On Your Own

What is this?


This is a full, detailed 2-hour written tour of the Kremlin's territory. You can do it alone or with a group of friends.



How do I use it?


You better buy a Russian SIM-card and read it online from this web-page on any of your mobile devices: phone or tablet. Simply read everything that's written there and follow pictures that show you where to go. You can scroll through some text or skip some points to speed it up somewhere along the way, it's up to you. But there can be some moments where the later information will refer to something written above.



What will I see?


This is the tour of the Kremlin's territory and not of any of its museums. The only ticket you need to buy for this tour is officially called in the ticket office as 'Architectural complex of Cathedral Square'. You'll see the tourist portion of the Kremlin territory, get to know all of the Kremlin's buildings and will even go inside 2 of its churches.



Where do I start?


The tour assumes that you've already bought your tickets and got inside. More information on what tickets can or should you buy in the Kremlin and how to do it you can find here and here.


You'll have to enter the Kremlin through its main entrance, which is a red brick bridge in the middle of Alexander's Garden. You can see the starting point on this picture:

Map of the Moscow Kremlin Inked_edited.j

Once you've passed the metal detectors, stop in the middle of that bridge and start reading.



The Kremlin is a 15th-century fortress that stands in the historic center of the city. Back when the city first appeared of maps this fortress was the entire city of Moscow. The earliest official recording of the name Moscow dates to 1147, which is today considered to be the year of the city's birthday. But the red walls that you see in front of you right now were built a bit later.


The original Kremlin was made entirely of wood, and after several attacks buy the Mongols and reconstructions nothing of it was left. Here's one of the early versions:

First Wooden Kremlin In

The oldest buildings on the territory today as well as the walls date to 15th century. In 1480 the country celebrated its liberation from the 200-year Mongolian oppression, and Moscow, as the new official capital of the united Russia, received a set of new Kremlin walls to commemorate the occasion. They were finished by 1495 and remain one of the oldest structures of the city today.


The walls were built with the help of Italian masons. In part, because by that time the Eastern Roman Empire had just collapsed under the pressure of the Ottomans, and Russia, as the biggest Eastern Orthodox country remaining, considered itself its main successor. And therefore Moscow was to assume the title of the 'Third Rome', as people often started to refer to it at the time. The Tsar Ivan III even took a daughter of the last Byzantine emperor to be his wife to further stress that connection. And are were obviously no better architects for the job than Italians if you're planning on calling something 'Rome', even non-officially.


Back then the fortress was better protected against a potential invasion having water surrounding it on all three sides. You're currently standing on the bridge because there used to be a river underneath it in place of this wonderful park called 'Alexander's Garden' today. The river is still there, but in a pipe below the ground.


The Kremlin at all times has been the place of high concentration of government offices: whether it's the residences of the Tsar and the Patriarch (head of the church) in the earliest days, some offices of the city administration back when the capital was moved to St. Petersburg, or the main working and occasionally living residence of the of the head of the Soviet Union after the revolution. Today it continues that tradition with the main working (not living) residence of the president still being in one of its building that we're going to see.


That's why the word 'Kremlin' over the centuries has converted into a synonym to the Russian government as a whole. Although originally, in old Russian the word simply meant 'fortress'. It was used to refer to many such fortresses across the country, dozens of which still stand. That's why the name of this one is usually used with the definite article 'the' to stress that the conversation is about the most important one of them. Here's the Kremlin of Vladimir today for comparison:

Smolensk Kremlin_edited.png

Since the Kremlin was the entire city at some point, originally, no one needed a ticket to go inside. Even when the city spread out, for centuries the fortress had remained yet another city neighborhood. Until 1918 that is, when it was completely shut by the communists for anyone but party members and used as their primary residence. It was partially reopened for public as a museum in 1955 after Stalin's death and continues functioning in the same way till this very day.


The Kremlin has 20 towers. The two of them that you see at the beginning and the end of this bridge are the shortest and the tallest: Kutafya (15m) and Trinity tower (60m) respectively.

