The Palace of Facets


The Palace of the Facets (Granovitaya Palata) is located on the western side of the cathedral square, in between the cathedrals of the Assumption and of the Annunciation. Here is a view of the palace from directly in front. Here are several pictures of the interior. Ivan III was pleased with the Italian architect Marco Ruffo's work when constructing the Kremlin's walls and towers, and commissioned him to erect one of the first smooth stone edifices in the Kremlin. The work started in 1487 but was finished by Solari in 1491. The palace was intended to serve as the throne-room reception chamber, but it was also used as a conference hall and for celebration of major events that were attended by tsars. The diamond rustication in the white stone of the facade gave the palace its name. The entire main floor of the palace is just one hall about seventy feet wide and 77 feet long, with just one massive pier 28 feet high in the middle, carrying four cross shaped vaults that span the entire edifice. The single-peered hall looks more spacious than it actually is. Ruffo's idea became popular and many refectories in the monasteries had ceilings supported by just one central pier.
In the old days the entrance to the Granovitaya Palata was through the Beautiful "Krasnoe Kriltso," stairway, the "Perron," (porch) and the richly decorated Holy Vestibule, (Sviatiya Seni). The perron, which no longer exists, had two doors, the right leading to the Vestibule and the left to the tsar's living quarters, the present Teremnoy palace. It was on the perron that grand dukes and tsars used to stop for a while to greet the people in the evening or chat with boyars and church dignitaries before returning to the palace. On rare occasions and as a special gesture they waited there to meet foreign dignitaries.
Granovitaya Palata witnessed many celebrations and receptions at which foreign and Russian dignitaries were received by tsars and entertained at official parties and dinners. Since the custom was for women to be excluded from participation in men's festivities, the tsarina and tsarevnas could satisfy their curiosity and look through a secret window in a small room that The Italian architects had added just for this purpose. In 1552 Ivan the Terrible here celebrated his victory over the Tatars at Kazan. The festivities lasted three days, and the chronicle says that he distributed to his military commanders and heroes gifts of silver weighing almost seven tons. However, the palace looked the most barbarously luxurious under Boris Godunov. His Tatar origins added to his preference for gold and precious stones. The chronicle describes the fabulous richness and Asiatic luxury of the occasion of the reception of the Danish prince whom Boris wanted to marry his daughter Ksenia. The robes that the tsar, his family and the boyars put on were embroidered with gold and precious stones. The chairs for the tsar and his family were made of gold, and the long table of silver with gilded legs. In 1709 Peter the Great celebrated here his victory over the Swedes at Poltava. The hall (Palata) was not used only for celebrations. Thus in 1682 heated discussions took place there between Protopop Avaakum and the leaders of the official Orthodox Church. In 1761 the commission to draft the new code (Ulozhenie) met there, after Catherine the Great opened the first session. In Soviet times too a few reception have been held there, and the decorations remained the same; elders of the Central Committee and the Supreme Soviet play the role of boyars.
Granovitaya Palata was decorated by unknown painters in the second half of the 16th century. Entire walls were covered with frescos depicting scenes from the Old Testament, with the intention to symbolize the virtues of Moscow rulers. About a century later the well-known Moscow iconographer Simon Ushakov restored the same frescoes and left detailed descriptions of how the originals looked. According to him, the allegorical figures, the episodes from the Testament and particularly the scenes from Russia's past were emphasized even more, to conduce the prestige of the tsars than the frescoes n the Teremnoy Palace which Ushakov also restored and could compare them. The frescoes that Ushakov repainted survived until the time of Peter the Great. During his time and later they were neglected, and several fires damaged them seriously. Unqualified restorations did the rest. In 1880 an attempt was made to clean Ushakov's frescoes of all latter additions, but almost nothing was found that had survived. Instead, iconographers from the village of Palekh, headed by the brothers Bielousov, repainted them again. The last time they were restored was in 1949.




Return to Xenophon. Return to Ruscity. Return to Rushistory. Return to Ukraine.