The Church of St. Ioann Lestvichnik and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower

Jon Ayres

Moscow, Russian Federation

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Artist's Description

On the Kremlin’s Cathedral Square rises one of the masterpieces of the 16th century: the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, built by Marco Bon Fryazin in 1505-1508 in place of an old stone church of 1329. In 1600, during the reign of Boris Godunov, it was built higher and given a new dome. A three-tiered inscription in Old Slavonic below the dome describes the event.

The bell tower served as the Kremlin’s main watchtower, as the top terrace gave a view of Moscow within a radius of 30 kilometers. Next to it are the Assumption Belfry and the Filaret Annex.

In 1812 Napoleon’s troops placed explosives at the base of the bell tower, but it withstood the blast (only the belfry and the annex were destroyed, and restored in 1819). The bells of the tower fell silent in 1918 and rang once again at Easter of 1992. There are 21 bells cast in the 16th-17th centuries in the galleries of the tiers. The largest of them, the Assumption Bell, weighs 70 metric tons.

The bell tower is 81 meters high, the walls of the first tier are 5 meters thick and those of the second are 2.5 meters thick. Rising to the dome is a staircase of 329 steps.

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