Moscow Kremlin is the most known fortified complex in Russia. It is an iconic place for tourists, but there are a lot more similar constructions of the same age in Moscow. Nowadays most of them are considered as religious sights, but they also represent castles in the sense of fortified medieval structures with defensive walls and towers.

Enceinte

Introduction

The first fortification of the Russian capital was the Kremlin. At the end of 15th century it got contemporary masonry walls and during the following centuries it had overgrown with defensive lines: Kitay-gorod in the early 16th century, Bely Gorod at the end of 16th century and became one of the most fortified cities in Europe of that time. But none of them could not protect citizens from sudden attacks of nomad hordes.

The most effective way was to settle a chain of advanced outposts that guarded the approaches to the city. Many fortified monasteries started performing this function. They could not stop the enemy, because they were walled by a wooden fence and did not have moats, but could hold assailants for some time and give a chance for civilians to hide behind Kremlin walls.

The circle line of fortified monasteries around Moscow was gradually developed over the years. The reason for its erection was the great fire of Moscow in 1365 — after which the city was unprotected.

From the 15th to 16th century the defensive system of fortified monasteries continued to improve: new mansions appeared, stone walls with battlements and embrasures were built, armories and permanent garrisons were established.

Their effectiveness was tested during numerous enemy raids, starting with the siege of Moscow in 1408 and ending in 1591 — the last attempt of siege by Crimean Tatars. After construction of the walls of Zemlyanoy Gorod many fortified monasteries found themselves inside the city and lost their defensive functions.

All Moscow Castles on Google Maps
All Moscow Castles on Google Maps

Castles with curtain wall

Arranged in order of foundation.

1. Moscow Kremlin

This site is out of scope of the article, because there is too much information about it. Nevertheless, it can not be not mentioned. The contemporary Kremlin walls with «swallowtail» merlons were built by Italian architects (Antonio Gilardi, Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solari) in 1485–1516.

View of the Kremlin from Vasilevsky Descent
View of the Kremlin from Vasilevsky Descent
1. View of the Kremlin from Vasilevsky Descent

2. Kitay-gorod Wall

It was an additional defensive line around the Kremlin built from 1534 to 1539 and originally featured 13 towers and six gates. Unfortunately, the wall was demolished in the 1930’s and only two curtains remained.

2.1. One of two remaining parts is located near Zaryadye.

2.1. Kitaygorodskiy Proyezd, 2

2.2. The other one is located behind the Hotel Metropol. There is also the only remaining tower of the Kitay-gorod wall — «Birds Tower» (1535–1538), located near the archway onto Tretyakovsky Proezd.

2.2. Tretyakovsky Proyezd, 1/4

2.3. The «Round Tower» near the exit from Teatralnaya metro station is just a replica, erected in the 1990’s as an extension to the old wall during restoration (it should be considered as «contemporary imitation»).

2.3. Theatre Square, 5

3. Danilov Monastery

Founded in 1282, existing defensive walls were built in the middle 17th century. Now it is walled and has seven towers.

3. Ulitsa Danilovskiy Val, 22

After foundation the place was changed a few times according to advantageous strategic position on the southern approaches to the city. The current location was established in 1561 during the reign of Ivan Vasilyevich the Terrible. The old walls were replaced with stone ones during the reign of Aleksey Mikhailovich from 1645 until his death in 1676. In 1983 the monastery became headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church.

4. Vysokopetrovsky Monastery

Founded before 1330, now it remained only a part of the initial defensive wall (in Krapivenskiy Pereulok) built in the late 17th century.

4. Petrovka Ulitsa, 28

This monastery defended Moscow from the north. In 1680–1690 it was completely rebuilt by Naryshkin boyars.

5. Andronikov Monastery

Founded in 1357, existing defensive walls were built in the middle of the 17th century, now walled as an irregular pentagon and has five towers.

5. Andronyevskaya Ploshchad, 10

Due to dangerous location the monastery has been ransacked a number of times: in 1368 and 1371 by Lithuanian’s duke Algirdas, in 1382 by Tokhtamysh, in 1408 by Edigu, in 1451 by Sayid Ahmad, in 1571 by Devlet Giray, in 1611 by polish and in 1812 by Napoleon. Nevertheless, the inner katholikon (1420) survived, even the frescoes by Andrei Rublev and Daniil Chyorny remain visible on its walls.

6. Simonov Monastery

Founded in 1370, existing defensive walls were built in the late 16th or early 17th century, three towers and curtains between them preserved to date.

6. Vostochnaya Ulitsa, 4

The monastery was established by monk Feodor, a nephew of Sergius of Radonezh. In 1379 it was moved to a new place to protect strategic paths to the Moscow river. In 1591 the monastery repulsed the attack of Gazi Giray.

Two of three remaining towers and the walls have machicolation and seem to be built in the 40’s of the 17th century.

The corner tower «Dulo Tower» has 16 faces and three tiers of loopholes.

7. Novospassky Monastery

Founded in 1490, existing defense walls were built in the late 16th century, now walled as an irregular quadrangle and has five towers.

