The embodiment of the centuries-old power and triumph of the Russian state is the Spasskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin.
From the history of the tower and the Kremlin
The Spasskaya Tower, overlooking Red Square, is part of the architectural ensemble of 20 towers of the Moscow Kremlin .
At the end of the 15th century, Moscow became the capital of the Russian centralized state. Tsar Ivan the Third, wishing to make the Kremlin a worthy residence, invites the best Russian and foreign architects to Moscow. They start building new fortifications.
It was then that the red-brick Kremlin walls with a length of 2236 meters rose. Powerful fortress walls connected 20 high towers. They were erected where important strategic roads approached the Kremlin.
To protect the Kremlin from the northeastern side, the ten-story Spasskaya Tower was erected by the Italian architect Pietro Solari. The exact date of completion of construction is known – 1494.
At first, the tower was called Frolovskaya because of the proximity of the Frol and Lavra churches. 350 years ago, by the highest order of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich to rename all the Kremlin towers, it became Spasskaya after the image of the Savior’s face, located above the gateway.
Architecture in the history of the tower
The structure is very interesting in its design. From time immemorial it was considered the main tower of the Kremlin, evidence of this is its structure. It has five battle tiers. Between them is a staircase hidden between double walls.
Exterior finish in red fired brick. The floors, vaults and stairs are made of white limestone. On the upper platforms of the loopholes. Two stone bastions have not survived to this day. The thickness of the defensive walls reaches 5 meters.
This is a travel tower. Its gates were closed with strong oak panels. From the outside, turrets were attached – arrows, the passages to which were protected by special descending gratings – gerses.
In the 17th century, new superstructures were made. A tent was erected over the tower, which was later supplied with the coat of arms of Russia – a two-headed eagle. This honor was awarded only to the Spasskaya Tower. Since ancient times, it had a tower clock on it.
The structure is decorated with decorative turrets, pyramids, animal figurines, white stone lace. To the right and to the left there are brick walls of a huge height for that time.
A huge bridge, 50 m long and about 10 m wide, began at the foot. It was thrown over an imposing moat, the walls of which were lined with white stone, and the depth reached 22 meters. This huge ditch served not only for defense, but also blocked the path of fire during the devastating Moscow fires.
Behind the moat, 50 meters from the walls of the Kremlin, the border of Red Square began. The height of the tower is 71 meters, the perimeter of the base is 61.8 meters.
At all times, the gates of the Spasskaya Tower were considered the main gates in the Kremlin. White stone boards installed above them, in Russian and Latin, inform about the construction date. From time immemorial, the gate was considered holy and was especially revered among the people.
They were the main front entrance to the Kremlin , without orders and decrees, everyone passing by on a horse dismounted and threw off his hat as a sign of respect. Those who violated this rule were forced by the people to put 50 bows in front of the gate icon.
It is interesting that Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich elevated this tradition to the rank of law by his decree in 1648. Through the gates of the Spasskaya tower, regiments solemnly set off on military campaigns, through them Russian autocrats entered the Kremlin, processions of the cross, took out icons and holy relics.
Here, on Palm Sunday, a procession “on a donkey” took place: the patriarch, like Christ, rode on a donkey, led by the sovereign himself by the bridle. Then the patriarch went up to the gulbische of the Spasskaya Tower, sanctified the water and sprinkled it on the fortress walls.
All foreign ambassadors passed near the shrine during their solemn meeting in the Kremlin.
The Spassky Gate was key in the defense of the Kremlin. There were gun batteries at the forested area. To protect this direction, the famous Tsar Cannon was made and delivered at the entrance. Cast from bronze, with a gun barrel weight of 40 tons and a barrel length of 5 meters, it confused the enemy with its appearance.
Place of execution
Lobnoe, or Tsarevo, place can be seen right in the alignment of the gates of the Spasskaya Tower.
It is an imposing rounded plinth with 12 stone steps leading up to it. Here the most important decrees were publicly announced, here the tsar and the patriarch came out to communicate with the people. It was at this place that Ivan the Terrible asked for forgiveness for his sins and publicly repented.
Peter the Great also cut off the heads of five rebels at this place during the Shooting Riot. Prayers and church holidays were also held here. In the new millennium, the tradition of religious processions to the Execution Ground has resumed.
