Written, under the order of Prince Odoievsky-Maslov, Chief of Administration of the Imperial Court in Moscow, by S. de Bartenev
The Great Kremlin Palace and its 9 Churches - Visitor's Guide

Written, under the order of Prince Odoievsky-Maslov, Chief of Administration of the Imperial Court in Moscow, by S. de Bartenev. Printed by Permission of the Minister of the Imperial Court, Aide de Camp General Baron Freederikzs. - Moscow, 1912
View of the Grand Kremlin Palace from Stone Bridge
View of the Great Kremlin Palace, from the Stone Bridge
English translation from the original French edition, by Robert Moshein, copyright 2008. All photographs copyright Alexander Palace Time Machine/Bob Atchison 2008
The Grand Kremlin Palace in 1912
The Great Kremlin Palace
The Buildings of the Kremlin Palace of Moscow - Historical Summary
In all likelihood the first buildings of the Palace, in the Kremlin, existed in the middle of the 12th Century.

These constructions were found between the Church of the "Nativity of St. John the Baptist" and were there at the location which is actually now the Borovitski Tower, that is to say immediately opposite the Armory Palace.

It was, during this period, the highest part of the Kremlin, forming a promontory bluff at the confluence of the Moskova and Neglinnaya Rivers. It was covered with dense forest, from which they took the wood used for the first buildings.

Naturally, one would not have found these first buildings to have anything like the magnificence which we now have come to associate with the idea of a "palace"; rather these were not more than small wooden houses, serving as temporary shelter for the Princes.

In the XIIIth century, when the Princes decided upon Moscow, the former site on the slope of the hill of the Kremlin seemed small. It was necessary to move the Grand Ducal Court ( Dvor ) farther to the west, and there they built the second church in Moscow, the Savior-in-the-Forest (Spass na borou).

In the XIVth century Grand Duke Ivan Danilovich Kalita (1328-1341) noticeably enlarged his Court. In place of the wooden church of the Savior-in-the-Forest, he had a stone church built and brought over next to it the convent from the village of Danilovo. The nearly monastic life of this Prince may be presumed because his palace was neither vast nor sumptuous.

At the end of the XIVth century and the beginning of the XVth under Dmitri Ioannovich Donskoy and his son Vassili Dmitrievich the Grand Ducal palace was already becoming larger and was noted for a certain magnificence. The Terem of the Hillside (Belvedere) had a gilded roof and, in the courtyard, Grand Duke Vassily Dmitrievich erected a striking clock ( The mechanism of this clock was so marvelous that the Annals mentioning the artist who made it, named Lazare, was paid more than 150 rubles for his miraculous work.

At the entrance to the Prince's residence was built a church in stone of the Annunciation and in his apartments the Prince had another church, also in stone, and "very marvelous" according to his contemporaries, called the Nativity of the Virgin. The dimensions of the Palace during this period were determined by the placement of these two churches, which were already in place.

The Palace was not made up of a single large building, but as with all of the ancient dwellings of the Grand Dukes and Boyars, it comprised a grouping of smaller houses connected by exterior galleries.
The general appearance presented an extremely diverse and charming picture with its roofs, its watchtowers of different forms and different sizes, its towers, terraces and little stairways and passages.

Kolomenskoe in the XVII entury

It is certain that the Kremlin Palace during the first half of the XVth century resembled closely the exterior of the wooden palace of the XVIIth century belonging to Tsar Alexei Mikailovich at Kolomenskoe, demolished in 1767. This image above.

On the second floor of the Palace were the reception rooms, while the Prince and his family occupied the upper floors, the Terems or Attics. The ground floor (more precisely the under-stairs) was designated for those persons who made up the Prince's household.

The Kremlin Palace during the XVth century, despite its beauty and relative luxury, retained a sort of rustic character, as did the rest of the Kremlin, resulting from the buildings, except the surrounding high walls and the several churches which were in stone, being built of wood. They had neither grand nor majestic construction. It had the Cathedral churches but they were small and narrow. The Kremlin retained its appearance of an ancient wooden town, fundamentally Russian, up until the end of the XVth century, that is to say until the reign of Grand Duke Ivan III (1462-1505). When he married Zoe Paleologue (Sophie), daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, and entirely shaken off the Tatar influences, the prince set about to create a capital which reflected to his appearance of grander and importance as an Autocrat of Russia. He had, in this goal, renowned architects brought from Italy, and on their arrival, the compete destruction of the old wooden Kremlin began. He had it replaced by magnificent stone edifices. They rebuilt in the first place, the church of the Assumption and the surrounding high walls.

