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The Armory Chamber: treasure house of Moscow Kremlin
August 17, 2009 18:29

Cap of Monomakh

In spite of its title, this part of the Kremlin Museums deals not only with the weapons. The museum was named after one of the oldest Kremlin’s treasury stores. The Armory Chamber is a part of the Grand Kremlin Palace’s complex. The building where it is situated was constructed in 1851 by architect Konstantin Ton (the sane architect, who built The Cathedral of Christ the Savior). The museum holdings and exhibitions consist of the precious items preserved for centuries in the tsars’ treasury and the Patriarch’s vestry. Some of the artifacts were made in the Kremlin’s workshops; others were accepted as ambassadorial gifts.

Among the exhibits of the Armory Chamber are ancient state regalia, ceremonial tsar’s vestments and coronation dress, vestments of the Russian Orthodox Church’s hierarchs, the largest collection of gold and silverware by Russian craftsmen, West European artistic silver, ceremonial weapons and arms, carriages, horse ceremonial harness. The items of applied art, preserved in the Armory Chamber and coming from Russia, Western Europe and Eastern countries, have dates from 6th to early 20th century.


The first hall deals with the Russian gold- and silverware of the 12th – 17th centuries. The cultic objects made in royal and patriarchal workshops of the Kremlin in the 15th -17th centuries and secular objects, such as decorations for male and female suits made by the old-Russian, Byzantine, Serbian and Georgian masters are exhibited here. The treasure-trove from Ryazan of the 12th century gold adornments is of particular value.

The second hall continues the topic of the gold- and silverware. The artifacts, presented here, were executed in the 17th – 20th centuries for court use in Kremlin Workshops in the time of their heyday and in St. Petersburg. They are covers for icons, Gospels, liturgical goods and precious utensils. Moreover, there are some cult objects by masters of Yaroslavl and Kostroma, nielloed and enameled artworks of Solvychegodsk, Velikiy Ustyug and Tobolsk. Moreover, here are represented the works by court jeweler Carl Faberge, the basic part of which are world famous Easter surprises, are worthy of particular attention.

The third hall presents the European and Oriental ceremonial weapons of the 15th to 19th century. The production of the leading armor production centres of Europe demonstrates the basic stages of arms’ development in the West while the period of the late 15th to 19th century. The Eastern part is presented mainly by the artworks by masters of Persia and Turkey, large armor production centers of the East. Many weapons are decorated with gold, silver and jewels. They were brought to Russia as diplomatic gifts.

The fourth hall habituates the visitor with the Russian arms of the 12th – early century. The items of the 12th – 15-th centuries give the idea of Old Russian arms’ basic kinds and national features. The reconstruction of the Russian warrior in suit of battle armor is presented in the showcase for illustration purposes. The weapon production of the 18th -19th centuries is presented by the articles of the famous arms factories of Tula, Olonets, Sestroretsk, Saint-Petersburg and Zlatoust.

The fifth hall represents the West-European silver works of the 13th to 19th centuries. Among them are works of the German, Dutch, English, Polish, Swedish and French masters. The most exhibits have come to Russia as ambassadorial gifts. The unique collection of English Renaissance Silver is worth to attend. Among the French exhibits is a gift to Russian Emperor Alexander I from Napoleon Bonaparte in honor of 1807 Tilsit Peace treaty. This dessert Olympic service is exhibited in a separate showcase.

The sixth hall offers precious textiles, pictorial and ornamental embroidery of the 14th to 18th century and Russian secular dress of the 16th to early 20th century. Among the earliest and most valuable exhibits of this hall is the saccos of First Moscow Metropolitan Peter (Sakkos is a vestment worn by Orthodox and Greek Catholic bishops instead of the priest's phelonion). The secular and ceremonial dress from the Russian Tsars’ wardrobes and Coronation dress, accessories and a coronation mantle of Russian Emperors and Empresses demonstrate the particular qualities of the Russian court’s face in different phases of history.

The seventh hall dealing with the ancient state regalia and ceremonial objects of the 13th to the 18th century is especially notable for the well-known "Cap of Monomakh". Up to the early 18th century, all the tsars had been crowned with the Cap. This Cap is a masterpiece of the Eastern golden works of the late 13th or early 14th century. It is a skullcap composed of eight sectors, elaborately ornamented with a scrolled overlay with sable trimming, decorated with precious stones and pearls. The cross on the top is a later Russian supplement.

The eighth hall includes a collection of the ceremonial horse harness of the 16th to 18th centuries. The ceremonial horse harness, including horse-covers, saddles, bridles and sets of essential elements of horse equipment are displayed on stuffed horses, demonstrating the luxury of the ceremonial royal passages. Some of the objects represented here were executed in the workshops of the Kremlin Stables Office; others are the works of the Polish, English, Czech, German and Persian craftsmen. Two gold sets of the ceremonial horse harness, presented to Empress Catherine the Great by Sultans of Turkey deserve particular attention.

The last, ninth hall offers a collection of the royal carriages. The ceremonial carriages of different epochs and styles, from the late 16th to the late 18th century, represented in the hall, allow tracing the development of carriage craft in Russia and Western Europe.

The Armory Chamber is open daily, except Thursdays, but it has special time for visiting at 10.00 am, 12.00 a.m., 2.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to avoid constant flow of visitors. The ticket offices are located at the Kutafiya Tower, in Aleksandrovsky Sad (the Aleksandrov Gardens), the Armoury Chamber and Cathedral Square. Ticket offices are open daily, except Thursdays, from 9:30 to 16:30.

You can order the excursion here.


Yulia Buzykina

Tags: Moscow     

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