision inspired her to have her husband immortalized in a pictorial dedication to Archangel Michael. This icon is framed in by eighteen impressions on the feats (acts) of St. Michael, the champion of good (He cast Satan out of heaven), an omnipotent angel of divine grace.

Reposing in the necropolis (cemetery) inside the cathedral are the mortal remains of Muscovite rulers and their next of kin. The tombs of the Moscow grand dukes (princes) are posited along the southern wall; their close relations are buried along the western wall, and lying under the southern wall are the bones of princes who expired in banishment. Princes Ivan III (Ivan the Great), Basil II and Basil III had the honor of being interred next to the altar, while the first Russian czar Ivan TV (Ivan the Terrible) chose his grave still in his Lifetime-one in a side-altar, or side-chapel. His sons, Ivan and Feodor, were laid to rest there, too. The tombstones of the first czars and kin of the Romanovs (who became a ruling dynasty early in the 17th cent.) are located near the southwestern and northwestern pillars.

In 1484 to 1489 master builders of Pskov put up another monumental wonderwork on the Kremlin grounds, the Annunciation Cathedral that became a domestic church of the Muscovite grand dukes (princes) and then czars.*** It is decorated with frescoes of the mid-16th century (the oldest in the Kremlin), which happened to be refurbished time and again, and which, cleansed of all the overpaints, reemerged in their original beauty by 1984. Apart from canonical scenes they show off most unorthodox (for that age!) images, e.g. those of ancient authors and thinkers like Virgil, Homer, and Plutarch in pictures of the Jessean Tree (the lineage of Jesus Christ on the basis of the biblical texts) in the cathedral's northwestern gallery.

The multitier iconostasis of the Annunciation Cathedral is one of the nicest and most splendid works of Medieval Russian art, though the authorship of the oldest icons is still disputed. The lowermost tier displayed a "patronal" icon depicting a ruling monarch's heavenly patron (upon the ruler's decease the icon was taken to the Archangel Cathedral and mounted in the tomb iconostasis).


See: S. Belyaev, "Now I've Come to Know the True God", Science in the USSR, No. 1, 1990. - Ed.

** See: A. Bogdanov, "The Architect of Rus", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2004. - Ed.

*** See: S. Kovarskaya, "A Kremlin Masterpiece", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1995. - Ed.

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Interiors of the Church of the Deposition of the Protecting Veil.

The deposition of the Protecting Veil of the Holy Virgin at Vlakhern. 17th century. Nazary Istomin Savin.

The roofed-in gallery of the church has a standing exposition of its spectacular icons. There is also a cross (1560s to 1570s) from the Annunciation Cathedral's altar. The semibasement houses the exhibition on the archeology of the Moscow Kremlin.

The Church of the Deposition of the Veil of the Virgin was erected by Pskovian masons in 1484 and 1485-first as the domestic church of Moscow metropolitans and later on, of patriarchs. The original wall paintings have not survived. The paintings that can be seen today date back to 1644 and were done by the Sidor Pospeyev, Ivan Borisov and Semyon Abramov as part and parcel of the iconostasis installed earlier, in 1627, at the behest of Patriarch Filaret, the father of Mikhail Feodorovich, who was the first czar of the Romanov dynasty. Indeed, the iconostasis harmonizes well with these colorful festive frescoes. The three upper ranges of the iconostasis and the Old Testament Trinity icon were painted in 1627 by the patriarch's personal artist Nazary Savin.

The northern gallery of the Deposition Cathedral is under the exhibition of Russian wood sculptures offering an overview of this kind of church arts from the 15th up until the 19th century. It displays monumental images of saints, carved icons, crosses and hinged icons (small diptychs and triptychs) and a high-relief of St. George of the late 14th and early 15th century.

In 1655 the Patriarchal Palace (Chambers) graced the Kremlin. Its grand cross chamber, the domestic Church of the Twelve cum refectory, state entrance-halls and living chambers house an exposition of 17th-century Russia's cultural and household articles, among them those belonging to the church fathers Filaret, Iosif (Joseph) and Nikon. The cross chamber, where the highest church hierarch received the czar, officiated at church assemblies and gave festive dinners is remarkable for its architecture as well. About 280 sq. meters large, it has one solid vault without pillar supports, which was a great novelty and achievement in Russian building practices of the day.

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Patriarchal Chambers and the Church of the Twelve.

