Russia’s Royal Treasures in Photos: Kremlin Armory Museum

Russia’s Royal Treasures in Photos: Kremlin Armory Museum

Russia’s Kremlin Armory Museum (Оружейная палата) in Moscow is worth visiting not only for its 4,000-piece collection of imperial jewels, royal clothing and crowns, icons, and the world’s largest collection of imperial Fabergé eggs, but also for the showcase building itself that houses these priceless treasures.  

Also known as the <i>Madonna Lily Egg,</i> this Fabergé <i>Bouquet of Lilies Clock Egg</i> was created in 1899; it is  on display in the Kremlin Armory Museum<br>Photo credit: Mark Stephenson</br>

Also known as the Madonna Lily Egg, this Fabergé Bouquet of Lilies Clock Egg was created in 1899; it is on display in the Kremlin Armory Museum
Photo credit: Mark Stephenson

Built next to 14th-century Kremlin churches, the 700-room Grand Kremlin Palace and Armory <i>(left)</i> overlooks the Moscow River <br>Photo credit: Arthur Bennett</br>

Built next to 14th-century Kremlin churches, the 700-room Grand Kremlin Palace and Armory (left) overlooks the Moscow River
Photo credit: Arthur Bennett

For centuries, Moscow’s UNESCO-listed Kremlin – adjacent to Red Square and its iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral – has been the seat of political power for all of Russia. Beginning in 1508, an armory built inside these Kremlin grounds initially produced and stored Russia’s weapons, then gradually housed the workshops of master craftspeople: gunmakers, jewelers, artists and iconographers.

Cannons were among the Kremlin Armory's arsenal, including the famous 1586 Tsar Cannon<br>Photo credit: Arthur Bennett</br>

Cannons were among the Kremlin Armory’s arsenal, including the famous 1586 Tsar Cannon
Photo credit: Arthur Bennett


Over time, more Russian imperial gifts and treasures – “best of the best” – were added to the Armory; in 1814 it was designated Moscow’s first public museum and later was housed in the Kremlin Grand Palace complex. There’s so much to explore; these are three “must-see” highlights on a visit to the Armory:

Coronation Finery: Imperial Clothing & Regalia

This royal storage facility and museum holds an “A-list” lineup of historic artifacts, including royal coronation clothing and regalia of Russian czars and empresses. When you view Catherine the Great’s wasp-waisted wedding dress, it’s hard to imagine anyone with a 17-inch waist!

Richly decorative brocade wedding dress of Catherine the Great, married in 1745 at the age of 16Photo credit: Michele Rice

Richly decorative brocade wedding dress of Catherine the Great, married in 1745 at the age of 16
Photo credit: Michele Rice

Enormously wide dresses and embroidered robes, mantles, crowns and thrones reflect the majesty of Russia’s official ceremonies and regal rites of passage, such as coronations and weddings.

1856 coronation dress of 32-year-old Empress Maria Alexandrovna, made of embroidered silk brocade and metallic threadsPhoto credit: Michele Rice

1856 coronation dress of 32-year-old Empress Maria Alexandrovna, made of embroidered silk brocade and metallic threads
Photo credit: Michele Rice

In addition to regal clothing, these exhibits also display church vestments, peaked caps called mitres and embroidered cape-like phelonions of Russian Orthodox clergy, including Peter, the first Metropolitan of Russia in the early 1300s.

Royal Transportation: Imperial Carriages

Two dozen gilded imperial carriages and sledges fill an entire room; this collection is among the oldest and rarest in the world.

The Armory's royal carriages – many crafted in the Kremlin's workshops – are adorned with paintings, gems, and luxurious fabricsPhoto credit: David Charney

The Armory’s royal carriages – many crafted in the Kremlin’s workshops – are adorned with paintings, gems, and luxurious fabrics
Photo credit: David Charney


The carriages and winter sledges (sleds drawn by horses) range from the 16th to 18th centuries and vary in construction and style: heavy and clunky, light and airy, closed and open, Renaissance, rococo, baroque, and beyond.

Fabulous Fabergé: Imperial Eggs

In a place filled with such larger-than-life treasures, visitors crowd around a large display containing bejeweled, sparkling eggs: these are ten of the world-renowned Fabergé Imperial eggs.

This 1898 Imperial egg  <i>(Lilies of the Valley)</i> displayed in St. Petersburg's Fabergé Museum exemplifies the craftsmanship of similar Fabergé eggs found in the Kremlin Armory collection<br>Photo credit: Jessica Clark</br>

This 1898 Imperial egg (Lilies of the Valley) displayed in St. Petersburg’s Fabergé Museum exemplifies the craftsmanship of similar Fabergé eggs found in the Kremlin Armory collection
Photo credit: Jessica Clark

Made to order as Easter gifts for Russia’s royal family from 1885 to 1917, each Fabergé egg took up to two years to create; each one held a charming surprise inside. Among the Imperial eggs displayed in the Armory exhibit are the royal yacht, Moscow Kremlin, an entire miniature Trans-Siberian Railway train, the “Alexandrovsky Palace” egg – decorated with portraits of Czar Nicolas II’s five children, and the “flower clock” with its bouquet of Madonna lilies.


Taking a Tour 

Virtual Tour of the Kremlin Armory MuseumThere’s so much to see on a Kremlin Armory tour that you might want to “study up” first to truly appreciate what you see in person.

The official museum website offers a of several rooms, including ancient icons, royal clothing, crowns and thrones, as well as ceremonial equestrian harnesses and gear. (Use the red dial on the lower right of their web site to zoom in and out, and to travel from room to room by following red arrows on floor.)

Built in 1489 and located near the Kremlin Grand Palace and Armory, the Cathedral of the Annunciation is the site of Ivan the Terrible's coronation; his clothing and throne are on display in the Armory<br>Photo credit: Marina Arkhipova</br>

Built in 1489 and located near the Kremlin Grand Palace and Armory, the Cathedral of the Annunciation is the site of Ivan the Terrible’s coronation; his clothing and throne are on display in the Armory
Photo credit: Marina Arkhipova

Museum Tips for a Memorable Visit

  • As in many Russian museums, bags and coats must be checked at the entrance.
  • Observe closely on your visit, since you’re not allowed to take photos and videos unless special arrangements have been made in advance.
  • The excellent gift shop at the entrance sells replicas of Fabergé eggs, postcards, and souvenir books of the Armory and its treasures.
  • Use the restroom before you enter the collections; it’s the only one available during the tour.
Explore Russia’s Treasures with MIR

You can visit the vast Kremlin collection of Russia’s national treasures in the Armory Museum on many MIR itineraries, as well as on a private tour created to your specifications. MIR tour options include:

Small Group ToursRail Journeys by Private TrainIndependent Private Trip

 

MIR has more than 30 years of travel experience to Russia, with affiliate offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia offering on-the-ground support, and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Contact MIR today at [email protected] or 1-111-111-1111.

(Top photo: Catherine the Great’s royal carriage, one of several of her imperial coaches on display in the Kremlin Armory. Photo credit: Mark Stephenson)

PUBLISHED: May 1, 2017

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