Kutafya and Trinity Towers of the Moscow

Kutafya possibly comes from 'Kut', which was a special place in a house, behind the stove, where a man would hide his wife from evil eye in case of unexpected guests. The same way as the tower acted as the first line of defense 'hiding' the rest of the Kremlin behind it. We'll see more interesting towers later.


Now, let's enter the Kremlin and talk about the buildings inside.


Make sure you take some pictures along the way with the guards that, depending on the time of the year, could be standing on both sides of the entrance doors in special booths.

Changing of the guards at the Trinity to

Ceremonial soldiers are not supposed to move throughout their 1-hour shifts. And one can easily read on their faces how they're 'definitely enjoying it' when someone's taking a selfie in front of them. If there aren't any soldiers, just take a picture standing in that booth yourself. It has the state emblem (Double-headed Eagle) in it.


Continue walking to this point:

Traffic Rules


The Kremlin doesn't really have any heavy traffic, but it will certainly remind you of its strict traffic rules if you try to violate them. You see, these roads here are for cars:

Kremlin Roads Inked_edited.jpg

Try to avoid walking on them anywhere other than special crosswalks. Those no-nonsense people in uniforms in the middle of the road will use each and every opportunity to prove that they're playing existentially important role there and whistle the hell out of you. If you want to see how it works, don't test it yourself. Just stay next to the entrance for 5 minutes, and someone will do it for you. It just happens whether you warn people or not.

The last noble manors


As I mentioned, at first the Kremlin walls were also the city limits of Moscow. But even when the city started expanding beyond them, a lot of noble people for centuries continued living inside. Back then the Kremlin was just another city neighborhood just with better security and fancier people inside.


The last residents were pushed outside of the walls only in 18th century. And here we see the last remaining residential buildings on the territory.

Amusement Palace In The Moscow Kremlin_e

Technically, it's all just one mansion. The main living quarters were in the central pink part, and the yellow wings were used by staff and for receiving guests. You can see the building's age by the size of its tiny windows (people didn't have glass back in the days) and by how deeply it's sunken into the ground.


It was built for the father-in-law of the Tsar Alexis I in the middle of 17th century, but quickly after this death turned into state property and was used by Alexis as his private comedy theater. They called it the Amusement Palace back then.


The whole complex together with many other buildings on the territory was used by communists as their residences. Many high-ranking party members were settled there in 1918, most of which brought over their families. 2100 people were officially registered as living in the Kremlin at that time.


In the pink building the second wife of Stalin one day committed suicide, when she realized who much of a caring husband he was.

Today it is used as government buildings, and it is one of the parts that no regular tourist normally goes to. The part of the building closer to the overground bridge allegedly has a special suite for the president. If he decides to stay overnight that is. Officially, he doesn't live in the Kremlin, he just comes to work here every now and then.


More older residential buildings like that were located in place of this big, grey, Soviet-looking building next to you called State Kremlin Palace.

State Kremlin Palace


This building wouldn't just win the competition for the most stereotypical communist building, but would also fit inside up to 6000 people if needed. Built in 1964 it was originally called the Palace of the Congresses, and was the place where all the subsequent party congresses had been organized up until the collapse of the Union, taking this role away from the Bolshoi Theater stage.

The story tells us that Khrushchev was inspired by all the huge party buildings he saw in China during his visit of 1962. Many of which were much bigger and imposing than anything back home. He though it was not appropriate for the first

State Kremlin Palace.jpg

socialist state in the world not to have the biggest government buildings. So he ordered something comparable to be erected asap right in the Kremlin.

A few residential buildings and the building of the Armory (the actual arms manufacture inside the Kremlin, after which today's museum is called) would be destroyed to free enough space for the project:

The old building of the Armory in the Mo

The building couldn't be too high, otherwise, it would've ruined the whole architectural harmony of the fortress. So half the building was dug into the ground to make it of reasonable size and yet to be able to accommodate a lot of people.


Here's a picture of those congresses inside in the Soviet days:

Congress inside the Palace of the Congre

And this is what it turned into today, a concert hall:

A modern concert in the State Kremlin Pa



Just across the road is another government building that you're not allowed to - the Arsenal. The arsenal was commissioned by Peter the Great and finished after his death in the 18th century. It's always been used to station the official Kremlin regiment.


