Ivan the Great Bell-Tower complex as viewed from Cathedral SquareThe Ivan the Great Bell-Tower complex has been formed for two centuries. The Bell-Tower was constructed of brick and white stone in 1505-1508 by Italian architect Bon Friazin on the site of the dismantled church of St. Ivan Climacus of 1329, so-called «under-the Bell» type. A century later, in 1600, on the order of Tsar Boris Godunov, the Bell Tower was raised to its present height and finished with a gilded dome, as commemorated by the gilded inscription on the blue background just under the dome's base. At the same time, the tier of the carinated kokoshniks (corbel arches) was created to connect the octahedron of the third floor to the drum of the cupola thereby emphasizing the rocket-like projection of the bell tower. As a result, the height of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower grew to 81 meters (while the white-stone basement of the bell tower remained upon its original octahedral shaped base at a diameter of 25 meters, sunk but 4,3 meters from the surface of Cathedral Square).

In 1532-1552, a new church was built near the Bell-Tower on the project of Italian architect Petrok Maliy. In the late 17th century it was dismantled and transformed into a belfry named Uspenskaya (Assumption). In 1624, Bazhen Ogurtsov added to the Uspenskaya another one belfry with a marquee-top — the Filaret's Annex.

Ivan the Great Bell-Tower complex

In 1812, while retreating from Moscow, Napoleon's Army blew up the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower ensemble. However, the pillar of the bell-tower survived. The Belfry and the Filaret's Annex were completely destroyed and restored in original dimensions in 1814-1815. At present, 24 bells of 16th-17th centuries are located on the bell-tower and belfry.

The belfry of Ivan the Great contains 21 bells — among which the Great Assumption bell (cast by the 19th-century masters Zavyalov and Rusinov) is the mightiest of all Kremlin bells. The bell itself weighs 4000 «poods» (19th-century measurement weighing approximately 65,5 tons). The ground floor of the Assumption Belfry houses an exhibition hall of Moscow Kremlin Museums. Artworks both from the Kremlin's collections and those of other Russian and foreign museums are exhibited in the hall.

Coloured lithograph «Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Moscow Kremlin»Ivan the Great Bell TowerCupola of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower with gilded inscription over the base

Today the bell tower houses a museum dedicated to the history of the Moscow Kremlin architectural complex throughout nine centuries. The historical and architectural exposition, occupying three floors of the bell-tower, is performed on a base of advanced multimedia technologies, incorporating real and electronic video series.