Ivan the Great Bell Tower

The Ivan the Great Bell Tower (Russian: Колокольня Ивана Великого, Kolokol'nya Ivana Velikogo) is a church tower inside the Saint Basil's Cathedral complex. With a total height of 81 metres (266 ft), it is the tallest tower and structure of Kremlin. It was built in 1508 on Cathedral Square for the 3 Russian Orthodox cathedrals, namely the Assumption (closest to the tower), the Archangel and the Annunciation, which do not have their own belfries. It serves as a part of Moscow Kremlin Museums.

Ivan the Great Bell Tower
Колокольня Ивана Великого
Clocher d'Ivan le Grand
Ivan the Great Bell Tower, with Assumption Belfry on the left
Coordinates: 55°45′3″N 37°37′5″E / 55.75083°N 37.61806°E
DenominationRussian Orthodox
Ivan the Great Bell Tower - Cupola (Moscow, 2001)
Ivan the Great Bell Tower - Cupola


From 1329, Moscow's first stone bell tower stood on this site, affiliated with the Church of St. Ivan of the Ladder-under-the Bell, hence the name "Ivan" in the title. This church was erected by Grand Duke Ivan Kalita, and was one of the first to be built in Moscow out of stone, rather than wood. During Grand Duke Ivan III’s major renovation of the Kremlin, he hired an Italian architect to replace this church. Construction was begun in 1505, the year of Ivan’s death, and was completed three years later under his son Vasily III. Vasilly also ordered that a new and unprecedentedly large tower be erected on the foundations of the old tower as a monument to honour his father.

The new bell tower, completed in 1508, originally had two belfries on different levels and a height of around 60 meters. Because of its height, the tower also served as an observation point against fires and the approach of enemies.

A new church, the Church of the Resurrection, was built next to the tower from 1531 to 1543, but already by the end of the 17th century it was used as bell choir stalls to supplement the hanging bells, rather than as a place of worship.

In 1600 on the orders of Boris Godunov the tower was raised to its present height. Until the building of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 1883, it was the tallest building in old Moscow, and it was forbidden to put up any building in Moscow which was taller than the Bell Tower.

There's a popular yet disputable legend, that when Napoleon captured Moscow in 1812 after the Battle of Borodino, he heard that the cross on the central dome of the Annunciation Cathedral had been cast in solid gold, and immediately gave orders that it should be taken down. But he confused the cathedral with the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, which only had a gilded iron cross. This cross resisted all attempts of French equipment and engineers to remove it from the tower. It was only after a Russian peasant volunteered to climb up to the dome that the cross was lowered on a rope. When he went up to Napoleon seeking a reward, the latter had him shot out of hand as a traitor to his fatherland.[1] During the retreat Napoleon attempted to blow up the tower. The blast destroyed the former Church of the Resurrection, but the tower itself proved to be extremely stable and suffered only a few cracks in the foundation walls.

Ivan the Great Bell Tower adjoins the Assumption Belfry, which was built between 1523 and 1543 by the Italian immigrant architect Petrok Maly Fryazin (who converted to Orthodox Christianity and settled in Russia). It contains the Great Assumption Bell which was cast in the mid-19th century by Zavyalov, and it is the biggest of all the Kremlin bells. This ensemble contains 24 large bells.


The Ivan the Great Bell Tower is an ensemble with three components. All of the buildings are made of brick, and are whitewashed in accord with the neighboring buildings of Cathedral Square. The tower itself consists of three octagonal drums, narrowing towards the top, and surmounted by a golden dome and seven-meter high cross. Each section has cut-out windows for the bells, and the upper third has a series of kokoshnik ornamentation (which marks the translation between the 1509 original and the 1600 addition).

Inside the tower a total of 329 steps long spiral staircase leads to the highest observation deck. The space on the ground floor of the base was once home to the Church of St. John Climacus and is cramped due to the walls being five meters thick. The former Church of the Resurrection, since the late 17th Century, only for the accommodation of bells, has a four-story rectangular base with large arched recesses for the bell choir stalls. A top drum decorated with a dome and cross. On the third floor of the building is a small chapel founded in the 19th century.


The Ivan the Great Bell Tower today contains 22 bells. Of these, 18 small bells hang in the base and in the middle of the bell tower. Of the four large bells, one is named the Upsensku Bell, and weighs 65.5 tons. It rings traditionally among the largest religious festivals such as Easter, and was made in the early 16th century.

