THE MIDDLE GOLDEN CHAMBER

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The Middle Golden ChamberThe Middle Golden Chamber was erected in the 1499-1508s. It was a part of the ensemble of the stone palace, the building of which was launched by Grand Prince Ivan III already in 1492. However, the construction of brick walls around the Kremlin, as well as two destroying fires coming one after another in 1493 did not allow continuing the work.

Only in the spring of 1499, the building of the stone chambers was resumed. For this purpose, the architect from Lombardy Aloisio the New (di Carcano) was invited to Moscow. He arrived in 1493, after the death of Antonio Solari.

Same as the Grand (Faceted) and Minor (Riverside) Chambers, the Middle Golden Chamber was assigned for solemn ceremonies. It was situated on the gross ground floor of the new palace complex between the Annunciation Cathedral and the Faceted Chamber, westwards from them. Its main façade faced the current Cathedral Square. Three stairs raised from the square up to the level of the ceremonial Red Porch, which was before the Middle Chamber. The first staircase began at the northern parvis of the Annunciation Cathedral, the second one stretched along the southern façade of the Faceted Chamber, and the middle staircase led to the anteroom of the Middle (Golden) Chamber. Northwards from the middle stairs, there were arranged driveway gates into the inner court of the complex.

The second title “Golden” was given to the chamber thanks to the painting of its interior, made in 1514 on a golden background after the Byzantine sample.

The Golden Chamber was a square space of 6x6 sazhen (1 sazhen equals 2.3 meters) with vaults and traditional porting as in a peasant’s log hut. The windows were on the southern and eastern sides, three for each side, and, on the western side, the stove stood in the corner, in the place of the third window. From the northern side, seni (the anteroom) of 17x13 arshin (1 arshin equals 28 inches) flanked the chamber. Two doors led from the seni inside. The Dining izba (log hut) was to the west of the seni, an opening connected these two rooms. The only preserved image of the Golden Chamber can be found in the miniature of the 17th century. It depicts a one-storeyed building on the high ground floor that forms a spacious gallery around the chamber. A rich caved portal with a triangular frontal decorates the entrance. The walls end up with a high cornice and are covered by an inclined roof with a two-colour rhomboid pattern. Simple Romanesque windows have no surrounds.

In 1547, a tremendous fire broke out in Moscow. The manuscripts noted that it burst with an unprecedented force, which had burnt the chambers and other buildings at the royal court.

After the fire, Tsar Ivan the Terrible launched the reconstruction of the palace. Chambers’ façades were re-decorated. The windows acquired coloured glass window frames, the roofing was gilt and stone statues, like the Greek ones, were installed.

The artists from Novgorod, Pskov and other cities were invited to restore the interiors of palace premises. In 1552, the Golden Chamber was re-painted “in a worldly manner”. The high living ideals were symbolically incorporated through the parables and allegories, supported by the examples from the New and Old Testaments, as well as through the deeds of Russian princes. This art was different from the Byzantine canon of execution. Here, along with Christian personalities, were the pagan ones, which made an ambiguous impression on the contemporaries. Some saw the heresy in it. This wall painting had existed with small changes until the late 17th century.

In 1672, upon the order of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, the artist Semyon Ushakov made a thorough description of all painted plots.

During the period of the strangle of the Polish-Lithuanian intervention in Moscow in 1610-1612, the royal Kremlin Palace was plundered and laid waste. The chambers and mansions stood without roofs, doors and windows. Before the arrival of Mikhail Fyodorovich in Moscow, the Middle Golden Chamber together with the Faceted and Minor Golden Chambers were urgently put in order. 

In the early 18th century, when Peter I left Moscow, the Kremlin became desolate. After the fire of 1701, the palace was not restored, all its premises dilapidated, and the fires of 1737 and 1748 dramatized the situation. The chambers were hastily renovated only for the coronation ceremonies and official receptions.

In 1749, Empress Elizaveta Petrovna wished to have a permanent residence in the Kremlin and for this purpose, she ordered architect F. B. Rastrelli to build a stone palace in the place of the dilapidated chambers: the Middle Golden, Dining and Riverside chambers. When the palace complex was measured by the team of architect D. V. Ukhtomsky, these chambers were dismantled in 1752, and, in 1753, a one-storeyed Winter Palace was erected on their ground floor.