The famous chimes are installed on the tower. The debut of the watch took place a year after its construction. The first clock with a musical mechanism was mounted in the 16th century. Since then, they have been modified several times. The melodies were also different.
The main creator of the striking watch is the English mechanic Aristarchus Galovey. The mechanism showed surprisingly accurate time, worked flawlessly, and even played musical melodies. The time was displayed using numbers, there were no hands at that time. This watch did not last long; it was damaged in a fire.
In 1705, Peter the Great ordered the installation of a Dutch clock with a German dial on the tower. At the behest of the master of the works, Fatz, the chimes were set to play a German song.
In the entire history of the Kremlin chimes, this is the only period when they played foreign music. By 1852, watch wear reached a critical level. In the same year, the creation of the most important clock mechanism of the Kremlin was entrusted to the Moscow merchants, the Butenop brothers.
They coped with the task brilliantly. Using part of the old mechanism and applying modern achievements, the craftsmen made new chimes that adorn the Spasskaya Tower to this day.
It is the only fully mechanical watch in the world and the oldest in Europe. The cast iron body and tough alloy mechanical parts help withstand temperature fluctuations throughout the year.
The playing shaft provided a melodic chime. Before the 1917 revolution, they performed the “March of the Preobrazhensky Regiment” in the morning and “If our Lord is glorious …” in the evening. During the storming of the Kremlin by the Bolsheviks, the watch was damaged. Restored by order of Lenin, until 1938 they sang revolutionary hymns – “Internationale” and “You have fallen a victim.” In subsequent years, only a chime sounded by hours and quarters.
The dials of the Kremlin chimes go out on four sides. The diameter of each of them is 6.12 meters. The device, weighing 25 tons and almost 3 meters long, took up three floors. There are 11 bells on the belfry of the Spasskaya Tower, each of which has its own note of sound.
The main bell sounds the time every hour and weighs 2160 kg. The weight of the pendulum is 32 kg. Every 15 minutes – 9 bells ringing. The striking of the clock produces a hammer connected to a bell. The clock is wound with the help of electric motors.
In 1999, after a major restoration, the hands and numbers of the hours were gilded. Since January 2001, the Kremlin chimes on the Spasskaya Tower at 00:00, 06:00, 12:00, 18:00 ring out a line from the Anthem of Russia.
New Year’s Eve comes at midnight on December 31st, with the bells ringing 20 seconds before the first heavy main bell striking.
For decades, the clock has shown the correct time. To do this, the chimes were connected by an underground cable with the control clock of the Sternberg Institute.
Stars of the Spasskaya Tower
Until 1935, the tower was crowned with a gilded double-headed eagle, which was dismantled. In its place, a five-pointed star made of stainless steel and red copper was installed. In the center of the star, a hammer and sickle, covered with gold, was laid out with Ural gems.
The same stars were erected on 4 more significant towers. However, they faded very quickly, and they looked cumbersome and awkward in the general architectural ensemble of the Kremlin.
They were replaced on November 2, 1937. Since then, a luminous ruby star has been shining at the top of the tower. Beams span – 3.75 m, weight – about a ton. The rotating star in the form of a polyhedral pyramid with illumination from the inside consists of two layers of glass. The inner layer is made of milky glass, the outer one is ruby. There are self-contained lamps inside with a ventilation system to protect them from overheating.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there have been calls for the restoration of the two-headed eagle over the Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower. There are no official statements on this score from the authorities.
Modern life of the Spasskaya Tower
Centuries passed … The fortress gradually lost its defensive significance and became the center of the political, economic, cultural, spiritual life of the Russian state. The modern life of the tower is also interesting.
For many decades, from the lower platform, photo, film, and video filming of all public events taking place on Red Square have been carried out. The upper gulbische offers a beautiful view of the buildings of the Kremlin and Zamoskvorechye, an uninterrupted chain of fortress walls, towers and monasteries of the Moscow Kremlin.
In the public mind, the Moscow Kremlin with the Spasskaya Moscow Kremlin tower has become a symbol of all of Russia. The clock on the Spasskaya Tower counts the course of the history of our country.