Ivan the Great Bell Tower in Moscow - the crown jewel of Kremlin

Ivan the Great Bell Tower in Moscow - the crown jewel of Kremlin

Ivan the Great Bell Tower is located in the heart of Moscow and in the spot every tourist visits during their stay in the Russian capital - the Kremlin. The tower was first built in 1508 and it has been one of the most important buildings in Moscow culturally, spiritually and historically for many centuries. Infact, the tower has been the tallest building in all of Russia partly because it was prohibited to build anything taller than the tower, which reached 81 meters in height. The tower features 22 bells with the oldest one dating all the way back to 1501. Today, if you visit Russia in summer, you can climb the stairs to an observation gallery located 25 meters off the ground to enjoy the views of Russia’s capital, explore museum exhibits and look at the ancient bells. 

History of Ivan the Great Bell Tower

The history of the Bell Tower began more than 500 years ago in 1508 when it was built as the Church of Saint Ioann Lestvichnik. The project was entrusted to Bon Fryazin, an Italian architect with lots of experience in building tall towers. The architect decided to build the church in the style of European churches of the 1300’s, allowing lots of space for services in the tower. 

In the 1530’s Petrok Maly, another Italian architect constructed a belfry for the tower,  which is now home to the largest bell in all of Moscow - the Uspensky bell. 

The tower took its final shape in the 17th century when Fyodor Kon, a Russian architect, increased the height of the tower on the orders of Tsar Boris Godunov. The tower became the tallest building in Moscow and Russia and one of the most remarkable landmarks. 

Structure of the Kremlin Bell Tower

The massive building you see today is the result of many architects' labor. The foundation of the tower extends 6 meters into the ground and the three-tiered walls are 5 meters thick in some places. The tower itself is quite thin, this effect is intensified by a number of arched openings located near the bell chambers. 

Importance of Ivan the Great Bell Tower

As mentioned previously, the Bell Tower has long been the tallest building in Moscow. However, that changed when Alexander Menshikov, who was one of the closest friends and advisers of Peter the Great, ordered to build the Church of St. Gabriel the Archangel, which was 3 meters taller than the Bell Tower. This caused a lot of controversy and unrest in Moscow, which culminated when the newly built church was struck by lightning and partially burned down. The people saw it as God’s anger. 

The tower had great military significance, as back in the day you could see up to 30 kilometers away from the top of the tower. In addition, several famous poets and writers are known to have gone up to the top of the tower to admire the view and draw inspiration. Today the bells of the tower ring to celebrate Orthodox holidays, a practice that was common for centuries but was abandoned in the Soviet Union. 

Ivan the Great Bell Tower in Moscow - the crown jewel of Kremlin
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