MINOR (RIVERSIDE) CHAMBER

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With the unification of Russian lands into a single state at the end of the 15th century, and the increase in its power and development of international relations, the role and prestige of its capital, Moscow, was been growing. That induced Great Prince Ivan III of Moscow to develop a more representative princely residence in the Kremlin.

Princely mansions were traditionally located on the edge of the Kremlin hill and the eastern side of Cathedral Square. The mansion of Prince Ivan Kalita used to be there. Naberezhniye Seni (riverside anteroom) and Dmitry Donskoy’s Zlatoverkhy Terem (gold-dome palace) faced the river, while the wooden ‘Gridnya with Terem’ (tower house for bodyguards) stood on the site of the present Faceted Chamber.

The construction of the new stone palace began with the building of chambers for ceremonial receptions. In 1487, Italian master Marco Ruffo (Fryazin) laid the Minor Chamber, later called the Riverside Chamber, along the river to the west of the Annunciation Cathedral, and the Great Chamber, or Faceted Chamber, to the north. Before the latter was built, the Minor Palace served as a ceremonial reception hall.

The architectural appearance of the Riverside Chamber is reflected in the measurement layouts of palace structures, drawn in the mid-18th century by architect D. Ukhtomsky and his team. Stretched along the Borovitsky Hill, a two-storey, arched stone building, was made up of two Chambers – Dining and Response, each having its own outer entrance hall. Access to these rooms was from the north side through the covered passage above the ground floor. The corner Dining Chamber with a central column supporting the vaults was lit from three sides. The architecture of the façade preserves the characteristics of the Italian Middle Ages, in spite of later reconstructions. Thus, the building ended with a high cornice with a characteristic arched stringcourse in the upper part.

Semicircular windows on the second floor, framed by an archivolt, varied in size according to the room they illuminated. The Dining Chamber had wider and taller windows. The floors were separated by a cornice resembling a sawtooth frieze. Rectangular windows on the first floor with triangular pediments were probably made in the 17th century, when the original arcade was built. A part of the northern façade of the Riverside Chamber is clearly visible in a miniature from the "Book on the Election to the Supreme Royal Russian Throne…" dated 1673. It shows a two-coloured chequered roof, a high cornice, arched windows and a wide, semicircular doorway leading to the anteroom of the Dining Chamber. The entrance is adorned with a rectangular portal decorated with a carved figure on top.

A fire of 1493, which caused great damage to the state, delayed further construction of the new palace for a long time. Work was not resumed until 1499. The Italian architect Aleviz Novy, who continued the construction of the palace complex, added the Riverside Chamber, which had been built earlier. The two chambers that formed the Riverside Chamber were renamed the Funeral Service Chamber and the Ambassadors' Chamber. The newly built Middle (Golden) Chamber, which led to the Red Porch overlooking Cathedral Square, was also used for state receptions.

In 1752 both chambers, as well as the Middle (Golden) Chamber, were demolished due to their dilapidated state, and a new Winter Palace was built on the ground floor in 1753, after the floor had been reinforced according to Rastrelli's design.

Miniature from the ‘Book on the Election to the Supreme Royal Russian Throne of the Great Sovereign, Tsar and Grand Prince Mikhail Fyodorovich, Sole Ruler of All Great Russia’, 1672-1673 General plan of the Royal palace in the Kremlin in the 17th c.Schematic drawing of the Royal palace general view in the 17th c.