Walking tour of the Kazan Kremlin

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Scientists are still arguing about when the city of Kazan was actually founded. According to the official version, backed by a hitherto unknown Czech lead coin and some other artifacts, already a thousand years ago on the site of the present Kazan Kremlin there was a small border fortress of the Volga Bulgars.

Immediately after the capture of Kazan, Ivan the Terrible ordered to construct an impregnable stone fortress on the site of the wooden Tatar fortifications
For this purpose, 200 masons from Pskov arrived in Kazan, led by Ivan Shiryaev and Postnik Yakovlev, who had just built the famous St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.The Pskov architects built several towers of the walls of the Kremlin and outbuildings, including the Cathedral of the Annunciation - a masterpiece of Russian architecture of the XVI century.

Tours around Kazan Kremlin traditionally begin with the Spasskaya Tower - the main entrance to the Kremlin. The tower was built in 1556-1562 years by Pskov masters of fortification. Originally it was had two tiers, a wooden hipped roof and a small lookout tower. In the 1670s another two octagonal tent tiers were added to the tower. You can easily tell one tiers from the other: rough, uneven brickwork of white stone at the bottom and whitewashed brick on top.

Spasskaya Tower
The Spasskaya Tower got its name from the church that was built into it, where before the revolution the miraculous icon of the Savior on the Wall had been kept. It is the oldest museum in Kazan: 1552 relics - banners, cannons and cannonballs of the Russian army - were exhibited here.
The Spasskaya Tower has a clock (diameter of the dial is 4 meters). Current chimes were installed in 1960s, and before that, a unique clock with the dial rotating around a fixed hand worked on the tower.
To the left, you can see the partially preserved chambers of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery.The monastery was founded in 1556, four years after the conquest of Kazan, on the site chosen by Tsar Ivan IV. The monastery was a center of missionary activity in the province, as well as the burial place of local saints and the most revered and noble people in Kazan. The monastery ot its name in honor of its main Transfiguration Cathedral and the Gate Church of the Holy Face of Spassky tower connected to the monastery on the western side by an extension with stairs.  

Holy Transfiguration Monastery
The cellars of the Transfiguration Cathedral, Church of St. Nicholas Ratna and the fraternal building are preserved until present day.
In the left corner of the wall of the Kazan Kremlin is located the South West Tower. It was built in 1556-1562 by the architects Postnik Yakovlev and Ivan Shiryaev.The tower has two tiers, is made of brick, white-washed, is 17 meters high, and the diameter of the widest part of its base is 9.5 meters. Each tier has arched openings. The second tier ends with a conical wooden roof. During wars, the tower was one of the most important defensive structures of the Kremlin because of its excellent location.
The Pskov architects also built the following rectangular tiered Transfiguration Passage Tower. Erected on the site of the Temenskaya tower of the khan castle, it's supported by powerful buttresses.Today through its wooden, iron-bound gate passes the majority of tourists.Above the gate from the outside there is a niche for the gate icon. The second tier is adapted currently to be a cafe for tourists called "Temen." This tier is separated from the first one with a stone roll of the same profile as the walls that separate the lower tier of the walls from the battle level. The tower is covered with a hipped roof of wooden planks. A guardroom is erected above, with the image of Zilant - the emblem of the city of Kazan.

Transfiguration Passage Tower
On the left, end-to-street, is located the Manezh building constructed in the 1880s.During the construction the foundations of the western monastery wall were used It was oriinally designed as a drill for dressage riding and cadets training. The building is unique in its design - a vast room 18x56 m was blocked by large-span wooden structures. Currently the Manezh houses the Kremlin exhibition hall.
Next to the Manezh is located the former Cadet School that was established in 1866. The building facade is done in the style of Paul's Empire. Three entrances are emphasized with metal awnings made in the classical technique of Chebakin forging with woven roses, cornflowers and mascarons.Inside, three-march stairs leaning on brick arches and vaults draw attention at once.

Cadet School
Now this building houses four museums: the Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, the National Art Gallery, the center "Hermitage-Kazan" and the Museum of Tatarstan Nature.On the main facade at the height of the second floor an inscription in bronze letters says: "National Gallery" Hazine ", which means "treasure. "
Here we go back down and go through the yard of the Cadet School. Before us we can see the beautiful mosque Qolsarif - the symbol of rebirth of Tatar culture.It can be seen throughout the city, its minarets balance the height of Söyembikä Tower.