Two large bells in the Assumption stalls are the 19.6-ton Reut and the 16.6-ton Daily. The latter was cast by the same craftsman as the Tsar Cannon, Andrey Chokhov. The remaining large bell is the Sunday Bell, weighing 13 tons, which was cast in 1704 by Ivan Motorin, caster of the Tsar Bell.


  1. ^ "The War with Napoleon". Vladimir A Lagutin. 2003. Archived from the original on 2011-08-12.


  • Klein, Mina. The Kremlin: Citadel of History. MacMillan Publishing Company (1973). ISBN 0-02-750830-7
  • Tropkin, Alexander. The Moscow Kremlin: history of Russia's unique monument. Publishing House "Russkaya Zhizn" (1980). ASIN: B0010XM7BQ

External links

Preceded by
Tallest Building in the Russian Empire
81.1 m
Succeeded by
Peter and Paul Cathedral
Preceded by
Tallest Building in the Tsardom of Russia
81.1 m
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Troitskaya Tower
Tallest Building in the Grand Duchy of Moscow
81.1 m
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Troitskaya Tower
Tallest Building in Moscow
81.1 m
Succeeded by
Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building
Andrey Chokhov

Andrey Chokhov, also spelled Chekhov (Андрей Чохов (Чехов) in Russian) (c. 1545 – 1629, allegedly 8 December, Moscow) was a highly prominent Russian cannon and bell caster. He worked in Moscow at the Cannon yard for more than 40 years, where he created a large number (over 20 documented) of heavy weapons, including the Tsar Cannon(cast in 1586). His first documented works were dated to 1568, and the last in 1629. His traditions were continued by the Motorin family.

Belfry (architecture)

The belfry is a structure enclosing bells for ringing as part of a building, usually as part of a bell tower or steeple. It can also refer to the entire tower or building, particularly in continental Europe for such a tower attached to a city hall or other civic building.

A belfry encloses the bell chamber, the room in which the bells are housed; its walls are pierced by openings which allow the sound to escape. The openings may be left uncovered but are commonly filled with louvers to prevent rain and snow from entering. There may be a separate room below the bell chamber to house the ringers.

Cathedral Square, Moscow

Cathedral Square or Sobornaya Square (Russian: Соборная площадь, or Sobornaya ploshchad) is the central square of the Moscow Kremlin where all of its streets used to converge in the 15th century.The square owes its name to the three cathedrals facing it – Cathedral of the Dormition, Cathedral of the Archangel, and Cathedral of the Annunciation. Apart from these, the Palace of Facets, the Church of the Deposition of the Robe and the Church of the Twelve Apostles are placed there. The tallest structure on the square (and formerly in all of Russia) is Ivan the Great Bell Tower, which also separates Sobornaya Square from Ivanovskaya Square.

Cathedral Square is famous as the site of solemn coronation and funeral processions of all the Russian tsars, patriarchs, and Grand Dukes of Moscow. Even today, the square is used in the inauguration ceremony of the President of Russia.The square is also the scene of the daily changing of the Horse Guards (a spectacular imperial tradition restored in the 21st century).

Cathedral of the Archangel

The Cathedral of the Archangel (Russian: Архангельский собор, or Arkhangelsky sobor) is a Russian Orthodox church dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It is located in Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin in Russia between the Great Kremlin Palace and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. It was the main necropolis of the Tsars of Russia until the relocation of the capital to St. Petersburg.

It was constructed between 1505 and 1508 under the supervision of an Italian architect Aloisio the New on the spot of an older cathedral, built in 1333. Now it also serves as a part of Moscow Kremlin Museums.

Domenico Gilardi

Domenico Gilardi (Доменико Жилярди, 1785–1845), was an Italian architect who worked primarily in Moscow, Russia in Neoclassicist style. He was one of key architects charged with rebuilding the city after the Fire of 1812. Gilardi’s legacy survives in public buildings like Moscow Orphanage, Widows’ House, Catherine’s Institute and the Old Hall of Moscow University.

Hans Falk (bellmaker)

Hans Falk, (probably Nuremberg around 1578), also known as Ivan Falk or Johann Falk (Russian: Ганс Фальк), was a Dutch and Russian bellmaker of German origin. In The Netherlands he was known as Hans Falck van Neurenberg. In the 1610s he lived and worked in Den Bosch and in 1619 he became a citizen of Leeuwarden, where he started a foundry. A lot of churches in Friesland and a few in Groningen bear his name on their bells. Around 1634/1635 he left Friesland for Russia. His foundry in Leeuwarden was taken over by Jacob Noteman.

