Ivan the Great Bell Tower

The ‘Ivan the Great’ Bell Tower was built in 1505-1508 on the site of a white-stone Church bell tower of St John Climacus, erected in the times of Ivan Kalita at the Cathedral Square. An Italian architect Bon Fryazin constructed an approximately 60-meter-tall octagonal building complete with a dome. The altar from the ancient church was then housed on the first tier of the bell tower. 

At the end of the 16th century, Boris Godunov wishing to build an ecumenical cathedral like the one in Jerusalem ordered to lengthen the dimension of the bell tower by adding a high drum with a gilded dome. As a result, the length of the construction including the cross reached 81 meters. The ‘Ivan the Great’ Bell Tower remained the highest building in Rus for two centuries. The practice when vertical lines dominate an architectural composition got brilliant development in Russian architecture later on.

In 1812, French invaders tried to blow up the architectural ensemble of ‘Ivan the Great’ Bell Tower when leaving Moscow. But the bell tower itself was only slightly destroyed thanks to the strength of structure and fundament. In December 1813 Muscovites heard the bells of the ‘Ivan the Great’ Bell Tower for the first time after Napoleon was ousted from Russia. The ensemble was fully reconstructed in 1814-1815.

In the 20th century, the monument was restored more than once. Scientific research revealed that originally brick façades with white-stone details bore natural colour.

Nowadays this unique monument of Russian architecture houses a museum, dedicated to the history of the architectural ensemble of the Moscow Kremlin.