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Terem Palace, Russia

Experienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyager Joshua Brook
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The Terem Palace, easily spotted behind the Church of the Deposition of the Robe by its eleven gilded onion domes, served as the Imperial residence until Emperor Peter the Great moved the Russian capital to St. Petersburg in 1712. The Palace is a multi-tiered building, incorporating two medieval churches built one on top of the other, two levels of service quarters and the royal suite created for Mikhail Romanov in the early 17th century. Meaning "tower-chamber", the Terem was originally constructed between 1499 and 1508 by the Italian architect, Alevisio Novi, but later added to by Russian craftsmen between 1635 and 1636. The palace lay in disuse for many years whilst the Tsars chose to rule Russia from Peter's northern capital of St. Petersburg, and was eventually refurbished in 1837 in splendid 17th century style, with elaborate tiled stoves, gilded stucco and painted ceiling vaults. The Palace gives the visitor an excellent idea of how everyday life went on in the Tsarist residence.

The old 15th century basement features storerooms, cellars and servants' quarters, and elsewhere in the building workships are to be found, where ceremonial vestments, clothes and linens for the Tsar and his family were made and stored. The Tsar's living quarters, the "Terems", occupied the three upper stories of the Palace and include numerous balconies, secluded squares and private staircases screened off from view and accessible only to the Tsar and his closest confidants.

As you enter the low-ceilinged Tsar's chambers, decorated with lace-like stone portals and exquisitely ornate gilt and painted vaults, you emerge into the Anteroom, where boyars (Russian nobility) gathered each morning to await the Tsar's appearance. The second room, the Cross or Reception Chamber, was where the Emperor received guests and held conference and the third chamber, the sumptuously decorated red-and-gold Throne Room, served as the Tsar's study. The window of the Tsar's study used to be known as the Petition Window, as legend has it a box was lowered from it into which anybody could put a petition, which the Tsar himself would read and consider. But this box rapidly became known as the "Long Box", as the petitions piled up and were never addressed, giving rise to the Russian saying "to leave one's business to the Long Box". Next in the ensemble of rooms that make up the Tsar's quarters, are the Royal Bedchamber and the Tsar's private Prayer Room.

In all the Terem Palace contains three main churches and several smaller prayer rooms. The Upper Cathedral of the Savior was the domestic chapel of the male member of the Tsarist family and the Church of St. Catherine served as the private chapel of the Tsarinas and princesses. A third chapel, the Church of the Nativity of Lazarus, dates back to 1393 and is one of the oldest remaining original churches in the Kremlin complex. Between 1680 and 1681, all these churches were united under a single roof, decorated with eleven elegant gilt cupolas on brightly tiled slender drums.

Today, the Terem Palace can only be accessed from the Vladimirsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace and is, unfortunately, out of bounds to visitors. More info on: www.moscow-taxi.com

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