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Faceted Palace, Russia

Experienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyager Joshua Brook
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One of the three marvelously ornate Imperial palaces within the Kremlin walls, the Palace of Facets is the oldest surviving secular building in Moscow. It stands wedged between the Cathedrals of the Assumption and the Annunciation and boasts a delicately diamond-patterned stone facade and intricately carved pillars and window frames. The Palace was built between 1487 and 1491 for Ivan III by Russian craftsmen under the supervision of the famous Italian architects Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solario.

The building's most impressive feature is the large chamber that comprises its entire upper story, whose roof is ingeniously supported by just a single, centrally placed pillar. The hall's walls and vaults feature reproductions of murals originally created in 1881 by the Belusov brothers, masters from the village Palekh, long renowned for its distinctive, highly skilled painting techniques. They feature brightly colored depictions of Russia's great rulers and important events in the country's history.

The hall was used for formal ceremonies, as a banqueting hall for celebratory feasts and as a reception area for important foreign dignitaries. It was here that Ivan the Terrible celebrated the capture of Kazan in 1552, Peter the Great marked Russia's victory over the Swedes at Poltava in 1709 and Gorbachev held banquets for the visiting British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and the US President, Ronald Reagan.

In medieval times the Tsars descended from the Palace's banqueting hall via the Red Staircase, once again the word "red" originating from the Russian word for "beautiful'. The historical staircase was ruthlessly destroyed in the 1930s to make way for the construction of a modern building intended to house the Kremlin canteen, but was rebuilt in 1994, complete with Tsarist eagles above its arches and stone lions on the balustrade.

Today access to the Faceted Palace is through the Vladimirsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, but is restricted to Government officials and visiting dignitaries only.

On the Palace's 2nd floor, the tiny window of a secret chamber, or tainik in Russian, can be seen, where legend has it the Tsarinas and princesses would watch the ceremonies taking place in the main hall and on Cathedral Square, as contemporary customs prevented them from taking part. This tradition was not changed until the time of Peter the Great, who insisted that women be present at all formal celebrations and feasts. More info on: www.moscow-taxi.com

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