Behind the Kremlin Wall in Moscow
Behind the Kremlin Wall in Moscow
After posting about the awesomeness that is the Red Square Moscow, guess what is next? We are going behind the Kremlin Wall! Московский Кремль
What is behind the Kremlin Wall in Moscow? The first word that comes to mind: DIAMONDS!! Of course, there are many other things but I cannot stop thinking about the bowels of diamonds and other jewels in the Diamond Fund.
There are so many treasures in the Armoury that I cannot list all of them. Let’s cover a few of the highlights!
First up: crowns! The Armoury has several crowns: Monomakh’s Cap, also known as the Golden Cap, which was the crown for the Russian Grand Princes (precursor to Tsar) and later Tsars. It was created in the late 13th to early 14th century in Central Asia, 200 years after the death of Vladimir Monomakh who has no connection to the crown but bears his name according to legend that Byzantine Emperor Constantine gifted the crown to his grandson Vladimir Monomakh. The first wearer of the crown was Ivan I Kalita (moneybag), Grand Prince of Moscow in the early 14th century, during the Mongol yoke.
Ivan IV (Grozny – mistranslated in English as Ivan the Terrible (Иван Грозный or Иван Васильевич), closer to inspiring fear, formidable or tough) crowned himself as Tsar of all the Russias with the Monomakh Cap; the first Tsar of Russia. Before they had been crowned Grand Princes but this signaled a major shift in Russia that had started with his grandfather Ivan III (the Great) to overthrow the Mongol horde which started with refusing to pay tribute under Ivan III who also annexed surrounding lands of Moscow.
The Kazan Cap was made for Ivan the Terrible in 1553 after conquering the Kazakh khanate. It was not used to crown Ivan nor any other tsars.
The Monomakh Cap was used until Peter the Great took the title of Emperor and designed a new Imperial Crown. Other crowns have been worn such as the Kazan Cap but not for coronations. Below is a crown of Tsar Mikhail, the first Romanov Tsar, which was made by the Kremlin Armoury in 1627, long after his coronation in 1613. Also included is the sceptre and orb of Boris Godunov, first a regent to Ivan the Terrible’s son Fyodor I and then the first non-Rurikid tsar from 1598-1605 after seizing the throne following the death of childless Fyodor. The end of Boris’s reign had thrown Russia into the Time of Troubles.
Below are three of the thrones found behind the Kremlin Wall in the Armoury. Clockwise, you have the joint throne of Peter I the Great (Пётр Алексеевич) and his brother Ivan V, Alexis I and Ivan IV the Terrible. In the double throne for Ivan and Peter, you can see the hole in the back for their sister, Sophia, who was regent, was able to whisper instructions or answers when conversing with the Boyars (nobles). Sophia would later rise up against Peter when he was ready to assume full control of the throne. Ivan, who was sickly and feeble-minded, was not an issue. Peter became the sole ruler in 1696 when Ivan finally succumbed to his illnesses.
The Armoury also houses Imperial dress, carriages, golden bibles and decorated silverware, armour and many other items. The Armoury also has an excellent Faberge Egg collection. Below is an egg made by Peter Carl Faberge for Tsar Nicholas II and he presented it to his wife, Tsaritsa Alexandra. It contains the portrait of eighteen Romanov Tsars including Mikhail I, Peter I the Great, Catherine II the Great and Nicholas II himself, who ended up as Russia’s last Tsar/Emperor.
There are also many Imperial carriages for Tsars and Tsarinas; in particular is the one for Catherine II the Great (Екатерина II Великая) dating to 1769. The room must have held 20 carriages at least; most were gold-plated and simply gorgeous.
Below are a few other items of Catherine the Great: portrait of her coronation on the left with her crown, orb and coronation dress on the right. The Imperial Crown was made for and first worn by Catherine II during her coronation in 1762 and used by all following Russian rulers. The Imperial Orb was made for the coronation of Catherine as well. There are 1370 total diamonds. The last image is Catherine’s coronation dress. The Armoury had a large room of royal dresses, coronation dresses and robes, and tapestries.
As you make your way from the upper floors of the Armoury to the lower exit, you will see the Diamond Fund entrance. You pay here if you don’t have a ticket and go through another set of metal detectors. Once you make your way inside, the lights are dim and the jewels sparkle!