The recreation of the Palace, beginning with the construction being directed, in 1484, by the Italian architect Marco, of a brick palace, sited between the cathedral of Archangel Michael and that of the Annunciation. The palace was destined to hold the treasures of the Grand Duke. On the location of the Terem of Dmitri Donskoy, they built, also in stone, the Palace of the Hillside.

In 1491, the same foreign architect Marco along with Pietro Antonio, oversaw the construction of the Palace of Facets.

In 1492, the Grand Duke along with his entire family moved into the domain of the Boyar Patrikyev, located on the site of the first Palace of the Grand Dukes, next to the church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and he had the old wooden palace demolished to build a new one in stone.

Whilst they were building another palace to the East, behind the Cathedral of the Archangel, and as the Grand Duke was disposed to go live there, a frightening fire, such as had never been seen before and which "began to light in many places all at once" destroyed the palace and the entire town (1493). This event greatly delayed the construction of the new Palace and Ivan III was not able to complete it. The Palace was not ready until 1508, three years after his death.

The Palace was built, except for, as was said, the Hillside Palace and the Palace of the Facets, by the architect Aleviso, and it preserved the characteristic traits of the ancient Grand Ducal dwellings.
Ivan III's constructions completely modified the appearance of the Kremlin. Fortified by a double wall, and in some parts a triple wall, with it arrow slits, towers and draw-bridges, portcullises, adorned with magnificent cathedrals with their gilded domes, and embellished with a superb palace, the Kremlin became, starting during his reign, the ornament and pride of Russia, worthy emblem of its grandeur and power.

For the Palace itself, it became the prototype for all construction with followed. Its appearance and architecture are still visible today in the present Great Palace. (The arched windows of the ground floor of the palace correspond to the arcades of Alevsio which were not demolished then during the reconstruction done by the architect Ton. The actual exterior terraces correspond to the ancient exterior passages. The Palace of the Facets and the lower floor of the Belvedere Palace (Terem) still exist. We can estimate from these preserved parts the grandeur and beauty of the original whole.)

After the reign of Ivan III, up until the end of the XVIIth century, the Kremlin Palace, retaining completely all of the fundamental traits of the first building, enlarged and embellished without end, following the increasing wealth and power of the Kingdom of Moscow. Many modifications were made during this period. The ancient buildings were enlarged and new building erected.

More than once the palace was destroyed by fire at the same time as the entire Kremlin and city. However, it was always reborn from the ashes, even larger and more beautiful. Under Tsar Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) the Palace almost totally burned twice, in 1547 and 1571.

In 1560 they built a personal residence for the Tsar's children and a church dedicated to the Purification. Both were supported by wooden beams overhanging the slope of the hill behind the Hillside Palace.

Under Ivan the Terrible the walls of the Gold Hall (which no longer exists today) were covered with frescoes celebrating religious subjects.

The Palace was enlarged and embellished particularly at the end of the XVIth century, during the regency of Boris Gudonov. It was this period that the Palace of the Facets and its Vestibule were adorned with frescoes, on religious themes, and which formed the basis for the contemporary decoration.

During a famine, Godonov, already having become Tsar, undertook "for the aid of the people" the construction - on the spot of the residence of Ivan the Terrible's children - of an enormous stone building, two stories, "The Reserve Palace". He had built for himself on this building wooden apartments, replaced soon by the Palace of the False Dmitry, then by those of Vassily Chouisky.

During the Period of Troubles, with the Poles installed in the Kremlin, the Tsar's Palace was horribly devastated. The treasures had been pillaged, everything which could serve as firewood had been put to the fire. Everything was gone: roofs, floors, doors, windows, pews, lintels; so much so that Tsar Michael Fyodorovich, newly elected, did not know where he might stay. According to an old text, he took only "in Moscow, his capital, walls, and then, even they were destroyed."

Little by little, during all of his reign (1613-1645), Michael Fyodorovich restored order to his Palace, enlarged and embellished. In 1635-36, he built the Terem Palace and the Church of the Savior on High
( Verkhospssaia ) which both still exist.

Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (1645-76) received the Palace in perfect condition; also during his reign, they had no reason to build anything important. The Tsar needed only to remodel and embellish the existing buildings. From our point of view remarkable innovations took place.

During that period, many changes were created which affected the Tsar's way of life; this was a familiarity with the way of life abroad. This new understanding was manifested in the plan of the Palace. Artists and artisans coming from Poland decorated with a luxury theretofore unknown in Russia. The walls were covered in tooled and gilt leather. The ceilings were ornamented in gold. One now saw furniture of foreign origins and paintings on secular subjects.