The original iconostasis of the Church of the Twelve has not survived unfortunately; the one we can see today (late 17th-early 18th cent.) was brought in from the Ascension Cathedral of the Ascension Convent pulled down in 1929. Here our guests can see an exposition of 17th-century icons made in the Kremlin workshops-such masterpieces as Theodore Stratilates (warrior saint) by Simon Ushakov; Andrew the-First-Called (apostle) by Feodor Zubov; and Crucifix with Apostolic Passions by Feodor Rozhnov.

Two chambers of the Patriarchal Palace's upper story exhibit the restored interiors of a 17th century boyar's house. Among the items displayed in the study of the utmost interest are the manuscripted and printed books put out on the instructions of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich (reigned in 1645 to 1676) for private perusal and for the edification of his sons. The Single-Pillar Chamber on the ground floor was converted to an exhibition hall in 2004 for a part of the jubilee exhibition Emperors and the Armory Chamber.

The ensemble of the Ivan the Great Belltower took form in the course of two centuries.* This tower was built in 1505 to 1508 by the Italian architect Bon-Friasin and, a century later, got yet another tier and became 81 meters high. Next to it is the Dormition Belfry put up in 1532 to 1552; decades after, in 1624, Patriarch Filaret had yet another church (surmounted with a hipped dome) built close by. As many as 24 bells of the 16th to 19th centuries are there, and also an exhibition hall on the ground floor with some of the jubilee exhibits.

Archeology is an important facet of our work in the Kremlin memorial complex. At present we are acting on a long-term program for diggings in the necropolis of the Ascension Convent, and for this work we have invited experts of two RAS research institutes-N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology, and N. Vavilov Institute of General Genetics. We are also assisted by the D. Likhachev Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage, and the Moscow Forensic Medicine Authority. By now we have studied and restored to their original look many artifacts, e.g. fabrics and ritual


* See: I. Kostina, "Ivan the Great's Bells", Science in Russia, No. 1, 1994. - Ed.

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Iconostasis of the Church of the Twelve.

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Cross (Myrrh-Making) Chamber, Exposition of Russian, West European and Oriental decorative and applied arts of the 17th century.

Living chambers. Exposition of the Museum of Applied Arts and Household of the 17th century.

funereal vessels. Anthropologists are busy studying the bone bits in genetic, toxicological, paleopathological, X-ray, craniological (study of the dimensions and forms of skulls) and odontological (dental) expert examinations. Work is underway to restore from the ashes the real images of men and women.

The Kremlin museums have grown into a major research center, and have become the venue of representative annual conferences. Our staff participates in forums held both in this and other countries. Our publications include collections of articles and catalogs, along with those of monograph format. We are in touch with colleagues in more than 50 museums of Russia and other countries. Regular exchanges of exhibitions is just one line of such cooperation. In these past five years alone our collections have been to eighteen countries. And, what is particularly gratifying, our collections are shown again in other cities and towns of this country. Timed for the bicentennial jubilee was the

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Ivan the Great Belltower.

exposition Hunting by Russian Czars and Emperors in Nizhni Novgorod, and Treasures of the Moscow Kremlin that made a tour of Saratov, Omsk and Chelyabinsk.

We are publishing diverse popular science literature - booklets, guides, itineraries and pictorial albums. Our Moscow Kremlin series comprises colorful books on particular collections and monuments. We offer guided tours of the Armory Chamber and cathedrals (in Russian and other languages). In the lecture-center our experts have a lot to tell about monuments of Russian and world culture. Children are not bypassed either. Enjoying great popularity is the program of continuous education for the younger set in the 6 to 16 age bracket as well as guided tours spiced with shows (In the Kremlin's Chambers, Feast at the Czarina's, One Day in the Kremlin, Our Family Getting to Know the Kremlin). Regular symphony music concerts as well as choir and solo performances are given in the halls of the Armory Chamber and Patriarchal Palace.

The Kremlin museums are a vibrant living organism that keeps growing space, now stepping outside the Kremlin walls, too. Drawing on the time-honored experience of other countries we are out to build a universal cultural center beyond the Kremlin grounds proper with an exhibition complex that will have an up-to-date infrastructure, restoration laboratories, workshops and an information service on all the collections in our custody. Hallowed by the rich and eventful past, the Kremlin museums keep abreast with the present times and are looking boldly into the future.


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