Serving the Lord in Russia

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Palace, an Armory, and a Bunker

Over the last several weeks we have been able to see some marvelous sights here in Moscow.  On February 21st we were privileged to go with several of our missionary senior couples on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Grand Kremlin Palace.  One of our great members here was able to arrange this special tour for us (it is not opened for public tours).  It was breathtaking!  We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the Palace, so the pictures I have posted are from the internet.  
On our way to the Grand Kremlin Palace.

Once inside the Kremiln we first stopped to see the Tsar Cannon which was built during the reign of Ivan the Terrible's son, Feodor, in 1586.  It has a barrel in excess of five meter long and a caliber of 890 mm.

Next to the cannon is the Tsar Bell which weighs two hundred tons and is the largest bell in the world.  However, it was never successfully completed, much less rung. 

The Grand Kremlin Palace was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I in 1838 to be the new imperial residence.  It was the largest structure in the Kremlin and cost 11 million rubles to build.  It was designed to link the older Terem Palace and Palace of Facets, with its new and glorious reception halls, ceremonial red staircase, and private Imperial Apartments.

The Red Staircase leads to some of the most important receptions rooms in the Palace.  We were privileged to walk up these steps.  Fifty-eight steps of history rebuilt here.  The original red staircase has long since been destroyed.  It was on that red staircase, 400 years ago, that Ivan the Terrible killed a messenger who brought him bad news; and more than 300 years ago during a failed Palace coup, a young Peter the Great saw his friends thrown on bayonets; and almost 200 years ago Napoleon Bonaparte walked into the Palace after occupying the Kremlin.

This is St. George's Hall, named for the highest military decoration awarded by the Tsar.  Elaborately decorated columns and marble slabs, bearing the knights of the order, line the wall of this more than 65-yard hall.  It takes 3,000 light bulbs on six bronze chandeliers to light the room, which is still used today for official state functions.

St. Vladimir's Hall joins the newer areas of the Grand Kremlin Palace to the older buildings.  Here a two-ton chandelier is suspended in a 54-foot tall cupola, which is covered with elaborate leaf and scroll work and studded with medalllions of the Order of St. Vladimir.  The floor is a mosaic of nut tree woods and stained oak.  In the days of the tsars, St. Vladimir Hall was a place to greet middle-level dignitaries.  Today it is used for more formal occasions, like the signing of the SALT I treaty.

The Red Porch leading to the Terem Palace which was built in the 17th century for Mikhail Feodorovich, the first tsar in the Romanov dynasty.

One of the seven luxurious rooms in the Royal Apartments in the Palace that was used for the Tsar and his wife. 

One of the bedrooms.

On February 25th and 26th we were invited to the Europe East Mission Presidents and their wives seminar that was held in Moscow.  On that Saturday, while the men were in meetings, the wives were invited to a tour of the Armory Chamber which is a part of the Grand Kremlin Palace's complex.  The Armory began in the early 16th century as a storehouse for the Kremlin's weaponry.  In 1813, following Napoleon's invasion, the Armory building became an exhibition hall and museum.  The array of objects in this musuem is staggering in its historical interest and spectacular richness.
Some of the mission presidents' wives before we walked over to the Armory.

The Cap of Monomakh is probably one of the most famous pieces in the Armory collection.  It is the oldest crown among the crown jewels of Russia (believed to have been made in the late 13th or early 14th century.)  An ancient symbol of Russian autocracy, the crown consists of an onion-shaped skullcap manufactured from eight joined panels of filigreed gold which sit on top of a wide sable brim.  It was worn by the grand princes of Moscow and then by the first Tsars up until Peter the Great.

Alexander Nevsky coat of mail.

One of fifty Faberge eggs in the collection.

Two of several royal carriages from Boris Godunov of the 16th century to the Empress Catherine the Great in the 18th century.  Personally, I think they are Cinderella's carriages.

Last, but not least, on Saturday, March 12th, we were invited to go to the Museum of the Cold War with our Sokolniki Branch.  This is quite a unique museum as it transfers you back in time to the 1950s when relations between the USA and Soviet Union raised the expectation of an atomic war.  The museum is in the underground space formerly occupied by the Ministry of Defense, built in 1951 by the order of Stalin.  This huge bunker lies under the center of Moscow (18 stories below ground) and was equipped with a system for clearing the air, and with fuel, water, and food.  Stephen had a wonderful experience down in the deep, deep, small, small tunnels of this bunker.  As for me, well, let me just say that I stayed upstairs on the main level, sitting on a small, hard chair, in an old narrow hallway with one dim light, no heat, in front of the guards' room, for an hour and a half, while our group journeyed down 18 flights of stairs and made their way through the maze of tunnels.  You see, I am very claustrophobic!  Stephen took some wonderful pictures and and I have enjoyed seeing them. 

Part of our group outside the museum before the tour.

Cold War Ministry of Defense bunker eighteen stories underground.

Two of our Elders in our group.

Intelligence Center for monitoring communications.

Diorama of the bunker (note the church and other building on top, representing ground level).
Consoles in the Ministry of Defense bunker where nuclear attack against the United State could have been launched.

Moscow is just amazing with so many different things to see and enjoy. We are grateful for these three totally different experiences we had.


  1. Yay! I'm so glad you update again. You and Dad are looking more and more Russian as time goes by.

  2. Really neat things to see. I was fascinated with the red staircase and Ivan the Terrible. Really, really amazing stuff. Love your hats.

  3. Looks amazing! Hope you are doing well!