In 1661, for example, the new Refectory was installed according to the plan of the engineer, Colonel Dekempin. 'Its walls, according to the report by Imperial Ambassador Adolph Lyzeck, had been newly fitted with the richest materials, and the ceiling had been painted, with astronomic exactitude, the planets, comets and known stars. Each star had its specific orbit with its inclination and ecliptic. The distance of the twelve celestial signs was so precisely calculated that, even to the orbit of the planets, was marked out by gilt tropics (circles); and the equinox and solstice were in the same colors."

Cathedral Square in the XVII Century
The Cathedral Square and the Palace in the XVIIth century
From the book "The Election to the Throne of Tsar Mikhail Fyordorvich" - 1672
In 1672 moreover, the first Theatre in Moscow, was built next to the Palace of Diverse Pleasures
( Potyechni Dvoryets ) annexed to the Palace in 1669, after the death of the Tsar's father-in-law, the Boyar Miloslavski.
The court ruled over by Tsar Theodore Alexeievich (1672-82) was marked by a renewed intensity and ardor for the construction of new churches at the Palace.
The Tsar's family grew and required new apartments. Also, new construction was needed and erected to the north of the Terems. They built, among others, the stone house for the Tsarevnas and for Tsar Ivan Alexandrovich.
Tsar Theodore Alexeievich also introduced many changes in his Belvedere Palace. There he built the Church of the Crucifixion (where they had a Calvary built), the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and restored the ancient churches. "In general, the annals said, he greatly embellished his palace."
Under the reign of Tsarevna Sophie (1682-89), after the fire of 1682, the residence of the Tsars was newly decorated with the great luxury by the favorite of Sophie, Prince V.V. Galitsine. In 1683, the Palace was further augmented by two stone buildings of two stories, one for the Tsarevna, the other for the Dowager Tsarina Marfa Matveyovna, second wife of Tsar Fyodor Alexeievich, nee Apraxine. In 1684 they built the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, next to the apartments of Tsarina Natalia Kirolovna, mother of Peter the Great.
At the end of the XVIIth century, the Kremlin Palace was in a flourishing state. The luxury there was indescribable. The Palace was then entirely recovered in vivid colors and gold, ornamented by artistic sculptures in wood, magnificent rugs, fabrics, filled with splendid plate in gold and silver.
We might estimate the number of buildings of the palace from a report made by two architects, Prince Oukhtomsky and Evlaichyev. In 1753 after several fires - after which the rooms burned were not to be restored - "they found again in the Kremlin Palace rooms and cellars which numbered a thousand, and a large number of terraces and galleries."
View of the Kremlin in 1715
View of the Kremlin Palace after a drawing of 1715.
During the XVIIIth century, by the force of historical events and the sheer will of Peter the Great, all of the luxury, all of that royal spaciousness of the Kremlin Palace, were condemned to destruction. Abandoned by the Court and left unguarded, the Palace apartments fell into ruin.

After the fires, they stayed for long periods without roofs, without doors and even windows, all of which accelerated the ruin.

Since the Court, on its rare visits to Moscow, descended usually on the Golovine Palace and the Lefort Palace, on the Yaouza, repairs were not undertaken at the Kremlin Palace, except only for those reception rooms required for official services. They others remained undisturbed.

The affectation which Peter the Great showed to the new "colleges" which he had created, of fifty nine houses belonging to the Palace, only made things worse. All of the employees, in effect, were installed in the Palace with their servants and they even housed prisoners there. Little by little the Palace of the Tsars became uninhabitable.

In 1770 Empress Anna Ioannovna ordered that the architect Count Rastrelli should build a wooden palace next to the location now occupied by the Arsenal. This palace was named "Annehof". Six years later, it was moved by the Yaouza next to the Golovine summer palace.

In 1749, Empress Elisabeth gave the order to the same Rastrelli to build a stone palace on the site of the royal apartments of the old wooden palace. This new palace was named the Kremlin Winter Palace. It remained until 1838 at the time when Emperor Nicholas I had the current Great Palace built.

Empress Catherine the Great strongly impressed by all of the ancient contained in the Kremlin, gave the order to return the Palace back to its perfect condition with all of the outbuildings and prevented the slightest change to the ancient buildings.

In 1764, they created under her order, next to the Cathedral of the Purification, a building for the ladies and knights, but it only lasted some five years.