The name of Hans Falk, as a Moscow Cannon Yard craftsman, was first mentioned in historical documents in 1627. From then on and until the late 1650s, he was considered as the main cannon and bellmaker of Moscow. Falk was paid an official salary and given a "gift from the tsar" once a year. He was granted a workshop made of stone at the Moscow Cannon Yard, while other Russian foundrymen had to work in those made of wood. Hans Falk lived at the household of Knyaz Mikhail Kozlovsky on Rozhdestvenskaya Street. In April 1641, he filed a petition in the name of Mikhail Fyodorovich, asking the tsar to provide him with his own household, which would soon happen.

A German scholar Adam Olearius, who travelled through Russia in the 1630s, mentions Hans Falk in his book Beschreibung der muscowitischen und persischen Reise, saying that he was a very experienced craftsman from Nuremberg and taught Russians how to cast cannons. Adam Olearius also says that Falk was able to make cannons that could discharge 26 pounds (11.8 kg) of iron with 25 pounds (11.3 kg) of gunpowder. According to Olearius, this is what made Hans Falk famous in Holland.

In 1641, Mikhail Fyodorovich ordered Hans Falk to cast a 700-pood (11,500 kg) bell for the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, which would shatter 10 years later. In 1652, Falk took issuance with some of the Russian bellmakers (led by Danila Matveyev and Yemelyan Danilov) on recasting of this bell and lost the court battle.

Hans Falk worked in Russia for more than 25 years. He rarely affixed signatures on his works; therefore, only a few bells can be attributed to Falk:

a bell for the Nativity Monastery in Vladimir (1632)

a bell for the Annunciation Cathedral in Kazan (1640; signed by Falk)

a bell for the Trinity Church in Nikitniki (1649; it is now a part of the State Historical Museum collection)

a bell for the belfry of the Savva Storozhevsky Monastery near Zvenigorod (1652)

a bell for the Transfiguration Cathedral in Yaroslavl (signed by Falk)

possibly, the 35-pood (570 kg) Rodionovsky bell on the Ivan the Great Bell Tower of the Moscow Kremlin, cast in 1647It is also known that Hans Falk recast one of the bells for the Ivan the Great Bell Tower and cast the Yunak harquebus.

It is not clear how Hans Falk's service at the Moscow Cannon Yard came to an end. He could have returned to his motherland, when his services were no longer needed, or he could have died of plague in the 1650s like many other Russian craftsmen. Nevertheless, his work had significant impact on the Russian founding art of the second half of the 17th century. Historical documents mention four of Falk's apprentices: Stepan Orefyev, Timofei Timofeyev Utinkov, Ivan Timofeyev Reztsov, and Ivan Ivanov. A certain succession of Falk's casting traditions can be traced in the works of Yemelyan Danilov, Alexander Grigoryev, and the Motorins.

Ivanovskaya Square

Ivanovskaya Square (Russian: Ивановская площадь) is the largest Kremlin square. Its name comes from the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, many government bodies were situated in the Ivanovskaya Square. It was the site of the Prikazy, the equivalent of today's Ministries. Yamskoi Prikaz, one of the offices, handled the delivery of private letters. Thus, it became the first postal address in Moscow. Court services and chanceries of various departments were also situated here.

At the end of the 1920s and early 1930s, the square was enlarged after the demolition of the Lesser Nicholas Palace and the Ascension Convent.

Today, the square is cobbled like most of the territory of the Kremlin. It offers a view of one of the three corners of the Kremlin Senate and the facade of the Presidium, one of the Kremlin’s administrative blocks that was erected in 1929, in place of the destroyed historic buildings.