Today around 200 soldiers are living and working there at any given moment. And you can even see their special military shows every Saturday at noon absolutely for free here, on Cathedral Square that we'll reach later.


The building significantly damaged by an explosion ordered by Napoleon before his retreat from the Kremlin. It looked

Arsenal of Moscow Kremlin_edited.jpg

quite different originally, but was somewhat altered during the restoration that was needed:

Old building of the Arsenal in Moscow Kr

In a rather ironic move the building was later decorated by cannons taken from Napoleon troops as war trophies. The big ones standing on plinths are Russian, the smaller, organized in rows are Napoleon ones.


Soldiers on both sides often developed almost personal bonds with their weapons throughout the war giving them names. According to inscriptions on them, all Russian ones are named with some grand sounding words like, 'Thunder' or 'Russian Might'. Many of the French ones are named after women like 'Redhead' or 'the nasty one'. Which, let's be honest, is exactly what you expect French cannons to be named as.


Continue walking towards this point (there's a building on the last picture that doesn't exist anymore. Don't let it distract you):



As the name suggests this building was originally built for the Senate. Specifically, the Moscow Senate, as the capital of the country was in Saint Petersburg at the time. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great and finished in the late 18th century.

According to the story, the architect attempted to build the biggest round dome that anyone had ever done in Russia until that point. And when the building was finished people starting doubting that the structure will last as the diameter of the biggest dome seemed too big to support it's own weight. The architect was forced to go and sit of the rooftop as the workers

Senate building in Moscow Kremlin_edited

were dismantling the temporary rafters underneath him and for a couple hours after that. And to everybody's surprise it successfully endured all that and keeps standing till this day without any major prop-up or replacement.


On that biggest dome today is the Presidential Standard (flag with the emblem). In several other countries raised standard shows that the president is currently inside the building. In this case, It's raised 24/7 and, instead, shows everyone the president's non-stop commitment to his duties.


The building has a very unusual shape of an equilateral triangle. There were several other buildings around at the time, and they had to use the limited Kremlin space as efficiently as possible. And the empty lot available was of this exact shape.


Ever since the communist revolution this Senate has constantly been the main working residence of the head of the state. And in the case of Lenin - even a living residence as well. Here's a picture of how Lenin's office/apartment used to look like:

Personal Lenin's office inside the Senat

Modern presidents today continue that tradition and it is inside this particular building that you would normally see Putin shaking hands with foreign leaders or delegates or discussing something with members of the government around this round table:

Buikding of the Kremlin Senate from insi

But again, this is only a working place. The living residence of the president as of today is a matter national security and is not a disclosed information, seriously.

Cannon collection


This improvised cannon collection was added here in 2012, which you can say by the fact that it has some translated inscriptions there. Those are all Russian cannons. They were taken from around the Arsenal building and placed here for your closer inspection. And yes, you might take a look at the stats and even say that some of them are impressive. But it certainly won't be as impressive as something that comes next. Because the main purpose of this canon installment is to create a starker contrast with the main cannon of the Kremlin.


Follow to the next stop:

Collection of old cannons in Moscow Krem

Tsar Cannon


By the diameter of the bore it holds the world record till this day as the biggest cannon in the world. There are some wider ones, but those are classified as mortars. While this remains a cannon despite not having a big length/diameter ratio.


It was cast in 1586, and proudly calls itself Tsar Cannon. It might be called like that in honor of the Tsar that ordered it, and who's image we can see cast on the left side of the weapon, as well as because of its enormous size. But most likely because of both. The cannon itself weighs 40 tons, plus the 20-ton carriage.


Napoleon allegedly wanted to haul this thing back to Paris as a war trophy. But eventually, decided to leave it. Try to guess why.

Tsar Cannon of Moscow Kremlin_edited_edi

The most shocking fact about it is that despite all that formidable size it's never really fired a shot. It was sort of prepared to fire it one time, and there are rumors that it could've done at least one test shot to prove that it works. But it's definitely never been used in real battles.


