The Ivan the Great Bell Tower was erected between 1505-1508 by architect Bon Fryazin, during the reign of Grand Duke Ivan III. The towering 60-metre structure was inspired by free-standing Italian bell-towers (campanile), and it stands on Cathedral Square in the impregnable Moscow Kremlin, serving the other cathedrals on the square which did not have their own belfries. Later, the Uspenskaya Bell Tower and Filaret Annex were added to its ensemble. In 1600, Boris Godunov ordered another tier to be constructed on the Ivan the Great tower, elevating it to a height of 81 metres and rendering it the tallest building in Russia.
Did you know? The Ivan the Great Bell Tower acted as the main watchtower of the Kremlin, as it could see the approach of enemy troops from 30 kilometres away!
After invading Moscow in 1812, Napoleon’s army set up camp in the Kremlin and one of his generals, the Marquis of Lauriston, established his headquarters in the bell tower. Upon their retreat from Moscow, Napoleon’s army mined the Kremlin and its ensemble. The Uspenskaya Bell Tower and Filaret Annex were destroyed but the Ivan the Great tower stood strong, and the ensemble was restored between 1814 and 1815.
Did you know? Napoleon’s army looted the cross from atop the Ivan the Great bell tower’s gilded dome, as legend had it that the cross was made from solid gold. Their efforts came to nothing, as upon removing the cross, they discovered that it was in fact wooden.
The bells of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower Complex were silenced in 1918 when the Kremlin became the seat of Soviet power. Unlike other cathedrals, the bell tower complex was not transformed into a museum and instead was used as a carpentry workshop and storage warehouse. Its bells finally began to ring again in 1992, and the complex was reopened to the public in 2007 after being closed for nearly a century.
Did you know? The Ivan the Great Bell Tower was the tallest building in Moscow not once, not twice, but four times! It was exceeded by St Basil’s Cathedral until 1600, then by the Menshikov Tower until it was struck by lightning, then by the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour until its demolition by Stalin, and then once more until the construction of the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building.
The Ivan the Great Bell Tower Complex is the most striking ensemble dominating the Kremlin’s Cathedral Square. The famous Ivan the Great tower is marked by its harmonious architecture, made of several white stone octagonal tiers crowned by a golden dome. At present, the ensemble holds 24 bells cast in the 16th and 17th centuries, including the mighty 65-ton Uspensky bell.
The ground floor of the Uspenskaya Bell Tower is home to an exhibition of artwork from the Kremlin and other museums’ collections. The Ivan the Great Bell Tower houses an exhibition about the history of the Moscow Kremlin, displaying its evolution since the 12th century. Visitors will learn about medieval Moscow via a unique multimedia projection and original architectural fragments, and can glance out of the windows to catch a glimpse of history for themselves.
After exploring the exhibitions, visitors can climb 137 steps to the top of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower for a spectacular view over the Kremlin and Moscow!
Did you know? The world’s largest bell is located next to the Ivan the Great ensemble. The Tsar Bell is 6 metres tall and weighs over 200 tons. The casting of this gigantic bell was so dangerous that 400 firefighters were kept on hand!
Essential Information for Visitors
Address and Contact Details
Sobornaya Ploshchad, Moscow Kremlin, Moscow, 103132
Tel: +7 (495) 695-46-31 (ticket bureau)
Nearest metro: Biblioteka Imeni Lenina/Alexandrovsky Sad/Borovitskaya (550m)
Opening Hours and Prices
Visiting sessions are held at 10:15, 11:15, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 and 17:00 from May 15th to September 30th. Closed Thursdays.
Ticket price is 350 roubles.
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