Qolsarif Mosque
The mosque is named after the chief priest of the Khanate of Kazan, the Muslim theologian and educator Kul Sharif.He was killed in 1552 during the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible, and the legendary mosque with many minarets was burned down . At that period, the capital of the Kazan khanate was the center of religious education and development of the sciences of the Middle Volga.
The main dome of the Qolsarif is shaped like a "Kazan cap" - the crown of Kazan khans, which was taken to Moscow after the fall of Kazan and is now exhibited in the Armory. Qolsarif was constructed by Turkish builders, its chandeliers were made for her in the Czech Republic, the granite and marble brought from the Urals.More than two thousand square meters of the mosque floors are covered with Persian rugs - the gift of the government of Iran. Besides praying halls, you can visit the Museum of Islamic Culture located in the basement of the Qolsarif complex.

Cathedral of the Annunciation
The cathedral is the southernmost example of medieval Russian architecture of Pskov style and symbolically combines the features of Pskov, Moscow and Tatar architectural traditions.The interiors of the building are richly painted. In its ancient part of it still exist the remains of frescoes of the XVI century, later ones are from the XIX century. Before the beginning of XX century the cathedral had been adorned with an original bell tower, possibly rebuilt in the XVII century of an ancient Bulgar defensive tower on the Tazik Moat.
The Annunciation Cathedral was visited by Peter I, Catherine II, Nicholas I and almost all members of the imperial house, as well as Radischev, Pushkin, Rachmaninoff. Feodor Chaliapin sang here many times in the church choir.
On the steep descent of the hill, in the northern part of the Kremlin, you can see Söyembikä Tower, the recognized architectural symbol of Kazan, just like the Eiffel Tower for Paris, the Tower for London or the pyramids for Cairo.
Söyembikä Tower
The tower consists of seven storeys, of which the bottom three are square, the fourth and fifth are octagonal, the sixth is a truncated prism, and the seventh is a thin watch tower with a pointed spire. Soyembika Tower is a falling tower, as its peak deviated 1.8 meters from the base, and it is perfectly visible to the naked eye.
In memory of the people the tower is associated with the name of the last Kazan queen Söyembikä.In general, the legends about it have following plots:
1) the tower was built by the queen in memory of her husband Safa Giray, who died in 1549;
2) it was built by Ivan the Terrible in seven days (seven tiers) after the capture of Kazan in 1552 as a condition-request from Söyembikä, who allegedly threw herself from the seventh tier;
3) it is the minaret Khan Jami erected by Söyembikä or part of the palace of Kazan khans, the construction of which was completed during her reign.
All these legends are far from reality. The tower acquired its present name was only in the first half of the XIX century, when the famous Kazan ethnographer Michael Rybushkin, enchanted by the legendary history of the Kremlin, proposed to replace the dull name "Passage Tower with a Spitz" with the romantic "Sumbeka'stower."
Walking down the hill, you can go to the squat Tainitskaya tower.This is the main entrance to the Kremlin from the north-west.Tainitskaya tower was erected in the XVI century on the site of Nur-Ali (Muraleeva, as the Russians called it) Tower that had been blown up during the siege of Kazan.It received its new name from the cache destroyed by the blast - the underground passage to the spring where the besieged had been fetching water from. It was from there that on October 4, 1552, two days after the capture of Kazan, Ivan the Terrible drove into the ruins of the khan's castle. Catherine II also rode in there, the road covered with red oriental carpets and strewn with flowers, to the marches played by military bands.

Tainitskaya Tower
Now above Tainitskaya tower there is an open gallery, which offers a great view of the modern quarters of the city across the river Kazanka, as well as of the Volga and the mountains towering on its banks and covered with dense forests.
Climbing the again, we can see a long, white building with a black roof opposite the former Cadet schools, Those are the Public Offices built in 1783. Just like before the revolution, it houses ministries today.
Tours are conducted in Russian, Tatar, English, German, French, Turkish and Italian.

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Language: English