The Ivan the Great Bell Tower is quite rightly considered the focal center of the Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin. For three centuries it was the highest building in Moscow. Even now the bell tower looks very beautiful from many places on the Moscow river.
The Ivan the Great Bell Tower was laid down in 1505 by an Italian architect nicknamed Bon Fryazin. It was in that year that Ivan III died, the first Russian tsar who consolidated all the Russian principalities and desisted from paying tribute to the Golden Horde. After that he declared himself the Tsar of All Russia. It was for this reason that Ivan III was subsequently called Ivan the Great, and the bell tower was also given his name.
The Ivan the Great Bell Tower was constructed between 1505 and 1508 on the site of the Church of St. Ivan of the Ladder-under-the Bell. About that time there was also built the nearby Archangel Cathedral. The bell tower was designed as a detached building after the fashion of Italian campaniles. During 1532-1534 the Church of the Resurrection was built next to it.
In 1600, in the reign of Boris Godunov, the third tier was added to the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, and its height reached 81 meters. Considering that the bell tower is on the high Kremlin Hill, to the end of the 19 century it was the tallest building in Moscow. In 1635 there was added the so-called Filaret extension and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower acquired its finished appearance. And since that time it hadn’t been changed to our time.
Tsar Ivan the Terrible issued a decree forbidding to put up any building in Moscow which was taller than the Bell Tower, though at that time it didn’t reach its maximum height of 81 meters. In 1704 prince Menshikov decided to violate the ban and erect the Church of the Archangel St. Gabriel also known as the Menshikov tower at the Chistiye Prudy, which bell tower was 3 meters taller than the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. It was very much like the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, which was constructed ten years later.
In 1723 this tower (Menshikov tower) was destroyed by a thunderbolt. And since that time no one dared to violate the ban anymore and the buildings, which are taller than the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, the famous Stalin`s skyscrapers, appeared only in the middle of the 20 century.
The Ivan the Great Bell Tower contains 34 bells. The most ancient of them, the «Bear», was cast in 1501. One of the four large bells called «Uspenskiy» weighs 65 tons. The bell «Reut» was cast by the most famous craftsman Andrey Chokhov in 1622. This craftsman also cast the Tsar Cannon, which is a monument of the Moscow Kremlin.