Below on the left is the famous and gorgeous Orlov Diamond, given to Empress Catherine II the Great from her lover Grigory Orlov, with whom she had two secret children. Catherine had taken a new lover, Potemkin, and Orlov sought to restore Catherine’s affection and presented the 189 carat Orlov Diamond in 1773, one of the world’s most impressive diamonds. Catherine had it made into the new royal scepter and it was used at all following coronations (Catherine’s coronation sceptre has been lost). Catherine declined Orlov’s advances but kept the diamond. Hell yes she did. My girl Catherine liked her jewels.
On the right hand, lovely Kokoshnik Diadem with 175 diamonds and a 13 carat pink diamond in the center. The brilliant green emerald (my favourite jewel) is 136 carats. On the right, the third jewel is the Shah Diamond; weighs around 88 carats and has a fascinating history. It was discovered before 1591 in India and was later given to Tsar Nicholas I in 1829 as an apology after a Russian diplomat was killed in Tehran. Apology accepted! The names of three of its former owners were engraved on the original faces: earliest date is 1591. The blue sapphire weighs 260 carats! The last crown is the Russian Field Diadem, made of platinum, gold and brilliant colors.
The Armoury and Diamond Fund are two of many places to visit behind the Kremlin Wall in Moscow. There are numerous other places to visit such as: Cathedral Square that is surrounded by three cathedrals including my favourite, Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, built in 1505-1508, where many of the Muscovite Grand Princes are buried including Ivan Kalita, Ivan the Terrible, Alexei I and Mikhail I. Peter the Great moved the burial of the Tsars to his new city, St. Petersburg.
Tips for Visiting the Kremlin
The Diamond Fund is located in the Armoury building behind the Kremlin Wall. You must buy your Armoury ticket in advance at Kutafya Tower in Aleksandrovsky Sad (garden) and can only enter during your specified time. If you purchase your ticket first thing in the morning, you can probably enter not long after. You must also leave all backpacks in a storage facility near the entrance (ladies may take a purse or cross-over bag which I did).
The Armoury (including the Diamond Fund) is not open on Thursday.
I picked up an audio guide for 50 rubles which was helpful; gave a bit more information even though I have several degrees in Russian history and knew much already. I would recommend an audio guide or even a Tour through Viator for the Armoury if you have limited Russian history knowledge.
Buying tickets is not easy especially if you do not speak Russian. I find when something is complicated in Russia, the explanation is simple: because Russia. They have pictures so you can point to it if you don’t know any of the language. Make sure you get all the tickets you want as they are sold separate.
- Cathedral Square ticket -350 rubles
- Armoury -700 rubles
- Ivan the Terrible Bell Tower -500 rubles
- Diamond Fund ticket is 500 rubles – buy this within the Armoury and go through another set of metal detectors (cash only)
FYI: When I was in Moscow in February 2014, the Ivan the Great Bell Tower was closed. It should be re-opening spring 2014.
There are two entrances: buy your ticket first near Kutafya Tower (half way – near entrance 1 on the map) and if you are only going to Armoury/Diamond Fund, walk the rest of way down to Borovitskaya Tower (entrance 2). If you wish to see the cathedrals first, your entrance is near the ticket office.
One final note: as you have noticed, only one of the above is my picture. The Kremlin has a strict “no camera” rule and I was warned numerous times before my trip as I researched it online and also several times by my hotel after I arrived. They warned me not to take any cameras and specifically included phones. I usually ignore rules like this and take pictures pretty much wherever I want but I was not about to test Russia.
However, when I entered the Kremlin, guess what I saw? CAMERAS! Everywhere. Yes I am still pissed off. When I return to Moscow, I will risk taking a camera so I can at least take pictures of Cathedral Square or the Bell Tower. Maybe even sneak a picture inside the Armoury. You won’t be able to take anything inside the Diamond Fund; two small rooms and guards in each. So take a camera at your own risk: there were dozens of people with cameras in February 2014. Maybe it was due to the closeness of the Olympics? Maybe next time they will confiscate them at the entry point. I would risk it.
Go forth and enjoy the treasures behind the Kremlin Wall. It will not disappoint. Have you been to the Kremlin yet? How about stopping by Red Square in Moscow as well?