The Trinity and Commandant Towers

Today, the Trinity Tower is a used for the Presidential Orchestra of Russia. However, up until the 17th century, it was used as a prison. At the end of the 17th century, the Trinity Tower had undergone some changes in terms of architecture and appearance. The best masters in Moscow created its multi-tiered tent-style superstructure and the obligatory decorated ornaments made of white stone. By 1707 the loopholes in the Trinity Tower were expanded so that they could place a heavy gun. These changes were not groundless, because in those years the imminent threat of invasion by the Swedes forced the area to become more functional.

The Trinity Tower, courtesy of Kremlin
Many years later from 1870 to 1895, the Trinity Tower was used for other purposes. Now this was not a defensive structure by design, but once the military threat was gone, it was converted into an archive room belonging to the Ministry of the royal court. For a long time, the tower was decorated by symbols depicting the seven hours of prayer. From 1585 to 1812, this was the norm until Napoleon. When the area was rebuilt, that was replaced by the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, and soon after, the crown design became the double-headed eagle, the most recognizable symbol of the Russian Empire (Merridal, 2013: 293).

Today, the Trinity Tower in Moscow looks like an old six story building, which occupies the area deep below the earth as two floors of deep cellars were once a place for prisoners. To move between the floors of the tower, the state installed an extensive ladder system.

The erection of the Commandant Tower was, like so much here, done under the reign of Prince Ivan III. The original design appeared in 1495 thanks to the skillful actions of Russian master builders, led by the Italian architect Alois Fryazin. At the end of the 15th century he lived in the territory of Russia and was regularly used to provide expertise in western methods for Russian designs. The Commandant Tower of the Moscow Kremlin was sort of a prototype for others.

At first, the Commandant Tower had another name, the Deaf Tower. This name was due to the fact that it is mainly a quadrangle with no windows or holes for archers. Subsequently, this integral part of the Moscow Kremlin was again renamed for the fact that it served as a repository for royal carriages and wagons. In the same yard just to the front of it was the location of the royal stables. It was only in the 19th century that the tower was called the Commandant.

The total height of the tower is 41 meters. The minor architectural changes its structure underwent during the period from 1676 to 1686 reflected the ideological and scientific mentality of the era. Like all other Russian Kremlin towers, it was complemented by a decorative dome tent. Over the walls of the structure there were shutters of wood to protect it in bad weather.

If one compares the Deaf Tower with the other towers of the Moscow Kremlin, one can see that in appearance it is similar to the architecture of the Armory Tower. Both towers have a lower quadrangle and both designs feature defensive structures and parapets. The upper quadrangles were open and the crown towers were tents with watchtowers and a small addition in the form of an octagonal shape (much of the information on towers derives from Nossov, 2006: 29ff).

The internal layout of buildings was represented by three ascending tiers, which were covered by cylindrical vaults. With regard to the construction material, it was a red, ceramic brick which was another similarity with other buildings that made up the Kremlin ensemble.

The last time the walls of the Kremlin saw a foreign army was in 1812 when it triumphantly gave the French Emperor, Napoleon, the illusion of victory. But soon the situation of uncertainty that haunted the French interlopers showed Napoleon’s first major defeat. While morale plummeted given Russian guerrilla war and scorched earth tactics, Napoleon wanted to show his soldiers and officers that their position in Moscow was truly a sign of conquest. When he learned that in the Russian capital there were a few French actors, he ordered a theatrical performance which was given in the house Poznyakova on Nikitskaya Street.

The Kremlin Palace represented to the French Emperor the pinnacle of power. He indulged in various fantasies, including his order to collect information about Yemelyan Pugachev so as to master techniques of creating peasant unrest. For the same reason he wanted to arouse excitement among the Tatars against Russia and even sent his spies to Kazan. But Napoleon had to leave the Kremlin, and in impotent rage, he ordered it destroyed with all the walls and towers.