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The most gold-capped cathedral on Cathedral Square is Annunciation Cathedral – its nine gold cupolas and shining roof immediately catch the eye. To the right of the cathedral we see the only secular building on the square – the Granovitaya, or Faceted, Palace, a white-stone building whose facia is decorated in angle-cut brickwork.
Master masons were summoned to Moscow from northern Pskov to build the Annunciation Cathedral in the late C15th. It had originally been the private chapel of the Grand-Princes of Moscow, and later became the Domestic Chapel of the Royal Palace complex. Here royal children were baptised, and monarchs made their confession. The original chapel had just three domes. After a fire in the C16th a much larger 9-domed church was built incorporating the tiny chapel at its centre. The C16th South Gallery is a memorable tribute to the excesses of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. He had been excommunicated from the Church for marrying a fourth time, in defiance of Church laws. However, he remained the Head of the Church. Thus a special balcony was built from which he could attend the services without setting foot in the cathedral itself.
The Annunciation Cathedral was, in recent times, the chapel where Patriarch Alexei II conducted a special service of prayer for the inauguration ceremonies of President Vladimir Putin, and subsequently for President Medvedev too.
The interior decoration of the Annunciation Cathedral is sumptuous and magnificent. The floors are paved with semi-precious stones – rare agate red-brown jasper. The walls and arches are painted with frescoes entirely on biblical themes. The underside of the central dome is painted with the face of Christ. But the jewel of the cathedral is its altar ikon-screen. Some of the ikons displayed in it date back to 1405 and were painted by the leading artists of their day. The silver reliquary behind the ikonostasis holds the relics of more than 50 saints.
Moscow Kremlin is a historic 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 Kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. It is also open-air museum. Tourists can just walk outdoors there or can visit cathedrals, Big Kremlin Palace and the Armory Chamber. The Kremlin Museums were established in 1961 and the complex was among the first Soviet patrimonies inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990.
The site has been continuously inhabited since the 2nd century BC, and originates from a Vyatich fortified structure on Borovitsky Hill where the Neglinnaya River flowed into the Moskva River. Up to the 14th century, the site was known as the 'grad of Moscow'. The grad was greatly extended by Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy in 1156, destroyed by the Mongols in 1237 and rebuilt in oak in 1339. Later in 1366–1368Dmitri Donskoy replaced the oak walls with a strong citadel of white limestone on the basic foundations of the current walls. This fortification withstood a siege by Khan Tokhtamysh.
Grand Prince Ivan III organised the reconstruction of the Kremlin, inviting a number of skilled architects from Renaissance Italy who designed the new Kremlin wall and its towers, and the new palace for the prince. It was during his reign that three extant cathedrals of the Kremlin, the Deposition Church, and the Palace of Facets were constructed. The highest building of the city and Muscovite Russia was the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, built in 1505–08. The Kremlin walls as they now appear were built between 1485 and 1495. During the Time of Troubles, the Kremlin was held by the Polish forces for two years, between 21 September 1610 and 26 October 1612. The Kremlin's liberation by the volunteer army of Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin paved the way for the election of Mikhail Romanov as the new czar. During his reign and that of his son Alexis, the eleven-domed Upper Saviour Cathedral, Armorial Gate, Terem Palace, Amusement Palace and the palace of Patriarch Nikon were built. During the Imperial period, from the early 18th and until the late 19th century, Kremlin walls were traditionally painted white, in accordance with the time's fashion. During the Soviet period the Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent, with their 16th-century cathedrals, were dismantled to make room for the military school and Palace of Congresses. The Little Nicholas Palace and the old Saviour Cathedral were pulled down as well. Now the plans of the government are to restore those lost masterpieces. And probably soon the Kremlin will return all its former buildings.