List of museums in Moscow

This is a list of museums in Moscow, the capital city of Russia

ART4.RU Contemporary Art Museum

Bakhrushin Museum

Bulgakov Museum in Moscow

Cathedral of the Annunciation

Central Armed Forces Museum

Church of the Deposition of the Robe

Church of the Twelve Apostles

Diamond Fund

Fersman Mineralogical Museum

Galeyev Gallery

Institute of Russian Realist Art

Ivan the Great Bell Tower

Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center

Kremlin Armoury

Kremlin Arsenal


Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography

The Lumiere Brothers Photogallery

Memorial Museum of Astronautics

Moscow Cat Museum

Moscow Design Museum

Moscow House of Photography

Moscow Museum of Modern Art

Moscow Paleontological Museum

Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

Museum of Calligraphy

Museum of History of Moscow

Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Moscow

Museum of the Moscow Railway

National Centre for Contemporary Arts

Ostankino Palace

Poklonnaya Hill

Polytechnical Museum

Pushkin Museum

RKK Energiya museum

Rumyantsev Museum

Russian State Library

Ryabushinsky Museum of Icons and Paintings

Shchusev State Museum of Architecture

State Historical Museum

Tagansky Protected Command Point

Tretyakov Gallery

Tsaritsyno Park

Vernadsky State Geological Museum


Zoological Museum of Moscow University

Moscow Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin (Russian: Моско́вский Кремль, tr. Moskovskiy Kreml, IPA: [mɐˈskofskʲɪj krʲemlʲ]), or simply the Kremlin, is a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It is the best known of the kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. Also within this complex is the Grand Kremlin Palace that was formerly the tsar's Moscow residence. The complex now serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation and as a museum with 2,746,405 visitors in 2017.

The name "Kremlin" means "fortress inside a city", and is often also used metonymically to refer to the government of the Russian Federation in a similar sense to how "White House" refers to the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It previously referred to the government of the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and its highest members (such as general secretaries, premiers, presidents, ministers, and commissars). The term "Kremlinology" refers to the study of Soviet and Russian politics.

Moscow Kremlin Museums

Moscow Kremlin Museums (Russian Музеи Московского Кремля, MMK or Государственный историко-культурный музей-заповедник «Московский Кремль») is a major state-run museum in Moscow Kremlin. Its roots lie in the Kremlin Armoury museum founded in 1806, the current form of the museum started in 1991. The Head of the museum (since 2001) is Yelena Yurievna Gagarina, daughter of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. There were 2,746,405 visitors in the Kremlin Museums in 2017.

Moscow Kremlin Museums have the following parts:

Kremlin Armoury (Оружейная палата)

Diamond Fund (Алмазный фонд)

Dormition Cathedral (Успенский Собор)

Cathedral of the Archangel (Архангельский собор)

Cathedral of the Annunciation (Благовещенский собор)

Residence of Patriarchs and Church of the Twelve Apostles (Патриарший дворец и церковь Двенадцати апостолов)

Church of the Deposition of the Robe (Церковь Ризоположения)

Ivan the Great Bell Tower (Колокольня Ивана Великого)

Motorin family

The Motorins, also spelled Matorins (Моторины, Маторины in Russian) were a famous Russian family of bellfounders.

Onion dome

An onion dome (Russian: луковичная глава, lúkovichnaya glavá; compare Russian: лук, luk, "onion") is a dome whose shape resembles an onion and is usually associated with Russian architectual style. Such domes are often larger in diameter than the tholobate upon which they sit, and their height usually exceeds their width. These bulbous structures taper smoothly to a point.

It is a typical feature of East Slavic churches, especially the onion curved domes in Russia. It is also the predominant form for church domes in Ukraine (mostly on Eastern Orthodox churches), and is common in Belarus. Occasionally there are similar buildings in European countries like in Germany in Bavaria, (German: Zwiebelturm (literally "onion tower") in Austria, the Czech Republic, northeastern Italy, in other Eastern European countries and in Oriental regions like Mughal India, the Middle East and Central Asia. However, usually the old buildings outside of Russia do not have the distinctive typical construction of the Russian Onion design. Probably the origin lies in the native architectural style of early Rus' tribes.

Other types of Eastern Orthodox cupolas include helmet domes (for example, those of the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir), Ukrainian pear domes (Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev), and Baroque bud domes (St. Andrew's Church in Kiev) or a onion-helmet mixture like the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod.

Russian Orthodox bell ringing

Russian Orthodox bell ringing has a history starting from the baptism of Rus in 988 and plays an important role in the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Simonov Monastery

Simonov Monastery (Russian: Симонов монастырь) in Moscow was established in 1370 by monk Feodor, a nephew and disciple of St Sergius of Radonezh.

The monastery land formerly belonged to Simeon Khovrin, a boyar of Greek extraction and progenitor of the great clan of Golovins. He took monastic vows in the cloister under the name Simon (hence the name); many of his descendants are also buried there. In 1379, the monastery was moved half a mile to the east. Its original location, where bodies of the warriors killed in the Battle of Kulikovo had been buried, is still commemorated by the old Simonov church.

During the 15th century, the cloister was the richest in Moscow. Among the learned monks who lived and worked there were Vassian Patrikeyev and Maximus the Greek. A white stone cathedral was erected in 1405; it was later enlarged by order of Ivan the Terrible. As the monastery defended southern approaches to Moscow, it was heavily fortified in the 1640s. The last addition to the complex was a huge multi-storied bell-tower, modelled after Ivan the Great Bell Tower of Moscow Kremlin.