The Kremlin in the Last Half of the 18th Century
The Kremlin during the last half of the 18th century.
In 1769 the Empress planned to build a colossal palace which would occupy the entire hill of the Kremlin. All of its convents and all the churches would be located within its perimeter. The plans of this palace were drawn by the architect Bayenov. He even made a wooden model which itself cost 30,000 rubles, and which is found today in the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow. However, in 1773, just as the work began next to the Taynitskaia Gate, the Cathedral of the Archangel cracked and threatened to slide completely. Thus prevented from continuing their work, they were limited to building the Palace of Justice, according to the plans of the architect M.F. Kazakov. They demolished, on the other hand, the Reserve Palace, the Court of the Wheat, the Old Court of the Mint and long section of the ancient Administrative Directive building.

At almost this same time, the Small Kremlin Palace was built to the plans of Kazakov, which served afterward as the residence of the metropolitans and was soon bought, in 1818 by Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich. It was there that Emperor Alexander II was born.

Towards the end of the XVIIIth century, the buildings of the Kremlin Palace, despite the formal orders of Catherine II, fell into ruin and even threatened passers-by. They were forced to prohibit carriages near to the Palace.

Piles of rubbish heaped in the hallways, in the doorways and in the open rooms. Negligence, ruin, abandonment and desolation reigned everywhere.

At the beginning of the XIX th century, P.S. Valuyev took directorship of the Palace, and set about with a fervor to introduce order back to the buildings of the Kremin. Unfortunately, instead of restoring the ancient artistic monuments, he mercilessly razed them, and after just ten years the Kremlin had been rendered unrecognizable. Kremlin Tower Among many other buildings, he demolished the Cathedral of the Purification, The Armory Tower (right), a part of the Palace of Diverse Pleasures, the house of Tsar Boris, the guest rooms of the Convent of the Trinity with the church of the Epiphany, from where they had announced to the people of the election of Michael Fedorovich Romanovto the throne. On the other hand, if one does not count the building of the galleries for the Knights and the former Armory Palace (actually a barracks) nothing was built at the palace, up until the moment when Emperor Nicholas Pavlovich erected the Great Palace.

The Grand Marshall of the Court, Baron Bode, vice-president of the Palace Chancellory in Moscow, exposed in detail, in a letter to Weltmann - author of one of the first descriptions of the New Palace - the reasons and circumstances which lead the Emperor to decide to build this edifice.

His information is of great interest because Baron Bode was in charge of executing the Imperial wishes.

"The autumn of the year 1837," wrote Baron Bode, " the Emperor went to Moscow. His Majesty having found the ancient Palace ugly and very small, going through, in beginning with the Boyards Terrace, when they had earlier had the intention to build a new great hall. Seeing all of the inconveniences of this project and that to enlarge the throne room, the Emperor arrived at the beginning of the reception rooms, that is to say, just to the working study of the late Empress Maria Feodorovna, he stopped, examined the plan and gave the order, to add to the Palace a new great hall (today the Throne Room of St. Andrew). This was the first indication of the project of the construction of the Palace itself and its beginning. In the meanwhile, they alerted the Emperor that the old palace threatened ruin. The palace was, after the fire of 1812, rebuilt and enlarged in haste, in 1817, for the occasion of the arrival of the late Emperor Alexander I. The outer walls, very insignificant, the upper stories, were refitted on the interior with wide planks. The beams and ceilings in wood gave passage for the quantities of chimney pipes needed for the innumerable stoves in the palace and its kitchens. After a detailed examination of the ceilings and roofs, they became convinced of the impossibility of protecting the security of the palace from the possibility of fire. It is likely that it was this last determination that helped the Emperor to decide to build a new Palace, more solid and which more greatly conformed to the grander of the nation's first capital."

