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The tower with the ceremonial entrance-gate and enormous clocktower is Spassky Gate – the most famous of the Kremlin's towers.
Twenty bastions line the Kremlin walls, but the most spectacular and important is Spassky Tower, with its huge clocktower and chimes. It's been a symbol of Russian power and prestige for centuries. At first it was called the Frolovsky Tower, after a monastery of St.Frol and St.Lavr which once stood along the road leading from gates. This monastery church has not been preserved.
Carved inscriptions in Latrin and Russian – on white-stone tablets inset into the walls belong the arrow-slits – testify that the tower was built in 1491 by the Italian architect Pietro Antonio Solari.
Built as the Kremlin's main gate, the Frolov Tower (as it was then) become venerated by the common people as if holy. Anyone passing through on horseback dismounted, and doffed their cap. No law commanded this – people did so willingly. Unable to read the latin inscription set in the tower's brickwork, simple folk claimed it was a necromantic curse on anyone who failed to take their hat off when passing through. These days the gate is almost never used – the only exception being the President's motorcade at the inauguration ceremony. Official cars use the back entrance near the Great Stone Bridge instead.
In 1658 the Frolov Tower was renamed the Spassky Tower on Royal Decree. “Spassky” means “Saviour”, and referred to the Holy Saviour Ikon of Smolensk which stood over the bastion's gate-arch on the Kremlin side. It was widely believed that the holy ikon itself had been lost during the years of soviet rule. The only thing visible to muscovites or tourists until 2010 was a neat white plastered plain rectangle in the space where the ikon had once hung.
Historians spent two years turning the remotest basements of the Tretayakov Gallery and the Andrei Rublev Ikon Museum upside down, in the search for the missing ikon. But what they failed to account for was the old technique of painting ikons directly onto a wall, rather than onto a wooden backboard. In 2010 sensory tests carried out on the plastered rectangular area indicated that the ikon was very probably actually under the thick layers of plaster. Painstaking removal revealed that 80% of the ikon was still in place. After two months of restoration, the ikon was rededicated in August 2010.
The clocktower superstructure was added to the Spassky Tower in the early C17th. English architect Christopher Galloway worked specially to match the two extra storeys of the tower to the gothic style of the original. The new tower seemed taller and more graceful than its squat predecessor. However, Galloway's clock mechanism broke down before the end of the C17th, and was replaced by a new clock purchased in Amsterdam by Tsar Peter I. Unlike Galloway's 24-hour clock-face, the new one had conventional 12-hour divisions – and musical chimes.
The clock-face we see today was manufactured in the mid-C19th. It is 6 metres in diameter, and the digits are slightly under a metre. The hour-hand is 3 metres, and the minute-hand still longer. The clock mechanism takes up three storeys of the tower, and escape-weights from 160kg to 224kg set it in motion. Nowadays an electric motor raises the escape-weights twice a day. The chiming mechanism consists of ten elaborately-ornamented bells. The entire weight of the clock mechanism, with chimes and clock-faces is around 25 tonnes!
The tune played by the Spassky Chimes has changed several times. During Peter the Great's times they paid a hymn-tune every quarter-hour, but by the end of the C18th they'd been modified to play a popular German song. In the C19th there was an idea to have them play the National Anthem, but Tsar Nikolai I intervened, saying “the chimes can play any song, except the National Anthem!” So the chimes switched to playing hymn-tunes varied with military marches. The chimes were damaged by cannon-fire in the 1917 Revolution – after restoration they were set to play a revolutionary song. Soviet radio broadcast the first chime of the new song on 20th Feb 1926.
In 1938 the chimes were fixed not to play any kind of tune, but simply chime every quarter-hour and hour. Sixty years later in 1996, President Yeltsin's inauguration was marked by a reinstated chime melody. The whole mechanism was restored in 1999. The gilding was restored on the clock-hands and figures, the upper tiers of the tower were renovated – and finally the chimes were at last set to play the Russian National Anthem.
Moscow is the capital of the ancient and modern Russian state. It has been playing crucial role for centuries. Here you can face all episodes of rich and gorgeous Russian history.
The city is full of historical buildings, monuments, cathedrals, museums and parks. It started many centuries ago from the Kremlin – medieval city-fortress overlooking the Moskva River. Now it is not only the government seat but open air museum. Behind the tall red brick walls palaces, cathedrals and museums are hidden. You can get there through one of the gates and walk along the streets that saw Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov, Peter the Great and all other Romanovs, and the Soviet leaders.
You can visit all the cathedrals on Sobornaya (Cathedral) Square, climb Ivan the Great Bell Tower, take photos of the Tzar Bell and Tzar Cannon, see state regalia, ceremonial vestments and gold and silver relics in the world-known treasury-house – the Armoury Chamber. To say more, the Kremlin and its vicinities are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
We would like to advise you not to concentrate on the Kremlin only. Now you can get out of the Kremlin through the Spasskiye Gate and find yourself on Red Square – the main square of the country where Victory Day parades take place. In winter there is a skating rink with some kind of souvenir bazar. Red Square is famous for being the part of so called Kitai-Gorod – the second ring of fortified walls. Here you will see the beautiful fairy-tale St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is open for tourists and it’s worth visiting. Other places that pay tourists’ attention are GUM (the main center for shopaholics), Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State History Museum and the small Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of Our Lady. If you go along Nikolskaya Street, you will get to Lubyanka Square with the imposing buildings of former KGB and the biggest in Russia Children's World Department Store.
If you decide to go through the Resurrection Gate you will find yourself on Manezhnaya (Manege) Square at the entrance to the Alexander Garden. It’s a large pedestrian open space and a nice place to walk and relax near the fountains. Underground Trade Centre ”Okhotny Ryad” or “the Hunter’s Row” is a paradise for shopping. You can continue your walk towards Arbat or Tverskaya Street. There are also fine buildings to visit and to take pictures of: The Shilov Art Gallery, hotels “Moskva”, “Nationale”, Pashkov's House, The Former House of the Moscow State Duma etc.
If you decide to turn round Georgy Zhukov’s horse monument you’ll occur on Revolution Square where you can visit the Museum of Patriotic War of 1812. From there it’s very easy to get to Teatralnaya or “Theatre” Square limited by the Metropol Hotel, The Bolshoi and the Maly Theatres. In the center you will find a beautiful fountain by Vitali.
All these sites and even more you will be able to visit and explore with knowledgeable audio excursion with offline map from Your Audio Guide “Attractions around the Kremlin”. You will find Moscow very pleasant for spending holidays.