The weight not only of the cannon but of its cannonballs was somewhat impractical, and the weapon has been playing exclusively symbolic role for the Kremlin. Many people agree that even if it had been used in battles, it would've likely utilized other smaller projectiles loaded simultaneously and used shrapnel-style, and certainly not those cannonballs underneath it now.


Those were added to the cannon later purely as a decoration. They are known to be slightly bigger than the diameter of the cannon, so they wouldn't even fit. Might sound like a strange choice for an additional decoration, but on the other hand, how could the Kremlin miss an opportunity to show everyone that it always has some big steel balls.


And if it seems at any point that Russian willingness to produce the biggest but non-functional things would stop there, get ready to be surprised.


Move to the next stop:

Tsar Bell


Yep, juuust like the cannon. The biggest in the world, never used. In this case for a reason though. They say that after casting of the bell was finished in a special pit in the ground (at around the same place as you stand right now), it was then left in it for a while for the metal to properly solidify. Then one day the wooden support beams inside the pit caught fire, and local Kremlin workers started trying to put it down with cold water. The quick temperature shift made the bell crack and an entire 11,5 chunk to fall off even before it was properly raised from the casting pit.

It happened in 1735, and the authorities were apparently so upset about it, that no one really went out of his way to find some additional time or manpower to lift it out of there

Tsar Bell of Moscow Kremlin_edited.jpg

afterwards. It was just left in the ground and turned into a rather bizarre tourist attraction, where people would observe it by leaning on the railing and and looking down.


Over 100 years will have passed until an opportune moment finally presented itself, and a French architect who had earlier built St. Isaac's (the biggest church in St. Petersburg) was given a task of lifting it to the ground. In 1836 the bell was placed on the exact pedestal you can see it on right now. And it is unlikely to be moved from there any time soon.

The bell is called Tsar in honor of the Tsarina Ann on the throne at the time. It was supposed to ring only on important occasions in ruler's life like marriage, birth of a kid or death. And by that point making such bells had already converted into somewhat a tradition. This one was the third to be made. Each next was bigger that the previous and each used metal from the previous bell. And it shouldn't have taken anyone by surprise that this one cracked because that was the fate of both of its predecessors as well.

Empress Ann was quite an interesting character as well. She was a niece of Peter the Great, and when she was a minor was forced by him into an arranged marriage with some young German count as part of Peters plan to extend Russia's international ties. Apparently, Ann was such a great and great-looking wife that 2 weeks after their marriage the count drunk himself to death, literally. Ann's rule was quite autocratic after she's got the throne, so it's not unlikely that this is how many people in the country felt under her brief 10-year leadership.


An unfinished image of the empress you can find on one side of the bell. On the other - her grandfather Alexis I. 

Empress Ann of Russia_edited.jpg

They say rubbing the breakaway chunk brings you luck. No official confirmation on whether it works, but you can see by those shiny edges that a lot of people have tried to do it.

Fun fact


Those two weren't the only Russian things to be called Tsar. In 1961 the Soviet Union shocked the world by testing a big thermonuclear bomb on one of its northern islands. The bomb was so massive that the explosion it produced till this very day remains the biggest thermonuclear explosion ever conducted on the planet. Not surprisingly, the bomb was also called Tsar.


And when the time came for it to show what it's got, it finally broke that vicious sequence of never-working Tsar things with a bang, literally:

Tsar Bomb.jpg
Tsar Bomb's Mushroom_edited.jpg

Proceed to the next stop:

Cathedral Square


And finally, the place that your entrance ticket promised you to show, Cathedral Square. Which is, no surprise there, full of cathedrals.

Russia back in the days was and is rapidly becoming again a very religious country. The church and religious system of beliefs was so much at the heart of everything that people did in their daily lives back then that churches had to literally be on every corner. Moscow used to be referred to as the city of forty forties. Where 'forty' was the name of a city district containing 40 churches. And apparently in Moscow alone at some point there were 40 such districts. That's a lot of churches. Especially, taking into account that the city was

Cathedral Square of Moscow Kremlin from

more than 10 times smaller than it is today.


