Nowadays this is one of the finest collections of Russian and foreign decorative and applied art from the 4th to early 20th centuries. In total, there are more than 4,000 pieces of applied art.
The State Armory is home to the Russian Diamond Fund.
What You Will See on Armory Tour
The collection is arranged chronologically and is spread over two floors.
The Armory has got a dazzling collection of Russian gold and silver work dating from the 12th to the 17th centuries. The Ryazan Treasure consisting of earrings, bracelets, collars and rings must be seen as should the beautifully enameled chalice presented to the Monastery of the miracles by the Boyarina Anna Morozova in 1664.
You will see a display of arms and armor dating back to the medieval era. The oldest exhibit is the iron helmet of Yaroslav, father of alexander Nevsky. Other interesting items include a small spiked helmet commissioned by Ivan the terrible for his three- year- old son – that very son he later murdered, the sabers of mini and Pozharskiy who led the Russian armies to victory over the poles during the Time of troubles and a suit of mail belonging to Tsar Boris Godunov, each iron ring of which is inscribed with the words: “God with us and none against us”.
A favorite with the public there is the display of jewelry from the house of Faberge. Since the Paris World Fair of 1900 the Faberge trademark has been a byword for masterpieces of precision jewelry, gold and silverwork. The real breakthrough for the firm came in 1885 with a commission from Alexander III for a commemorative Easter egg of gold and white enamel, containing a golden hen.
The idea caught on when Nickolas II came to the throne it became his habit to commission two Easter eggs annually from Faberge, one for his wife, the other for his mother. Each year the design, decoration and surprise became more elaborate and sophisticated. A big collection by far is in the Armory of the Moscow Kremlin.
The Armory also boasts one of finest collections of English silver I the world dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. In presenting these exquisite pieces to the Russian court English merchants were performing an unwitting service- much of the silverware left behind in England was melted down by Oliver Cromwell after the English Civil war.
Another exhibit of the Armory is represented with thrones and imperial regalia. Among the most spectacular items is the intricately carved ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible. The most impressive and the most famous piece of headgear is the ancient Cap of Crown of Monomakh made in the late 13th century from gold plate, decorated with precious stones and trimmed with sable. This was used in coronations from the end of the 15th century to 1682. Catherine the Great’s Western-style silver wedding dress, embroidered with imperial eagles is in marked contrast to the gown in the traditional Russian style worn by the last Romanov Empress Alexandra Fedorovna at her coronation in 1896.
The History of the Place
One of the greatest museums of its kind in the world the Armory is a storehouse of treasures accumulated by the Russian Tsars and Princes of Muscovy from the 13th century onwards. First mentioned in The Chronicles in 1547, The Armory was originally a center of manufacture for the accoutrements of war: cut and thrust weapons, firearms and suits of armor.
Originally it was used not only as a treasure house for valuable art objects but also as a workshop where both ceremonial and martial arms were produced. In the 18th century production ceased and at the beginning of the 19th century the Armory received the status of the Royal Museum.
The museum collections were based on the precious items that had been preserved for centuries in the tsars’ treasury and the Patriarch’s vestry. Some of the exhibits were made in the Kremlin’s workshops while others were accepted as ambassadorial gifts.
As the Armory developed, several new workshops were established – the Office of Stables, for the manufacture of riding equipment and bridles, the Chamber of the Tsarina, specializing in sewing, embroidery and the overseeing of the royal wardrobes, the Hall of Gold and Silver and the Office of Icons.
This accumulation of riches dazzled the increasing number of visiting European delegations, surprised to find their own exquisite gifts matched by superb Russian craftsmanship. The Armory flourished until the time of Peter the Great, at which point the Kremlin ceased to be the capital of Russia and the treasure house became a museum. The Armory that visitors see today was commissioned from the architect K.A.Ton by Nicholas I in 1851 as an extension of the Great Kremlin Palace.
State Armory Tour lasts 1.5 hour and during this tour you will
- See ancient state regalia
- Ceremonial tsar’s vestments, tsar’s thrones and coronation dresses
- World-famous Faberge Eggs
- Vestments of the Russian Orthodox Church’s hierarchs
- Enjoy the largest collection of gold and silverware by Russian craftsmen and West European artistic silver
- Ceremonial weapons and arms, carriages, horse ceremonial harness
- See the legendary Monomakh Cap – the ultimate symbol of Russian autocracy and Byzantine heritage.