7. Krestyanskaya Ploshchad, 10

The current place of the monastery was chosen by Ivan IV to protect south-east approaches to the capital. In 1521, 1571 and 1591 the monastery successfully repulsed the attack of Crimean Tatars.

8. Novodevichy Convent

Founded in 1490, existing defensive walls were built in the late 16th century, now it walled as an irregular rectangle and has 12 towers.

8. Novodevichy Passage, 1

The contemporary walls and towers were erected during the reign of Boris Godunov (1598–1605). The battlements have the same shape as Moscow Kremlin’s one. There are four round towers on the corners and eight square towers between them, all towers of each type are the same. The convent territory is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Donskoy Monastery

Founded in 1591, existing defensive walls were built in 1686–1711, now walled and has 12 towers.

9. Ulitsa Donskaya, 1/3

It was supposed to defend southern approaches to the Moscow Kremlin, but soon lost its defensive importance and its walls were reshaped in Muscovite Baroque style like Novodevichy Convent.

Non-defensive walls

10. Zachatyevsky Convent

Founded in 1360, the existing brick fence was built in 1696, now walled.

10. 1-y Zachatyevskiy Pereulok, 2

The convent was completely burned down a few times: in 1514, 1547 and during the Time of Troubles. The barbican church and masonry walls of Naryshkin Baroque style have survived to the present day.

11. Rozhdestvensky Convent

Founded in 1386, the existing brick fence was built in the 18th century, now is partly walled.

11. Ulitsa Rozhdestvenka, 20/8

For the first time the wooden fence was replaced by a stone one in 1671. For the second time the walls were replaced around 1782 and a new red-brick masonry was put on the old stones. In the 1960’s the walls and turrets on the corners were restored.

12. Ivanovsky Convent

Founded in the 15th century, the existing brick fence was built in 1861–1878 in Romanticism Style.

12. Malyy Ivanovskiy Pereulok, 2

In 1530 the monastery was moved to its existing place and became a convent. In 1861–1878 it was completely rebuilt in Romanticism style by the design of Mikhail Bykovsky.

13. Pokrovsky Monastery

Founded in 1635, the existing brick fence was built in the 19th century, now walled as a rectangle and has six non-defensive towers.

13. Taganskaya Ulitsa, 58

Manor houses

14. Kolomenskoye

Founded presumably in 1532, existing brick fences supposedly were built in the late 17th century, now partly remained.

14. Andropova Avenue, 39

In the 16th century the number of unfortified royal estates appeared around Moscow and Kolomenskoye is one of them. The Ascension Church (1532), which stands on Kolomenskoe territory, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

15. Krutitsy Metochion

Founded in 1667, unfortified.

15. Krutitskaya Ulitsa, 17

Krutitsy was established as an ecclesiastical estate of the Russian Orthodox Church and was funded by the royal family until 1711, when emperor Peter the Great abolished patriarchy.

The metochion was in the process of restoration during the 1960–1980’s by Pyotr Baranovsky. Today it is one of the best preserved medieval sightseeings in Moscow.

16. Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo

From 1664 the area belonged to the noble family of the Streshnevs. A stone fence of red brick with massive towers in the Russian Revival style was built around the estate in 1889–1890.

Only a corner tower and the main entrance opposite the Volokolamskoe highway are worth seeing.
16. Volokolamskoye shosse, 52

17. Tsaritsyno Palace

Founded in 1776 by the order of Catherine the Great, unfortified. A number of pavilions, orangeries, arbours, artificial grottos, bridges and gates were constructed in the late 18th century by Bazhenov and Kazakov.

17. Dolskaya St., 1

The architecture ensemble has no fortification value, but some decorative bridges and gates copy the features of European castles in Neo-Gothic architecture style.

Contemporary imitations

18. Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery

Founded in 1623, the existing brick fence was built in 1908 — the same year as the main church was erected in Russian-Byzantine style.

16. Shosseynaya Ulitsa, 82

19. Sretensky Monastery

Founded in 1397, the existing brick fence was built in the 1990’s.

17. Ulitsa Bolshaya Lubyanka, 19

20. Athonite Metochion

Founded in 1595 as a church, the existing brick fence with the gates were built in 1996. The entrance is flanked by tower-like chapels.

18. Goncharnaya Ulitsa, 6.

21. Izmaylovo Kremlin

Built in 1996–2007 on the site of Izmaylovo Vernissage.

19. Izmaylovskoye Shosse, 73

It does not have anything similar to «kremlin» as a fortified complex, because all buildings are completely new and just imitate «old Moscow» architecture with many fake (but picturesque) elements. The place does not have historical value and is used for entertainment, souvenir marketplace and a flea market on weekends.

Excavations

22. Bely Gorod Wall

The defensive wall of Bely Gorod (White City) was erected in 1585–1593 and consists of 28 towers and 11 gates.

20. The only remaining basement of that wall is displayed at the Khokhlovskaya square

In the 18th century the wall lost its fortification value and during the reign of Catherine the Great the wall was demolished and replaced by a chain of boulevards. Names of the squares through Boulevard Ring have preserved the names of the Bely Gorod’s gates.

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