The Kremlin in 1823
The Kremlin circa 1823
"The very next day, the Emperor indicated on the plans that He had presented the changes which he desired and as a result of which they would have to start anew. He commanded, at the same time to have an entirely new set of plans done up according to His directions. I gave the order to a young assistant architect Guerassimov, whose talent I had noticed during the restoration of the Terem Palace, to design a plan which I myself would oversee that was along the guidelines and directions given by His Majesty. I presented this plan to the Minister of the Imperial Court, the Serene Prince Peter Mikailovich Volkonsky who would submit it for Imperial examination. After the modifications indicated by His Majesty, the plans were returned to me to be re-done again. His Majesty often reviewed the plans for the New Palace and I kept several drawings corrected in His hand as a precious souvenir of the abilities of the Sovereign-Architect."
Terems and Savior in the Forest in the Kremlin
The Terems, Church of the Savior-in-the-Forest and the Palace. Lithograph of 1828.
"In December 1838, I left for St. Petersburg so as to present the project for the Emperor's approval. His Majesty, after examining them, was satisfied with the general plan, as it conformed to His ideas and His intentions, except for some small points of minor importance, such as the exact shape of the domes, etc. Fire occurred at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg attracting the Emperor's attention to the precautions to be taken to save a similar part of the New Palace. He gave the order to make vaults very solid, the joists made of iron, to pave all of the corridors and vestibules, and to organize the hot air systems, according to the system of General Amoisov, in a word, to take all precautions for the security and solidity of the new building. This was the cause of changing totally the first specifications and even the methods of building. Besides, it was also then noticed that the ancient foundations did not correspond to the dimensions of the colossal mass of the new Palace planned. All of the plans of the first project which were not yet passed before the eyes of the true Architect, were approved by the same hand of the Emperor, and their execution, under the immediate direction of M. the Minister of the Imperial Court, were placed under my direction.
Having before me such a very serious goal, which demanded the skills of a talented and experienced architect, and having heard people speak of Ton, who, then, had begun to have the reputation of a talented architect and a very fine builder, I asked M. the Minister of the Court to ask the Emperor to name the principal architect for the construction of the New Palace in Moscow. His Majesty did not at first consent to the nomination of Ton except as the consulting architect, but after some persuasion by Volkhonsky, Ton was named the principal architect, with specification of a particular responsibility as to that which concerned the solidness of the foundations, the vaults, and the installation of a heating system that was guaranteed to not be dangerous.
"His Majesty the Emperor personally entered into almost every detail, and during the commencement of the work right up until the end everything was done under the decision of His Imperial Majesty."
Aside from Ton the principal architect, other architects also took part in the work. These were professor of Architecture Th. Richter, MM Tchichagov, Guerassimov, Baikirev and the assistant architects, academician Stegmann, MM Ivanov, Lyubimtsev, Gorskii, Vodeau, Trubnikov, Dmitriyev, Delsalle and the two Stavrovskis.
The interior decoration were designed for the most part by Ton himself. The drawings of the details of the principal rooms were done by I. Kaminsky. M. Tchichagov, known for his distinguished taste, was working on the drawings for the interior decoration, furniture, doors, etc.
The ornaments on the white stone were made by Campioni. (Only the walls of the Great Palace are in brick. As for the columns, cornices, window surrounds and door surrounds are in cut white stone -calcite stone from the village of Myatchkovo, Moscow government.) The locks, remarkably noted for the extremely complicated locks, are the work of Soloviev. The roofs and domes were done under the watch of the "Major of the Door" Illinin. (For fear of fires, the roof was made without wood, which required 109,000 puds [1959 tons US/1777metric] of iron and 15,000 puds of cast iron.) Professor Pyerevochnikov oversaw the installation of the lightning rods built by Neubauer. The clock in the tower was built by the Boutenop brothers, with the Dutch bells for the clock on the Trinity Tower.
The construction of the Palace cost almost 12 million rubles. The first stone was laid 30 June 1838 (Old Style) and 3 April 1849, the Palace of officially inaugurated in the Emperor's and entire Imperial Family's presence.
At this inauguration, the Emperor bestowed Prince Volkhonsky, Minister of the Imperial Court, and several other persons who took part in the construction of the Palace, with gold medals adorned with diamonds and he told them:
"My Kremlin Palace, a fine work of architecture, shall be a new ornament for My dear former capital, and even more so shall harmonize completely with the buildings which surround it, and which we hold sacred, as well as the secular memories associated there, which are the great achievements of our national history."
Here are the terms which Metropolitan Philarette of Moscow used to explain the significance of the new Palace in the sermon which he gave on 9 April 1849. It was at the blessing of the inscription, affixed to a marble plaque in the St. George Hall, in memory of the founding of the Praeobrazhinsky Regiment:
"The Sovereigns, as well as the commoners, build houses in order to have a tranquil residence, pleasant, corresponding to their rank and conforming to the needs of their social life. However, this did not suffice for our Tsar, who does not wish to lead a separate life, but wishes to live in complete unity with his people and his empire. He deigned to want that his residence symbolizes the Tsar and the Empire and had made a Tablet of commandments or a Book in stone where one may read the present grandeur, the venerated memory of the past and an example for the future."
The Red Staircase in the Kremlin
The Red Stair and the Palace of Facets.