And from that number the Kremlin alone, counting all the tiniest home and palace churches, had 70 churches and chapels on its territory at some point. From all that diversity only about 7 survive today, of which only 5 you can visit with your ticket, of which only 2 we'll actually visit on this tour.


But first, a quick look at all the buildings we can see here.

Church of the 12 Apostles and the Patriarch's Palace


For centuries the Kremlin had been not only political but a religious capital of the country as well. The official residence of the head of the Russian Church was moved to the Kremlin as early as 14th century. The church with grey domes you're looking at right now was the home church of the Russian Patriarch and the building that it is built into was his official residence on the Kremlin territory.

Cathedral or 12 Apostles and the Patriar
Annunciation Cathedral of Moscow Kremlin

Cathedral of Annunciation


Just across the square is another combination of a private home church and a residence, this time of the Tsar. That yellow building being the church is the latest version of the Tsar's palace in the Kremlin today officially called Grand Kremlin Palace. This is where they used to live all the time when Moscow was the capital and had their temporary stays during visits when it wasn't. The church right in front of it at some point was even connected with the palace with a special passage for Tsars and their families to be able to access it directly for their numerous daily prayers. The church also used to organize royal weddings.

Ivan the Great bell tower and belfry


These tower and the belfry were used as bells for all the churches on the Kremlin territory during the biggest services and feasts because non of them had their own. Today you can climb up that bell tower and enjoy the view if you've bought a special ticket in the ticket office.

Ivan the Great Belfry and Bell Tower 02.
Archangel Michael Cathedral and Assumpti

Archangel Michael and Assumption Cathedrals


These two are the ones that we're going to. Archangel Church is the one with 4 grey domes and Assumption - with 5 big golden. Both were built at around the same period (late 15th - early 16th century), both - with the help of the same group of Italian masons that were invited to build the Kremlin walls at that time. Both have been the biggest and most important churches in the Kremlin since their completion, and Assumption Cathedral - even the biggest of all Russia for several centuries. Both played special role in lives of the Tsars. Assumption was the church where all Tsars until the revolution had been crowned, and Archangel is where those Tsars were put to rest after their deaths.

So let's start with the Cathedral of Archangel Michael. Prepare your tickets, (you'll have to show them at the entrance once again) and go inside:

Archangel Michael Cathedral of Moscow Kr

Cathedral of Archangel Michael

Archangel Michael Cathedral of Moscow Kr

This cathedral was built in 1508 by an invited Italian architect. Despite being lavishly decorated from the outside with very unusual for Russia at that time renaissance elements, inside it strictly follows Russian canon. A slightly elongated room with cupolas above the altar and 6 square columns positioned in the way that they make a cross if you look at the building's horizontal section:

Plan of Archangel Cathedral in Moscow Kr

As usual for every Russian Orthodox church, almost every square centimeter of the wall and column space inside is covered with murals (painting on raw stucco). And the church's altar is hidden behind a special wall of icons called 'iconostasis' that you can see in front of you right now. The icons of the iconostasis always represent characters from both the New and the Old Testaments of the Bible as well as major christian feasts - all arranged in several rows one underneath another. The walls to the left and right from the wall of icons normally represent some biblical plots or legends connected with the name of the church. In this case you can see many images featuring a winged man, Archangel Michael, after whom the church is named. The side with the altar always faces east, as churches in Russia are always positioned to face all 4 major directions.


As I mentioned above, this particular church was built for a specific purpose of being the main burial site for the male line of the royal family. This tradition had continued up until Peter the Great moved that site to the Church of St. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg in early 18th century. So the tombs of Peter's father and grandfather as well as of all the members of the first royal dynasty Ruriks from 14th century onward can all be found here.


All the bodies themselves are a few feet beneath the church's floor, what you see above are empty coffins just to mark the exact location. On their lids you can see names and years of life of each person buried here.