The monastery was abolished by the Bolsheviks in 1923, and soon thereafter most of its buildings were demolished to make way for an automobile plant. Surviving structures all date back to the 17th century and include three towers of cannon-like appearance and auxiliary buildings in the Naryshkin baroque style. Recently the Moscow government announced plans for a full-scale reconstruction of the famous cloister.

According to several sources, part of the former monastery buildings was transferred in 1990 from the Ministry of Culture of the USSR to Russian Orthodox Church and Orthodox community of deaf people, who began the works on restoration and reconstruction of its facilities. The first service here after the restoration was held in 1992.

Troitskaya Tower

The Troitskaya Tower (Russian: Троицкая башня, literally Trinity Tower) is a tower with a through-passage in the center of the northwestern wall of the Moscow Kremlin, which overlooks the Alexander Garden.

The Troitskaya Tower was built in 1495-1499 by an Italian architect Aloisio da Milano (known in Russia as Aleviz Fryazin Milanets). The tower has borne several names, including Rizopolozhenskaya, Znamenskaya, and Karetnaya. It received its current name in 1658 from the Troitskaya Coaching Inn (Троицкое подворье) in the Kremlin. The two-story basement of the tower housed a prison in the 16th-17th centuries. There is the Troitsky Bridge, which is protected by the Kutafia Tower and leads to the gates of the Troitskaya Tower. There was also a clock on top of the tower between 1585 and 1812. In 1707, due to a threat of Swedish invasion, the gun slots of the Troitskaya Tower were enlarged to fit heavy cannons. In 1935, the Soviets installed a red star on top of the Troitskaya Tower. Prior to Soviet rule the tower had an icon of the Holy Trinity atop its outward face. Because this tower was the formal entrance for huge Communist Party Congresses the icon was totally removed rather than just plastered over as were those on the Spasskaya and Nikolskaya Towers.

The Troitskaya Tower is the tallest tower of the Moscow Kremlin. Its current height on the side of the Alexander Garden together with the star is 80 metres (260 ft). Today, the gate of the tower is the main visitors' entrance into the Kremlin.

Tsar Bell

The Tsar Bell (Russian: Царь–колокол, Tsar-kolokol), also known as the Tsarsky Kolokol, Tsar Kolokol III, or Royal Bell, is a 6.14-metre (20.1 ft) tall, 6.6-metre (22 ft) diameter bell on display on the grounds of the Moscow Kremlin. The bell was commissioned by Empress Anna Ivanovna, niece of Peter the Great.

It has never been in working order, suspended, or rung.

The present bell is sometimes referred to as Kolokol III (Bell III), because it is the third generation.

World Peace Bell Association

The World Peace Bell Association (WPBA) is a Japanese organisation which attempts to raise awareness of the World peace movement by casting and installing Japanese temple bells in locations around the world.

The association was effectively begun in 1954 by Chiyoji Nakagawa, with the goal of providing peace bells to every country in the world. As mayor of Uwajima, he oversaw the replacement of the temple bell at Taihei temple in the aftermath or the Second World War. The replacement bell was known as the "Bell of Banzai for Absolute Peace", and was the model for the United Nations Peace Bell, the first bell donated by the WPBA.The bells are made using melted-down coinage donated from countries around the world. They have been placed in sixteen countries to date, with the USA, Japan and Australia having more than one bell.The current president of the association is Tomijiro Yoshida. Yoshida officially founded the WPBA in 1982, ten years after Chiyoji Nakagawa's death, to continue Nakagawa's work.


A zvonnitsa (Russian: звонница; Ukrainian: дзвіниця, translit. dzvinytsia; Polish: dzwonnica parawanowa; Romanian: zvoniţă) is a large rectangular structure containing multiple arches or beams that support bells, and a basal platform where bell ringers stand to perform the ringing using long ropes. It was an alternative to a bell tower in Russian, Polish and Romanian medieval architectural traditions, primarily used in Russian architecture of the 14th-17th centuries. Currently, zvonnitsa are especially widespread in the environs of Pskov.

Sometimes zvonnitsa were mounted directly on church rooves, resulting in a special form of church called a pod zvonom (Russian: под звоном, "under ringing") or izhe pod kolokoly (Russian: иже под колоколы, "under bells"). The most famous example of this type is the Church of St. Ivan of the Ladder, adjacent to Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Moscow Kremlin.

In Polish, the word Dzwonnica (pl:Dzwonnica) refers to any type of bell tower, while the fortified trellis construction containing apertures for bells is referred to by the term dzwonnica parawanowa.

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