Cos that’s where the Kremlin Armory (Оружейная палата) is. It’s one of the oldest museums in Moscow and it contains some of the most intricate, infamous, beautiful, and bling-bling types of treasures I’ve ever heard of.
The Kremlin Armory originated as the royal arsenal (a place where you can construct, repair, store, and issue weapons and ammunition) in 1508. The very finest Muscovite jewelers, painters, and gunsmiths used to work there, and then in 1700 the Armory became host to the treasures of the Gold and Silver chambers of the Russian Tsars. When Peter the Great took over, he had all the master craftsmen moved to St Petersburg, and 15 years afterwards the Moscow Armory merged with the Fiscal Yard (the oldest depository of royal treasures), the Stables Treasury, and the Master Chamber. It then became known as the “Arms and Master Chamber.”
In 1806, Александр I Павлович (Alexander I of Russia), nominated the Armory as the first public Museum in Moscow, although it was not open to the public for another 7 years.
The Armory building that now stands was designed and built by Константин Андреевич Тон (Konstantin Andreyevich Thon)…(you may recognize his name…he was kind of a big deal. Some of his other works include the Grand Kremlin Palace and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour).
After the Bolshevik Revolution (also known as the October Revolution---kind of a big event) the Amory became home to even more treasures; from cathedrals, monasteries, and private collections. The Armory became the official museum of the Kremlin in 1960…and considering what it has within it, it’s a wonder it took that long.
(This post was meant to be about the Шапка Мономаха, but once I started reading up on it I got distracted by all the other cool stuff…)
Not only does Monomakh’s cap reside there (an impressive piece, a gold filigree skullcap trimmed with sable, adorned with precious stones and pearls), but the Kremlin Armory is also home to much more; The Imperial Crown of Russia (a nine-pound beast adorned with around 5000 diamonds)… The Russian Diamond Fund… the Orlov Diamond (a gift given to Catherine the Great in an attempt to win her heart…it didn’t work) The Ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible… and the largest collection of Faberge Eggs in the world. And much more.
Ok, quick deviation so I can rant about Faberge eggs. Obviously, I knew they were special. Almost everyone has heard of them, and knows that they are intricately worked, expensive, and beautiful things.
Well, I had no idea just how incredible they are…
Faberge was first commissioned in 1885 by Alexander III of Russia to construct an egg as an Easter surprise for his wife. She was so thrilled with the gift that Faberge was commissioned as “Court Supplier,” and made a new Easter gift each year from there on. It became a sort of royal family tradition. Faberge’s eggs became more and more intricate, and soon the preparation process for each egg took a full year.
Here’s just one example…The Coronation Egg, given to Tsarina Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna.
“The egg is made from gold, enamelled translucent lime yellow on a guilloché field of starbursts, referencing the cloth-of-gold robe worn by the Tsarina at her Coronation.
It is trellised with bands of greenish gold laurel leaves mounted at each intersection by a gold Imperial double-headed eagle enamelled opaque black, and set with a rose diamond on its chest. This pattern was also drawn from the Coronation robe worn by the Empress.
A large portrait diamond is set in the top of the egg within a cluster of ten brilliant diamonds; through the table of this stone, the monogram of the Empress can be seen. A smaller portrait diamond is set within a cluster of rose diamonds at the end of the egg, beneath which the date 1897 is inscribed on a similar plaque. The egg was presented, together with a glass-enclosed jadeite stand for the display of the Carriage, at a cost of 5650 rubles.
Fitted inside a velvet-lined compartment is a precise replica, less than four inches long of the Eighteenth-century Imperial coach that carried the Tsarina Alexandra to her coronation at Moscow's Uspensky Cathedral.
The red colour of the original coach was recreated using strawberry coloured translucent enamel and the blue upholstery of the interior was also reproduced in enamels. The coach is surmounted by the Imperial Crown in rose diamonds and six double-headed eagles on the roof; it is fitted with engraved rock crystal windows and platinum tyres, and is decorated with a diamond-set trellis in gold and an Imperial eagle in diamonds at either door. Complete with moving wheels, opening doors, actual C-spring shocks, and a tiny folding step-stair.
Missing surprises include an emerald or diamond pendant that hung inside the replica coach, a glass-enclosed jadeite stand for the display of the carriage as well as a stand made of silver-gilt wire."
Wow. Now, this was probably a bad example to give in this particular blog, seeing as this Faberge egg is not housed in the Kremlin Armory. It is actually privately owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. But I chose it as an example of Faberge's intricate genius because you may recognize it from the movie Ocean’s 12. Danny Ocean and his friends steal it (Obviously they didn’t use the real egg when filming the movie, they had a replica made.) That replica cost $4,000.
Goodness me, that’s one heck of a prop wouldn’t you say?
But the real egg? Well, Sotheby’s never publicly disclosed the actual selling price of the Coronation Egg…but it was estimated at twenty four million dollars.
And to think that all I ever get for Easter is a chocolate bunny…