The most notable names are: father (Alexis I) and grandfather (Michael I) of Peter the Great, which were some of the last burials here:

Michael I and Alexis I of Russia tombs a

As well as Ivan the Terrible, whose tomb is not exactly on display. If you go to the far right corner of the church, you'll see three neatly arranged, standalone coffins with the sign on top that says that the bodies of Ivan's father and grandfather's are buried there:

Tombs of Ivan the Terrible father and gr

It also says that Ivan himself and his two sons are buried symmetrical to those three in front of you, but on the other side of the icon wall. Because Ivan despite killing thousands of people throughout his reign, desperately wanted to be canonized as saint after his death and even ordered to bury him in the altar, the most sacred part a church, kind of giving church officials a slight hint:

Tombs of Ivan the Terrible and his sons_

In the end he was never made one. Possibly, because one of the sons lying there next to him he killed himself.

And here's Ivan himself by the way:

Skeleton of Ivan the Terrible_edited.jpg

In 1963 his tomb and those of his sons were opened by communists to scientifically reconstruct their appearances. This was what they made with the help of Ivan's skull:

Reconstructed head of Iven the Terrible_

But the most notable tomb here is, of course, the one in the center of the room with a special red cloth above it:

Tomb of Dmitry Uglichsky son of Ivan the

It's the tomb of another Ivan the Terrible's son. His youngest one Dmitry, which 'suffered a minor accident' while playing outdoors at the age of 9 as a result of Kremlin's internal political intrigues. He was originally buried where it occurred, some 100 km outside of Moscow.


But then during a big succession crisis of the early 17th century there were several people each claiming that he was, in fact, Dmitry. Who earlier survived and now has come to claim the throne after this father's death. The most successful of them was even crowned and ruled the country for over a year. Eventually, he got violently killed by Russians themselves and went down in history as False-Dmitry I. The body of the actual Dmitry, at the same time, was moved to the Kremlin to remind everyone that the boy is long gone.


He was even made a saint. That's why you see him portrayed on this big icon next to the tomb with a halo around his head.


A very unusual element in the decorations of this cathedral is the line of murals right next to the floor along the perimeter of the walls. It shows a long line of people that all seem to be walking somewhere in an orderly procession:

Tombs inside Archangel Cathedral in Mosc

You won't find this in any other church because the line simply represents all the members of the royal family buried right underneath those images. Like, for example, those three tombs correspond to the three images right above them:

Tombs inside Archangel Cathedral in Mosc

The strangest of them all is Dmitry Donskoy, who's the only one that for some reason is looking the opposite direction from the altar:

Tombs inside Archangel Cathedral in Mosc

There are many theories telling that because during his reign Russia achieved the first military victory against the Mongols, the event that radically turned the general direction of Russian history, he himself is shown slightly turnt on the image.


But most likely, it's just because of the inconveniently positioned window that prevented them from painting his patron saint above his head, the same way as they are shown above the heads of everyone else there. So they though what would be weirder: for him not to look at his saint or not to look at the altar. And decided that he should look his own way.


Now, see if you can find a man with a dog's head on the closest right column (looking from the entrance), which is a very bizarre Eastern Orthodox rendering of Saint Christoper (nothing to do with the Catholic one):

Mural of Saint Christopher in Archangel

And then go outside and towards the Cathedral of Assumption:

Panorama of Cathedral Square of Moscow K

On the way there notice how it visually differs from the Archangel Cathedral even though also made by an Italian architect. That's because this one was specifically told by the Tsar that, since he was making what was to become the biggest church in Russia, he had to do it in the more traditional, ascetic Russian style. Which is exactly how it looks like now.


Go inside:

Entrance to Assumption Cathedral of Mosc

Assumption Cathedral

Assumption Cathedral of Moscow Kremlin I

It was built in 1479 and for several hundred years retained the status of the biggest church in Russia. It was the biggest in Moscow up until the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 1883, as well as the site of all coronation ceremonies from 1479 to the October Revolution. Even throughout the era of Saint Petersburg being the capital all the Tsars had to follow the tradition and personally visit the Kremlin for the ceremony.


