Top five things to see in the Kremlin
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The Kremlin can be a daunting place for any first time visitor. For this reason Cox & Kings have recommended five things that visitors should not miss whilst exploring this imposing complex.
1. Orlov Diamond
Described as having the shape and proportions of half a hen’s egg, the Orlov Diamond is mounted in the sceptre of Catherine the Great (1726-96). The Orlov (not be confused with the “Black Orlov Diamond”) is a rarity among historic diamonds, due to it retaining its original rose-style cut and there are about 180 facets to this astonishing diamond. Orlov himself was a lover of Catherine the Great, in a desperate plea to win back the heart of the Empress of Russia he is said to have purchased the famous diamond in Amsterdam - unfortunately Catherine was not the type of woman to be tied down by a single man.
2. The Faberge egg collection
The story began in 1855 when Tsar Alexander III decided to give a jewelled Easter egg to his wife the Empress Marie Fedorovna. Easter was the most important occasion of the year in the Russian Orthodox Church, the equivalent to Christmas in the West. Thus, Peter Fabergé (1846-1920) was commissioned by the Tsar to create an intricate egg for the Empress, with the only prerequisite being that there had to be surprise within each creation. So delighted was the Empress with the egg that this became an annual tradition. The tradition was continued by their son Nicholas II, who presented an egg annually to both his wife the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and to his mother the Dowager Empress Marie Fedorovna. The Moscow Kremlin Egg is by far the largest of the Fabergé eggs and was inspired by the architecture of Moscow’s Cathedral of the Assumption – the surprise in this egg is the music.
3. Catherine the Great’s Coronation dress
Catherine II was Empress of Russia for more than 30 years and one of the country’s most influential rulers. A beautiful, but relatively unknown princess, she wed the heir to the Russian throne, Peter Feodorovich at the age of 16 in 1745. The marriage was unhappy, but the couple did produce one son, Paul. In 1762 Catherine's husband became Tsar Peter III, but he was soon overthrown with Catherine being declared empress. Her coronation dress is magnificent, with a tiny 18 inch waist, a wide hoop skirt and a wonderfully intricate silver lace cloak covered in jewels.
4. The frescoes in the central cupola of the Cathedral of the Archangel
The Cathedral of the Archangel was the last of the great cathedrals to be built in the Kremlin. Commissioned by Ivan III and designed by Italian architect Aleviz Novy in 1505, it is a combination of Renaissance and early–Russian architecture. This was also the burial site for the nation’s great princes and tsars from Ivan I (1328-41) to Tsar Ivan V (1682-96), their metal tombs resting beneath walls awash with splendid medieval frescoes. The frescoes date from the mid-seventeenth century and were drawn by some of the finest painters of Moscow and the provincial states.
5. Tsar Bell – Largest bell in the world
The Tsar Bell, commissioned by Empress Anna Ivanovna (niece of Peter the Great) in 1734, stands on a large stone base in the Kremlin not far from the Great Bell Tower. This is the largest bell in the world, weighing over 200 tons and standing more than six metres high and 6.6 metres across. The bronze bell has sadly never rung, as back in 1737 there was a fire causing a large 11.5 ton slab to crack off. The broken Tsar Bell remained in the earth for almost 100 more years after that, until the architect Auguste Montferrand raised it in 1836 and placed it on its present granite pedestal.
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