A special make-shift stage will be erected in the middle of this church and invited noble guests would seat around just like on this painting from the coronation of Alexander II and his wife:

Coronation ceremony of Alexander II and

The last six ceremonies crowned both the emperor and his wife. On the picture you can see Alexander crowning his wife after just having been crowned by the head of the church.


The main entrance to the church back in the days was through the southern entrance that leads directly to Cathedral Square. After the ceremony the Tsar with his wife would exit the cathedral through through doors and go on a special solemn promenade across the city under the sound of every single church in town ringing its bells at the same time for several hours. Here you can see the last emperor of Russia Nicholas II exiting the cathedral and walking like that with his wife in full coronation attire under this totally inconspicuous canopy held by the highest-ranking people of his court:

Nicholas II exiting Assumption Cathedral
Nicholas II walking across Moscow after

People across the city would normally celebrate the coronation for several days and be given free food and drinks across the city. On that coronation of Nicholas II, for example, around a hundred people managed to get injured, some fatally, in a stampede for free beer in the city center.


The church follows the same traditional structure as the previous one. With 5 cupolas, 6 columns and a cross in the horizontal section. Very unusually for Russia, the columns are made round, which was apparently one of the foreign touches of the Italian architect. But then it's even stranger that 2 out of 6, the ones behind the iconostasis, are left square.


The northers and southern walls also covered with murals themed around the name of the church. In this case it's the feast of Assumption, so most of the images feature Mary and her life.


On the eastern side you can see even bigger version of iconostasis with the icon of Assumption being 2nd to the right from the gates. This is the place where you, traditionally, can find the main icon of any given Eastern Orthodox cathedral 95% of the time.


The space above you is stuffed with lavishly decorated gilded chandeliers which have a big crosses or double-headed eagles on their tops. The symbols of whether they were given to the church by the Patriarch or the Tsar. THe biggest one, right in the center of the room is made of 230 kg of silver retrieved from Napoleon troops after his surrender. Silver that they had earlier looted from all around the Kremlin.


During his brief stay inside the Kremlin Napoleon tried to desecrate religious buildings as much as possible. His personal office was installed in the altar of one of the churches on the territory, and this one was used as a horse stable. Here's a modern painting depicting it:

Napoleon's horse stables inside Assumpti

This cathedral was also used as burial site. But in this case for the heads of the church instead of the heads of state. Along the northern and southern walls you can see tombstones with inscriptions behind a layer of glass.

The biggest tomb, with remains of the man above the ground, is the close right corner. It contains the remains of the Patriarch Hermogenes, which was starved to death by the Polish for refusal to publicly bless  the Polish King as the new Russian Tsar. Can be seen here refusing to sign a special petition about that:

Patriarch Hermogenes refuses to sign Pol

Right in front of the icon wall you can see three special praying places, that's what they are. From right to left: for the Tsar, Patriarch and Tsarina. The one for Tsarina very unusually for Russia has a bench for seating inside. Don't let all the benches in the middle of the room today fool you. This is just because this building today is officially a museum rather than a functional church (although once in several years there might be some services organized in both this and Archangel Cathedral). Normally, in any of the Eastern Orthodox churches, (not only in Russia) there are none. And people stay all throughout lengthy (up to 2 hours) services. Sort of, adding to the whole ascetic atmosphere and directly applying to practice the concept of redemption through suffering.


And just before you go take a look at one of the biggest masterpieces of this church - the picture of doomsday on the western wall right above the exit:

Judgement Day picture inside Assumption

It is very common in Russian churches to see on this place almost as a reminder to people leaving the church to keep in mind that the judgement is coming, and that they better keep up with their promises and prayers outside of the church as well.


On the picture you can see Christ during his Second Coming in the orb of light in the center. Next to him are angels and apostles, below - kneeling Adam and Eve and the hand God holding scales that decide which people go to heaven and which to hell.


It's kind of interesting how all the people going to heaven portrayed as members of the royal family or nobles:

Judgement Day picture inside Assumption

And everyone going to hell as fancy dressed Europeans and... there's no other way to say it - as a bunch of black people:

Judgement Day picture inside Assumption

Now, go outside and walk to the last stop of the tour: