Armoury (Oruzheinaya Palata, in Russian) is one
of the oldest museums in Russia. It took its name from one
of the Kremlin workshops. The Russian word "palata"
is poly-semantic and means "palace", stone
building, mansion or chamber. Precious objects,
antiquities and arms could be kept at the chamber. Armoury
is the museum whose name and collection are unique and unrivaled.
Armoury is in South-west of Kremlin. It was built in 1851 by the architect K.A.
Thon, from St. Petersburg. The building was designed
specially for museum. It has two stories and two
tiers of windows, which is typical of palatial
architecture. It faces the Moscow River and is amply
decorated with white-stone carved ornaments, imitating the
architectural style of 17th century. There are 9
exhibition halls in museum, 4 on the first floor and 5 on
the second, with total area of 2500 Sq. m. There are 55
various showcases for some 4000 exhibits.
Armoury boasts the richest collection of the works of
Russian and foreign decorative and applied art of 4th-20th
centuries, including Russian, West-European and Eastern
arms, art silver, clothes and valuable fabrics, state
regalia and gala carriages. Articles by the old-Russian
silversmiths and goldsmiths, gun-makers and embroideries.
collection began in 14th-15th centuries, when Russian
centralized state was being established and the treasury
started to gather together works of great historical and
As long ago as 14th century, there was special chamber in
Kremlin, the grand princes' treasury. Its most ancient
items were mentioned in the testaments of Ivan Kalita,
Dmitry Donskoy, Ivan III, Ivan IV the Terrible and others.
At the end of 15th century, the so-called Treasury Court
was built between Archangel Cathedral and Cathedral of
Annunciation to keep the, by then, considerably increased
The first mention of Armoury was in chronicles in 1537. In
15-16th centuries, Equestrian Prikaz (Department) was established
with workshops, which produced ceremonial horse gear. In
16-17th centuries, Tsarina's Workshop Chamber and Silver
Department were set up. In 1624, the latter was split up
to from Goldsmiths' Department. They stood beside the
present Armoury building. The second half of 17th century
witnessed the flourishing of Kremlin workshops'
activities. They resembled kind of academy of arts,
because gifted craftsmen and artists gathered there.
In the early 18th century, country's capital was
transferred to St. Petersburg and Kremlin workshops were
closed down. All depositories of the treasury merged into
one under new name of Workshops and Armoury.
In 1718, Peter I ordered to organize exhibition of
hereditary relics, tsars' crowns and garments. This was
the first exhibition in arranging museum exposition.
In 1806, on order of Alexander I, Armoury was turned
into public museum and new building was erected for it
after the architect I.V. Yegotin's design near Trotsky
Gate in 1806-1810. National treasures were kept there,
until the mid-19th century, when the present building was
In 19th century, famous figures of Russian science and
culture, such as N.P. Kondakov. M.N. Zagoskin. A.F.Veltman,
S.M. Solovyov and G.D. Filimonov headed the Armoury and
worked there. The role and importance of the oldest
Russian museum as center of enlightenment was highly
At the beginning of 20th century, church relics
were passed to the museum from Kremlin cathedrals,
patriarch's vestry and also from abolished monasteries and
the country's reserves. In 1924, the first exhibition,
based on systematic approach to compiling collections, was
The present exhibition in Armoury, which embodies the
latest achievements of museum practice, was made in 1986,
after large-scale, modern restoration and repaid work was
carried out. Progressive engineering solutions, new
technology and materials were used to maximally expose the
original architectural design and color scheme of the
The exhibition opens up with the world's richest
collection of articles made by Russian goldsmiths and
silversmiths, in the first two halls on the second floor.
The techniques applied and proportions of the exhibits are
particularly interesting. The exhibition gives clear
impression on the main techniques, stylistic trends and
the development of national tradition over the period of 8
Articles on display bear witness to the flourishing of
crafts in pre-Mongolian Russia. They are the works of
Moscow silversmiths in 15-17th centuries, and that of
silversmiths of Novgorod, Solvychegodsk, towns of Volga
area, Moscow and St. Petersburg in 18-19th centuries, and
number of jewelry firms of 19-20th centuries.
Archeological exhibits of the period of great migration,
works of Byzantine and South Slav and Georgian art open up
Early Russian art was greatly influenced by Byzantium,
which maintained close ties with antique art traditions.
This influence could be felt in the first item of the
collection, which is silver jug, made in circa 400 AD in Constantinople.
Cloisonne (partitioned) enameling is considered to be
major achievement of Byzantine craftsmen, in the period of
flourishing art, 10-12th centuries. Small 11th-century,
called "Crucifixion", is fine example of this
kind of technique.
Collection of Byzantine cameos (gems carved in relief) is
one of the best in the world. Particularly interesting is
12th-century chrysoprase cameo of "Assumption of the
Virgin", which used to be set in Patriarch Joseph's
Previously hidden treasures give us an idea about jewelry
work in pre-Mongolian Russ. Armoury collection includes
finely executed articles, made by goldsmiths of that time.
Among them are pieces of women's jewelry, as head-dress
pendants, necklaces, rings and bracelets. Articles from
the famous hidden treasures, found in Ryazan, such as
golden necklaces and head-dress pendants could be referred
to as unique specimens of 12-13th centuries.
12th-century chalice, was made by the craftsmen of
Vladimir-Suzdal Russ, is magnificent example of
silverwork. The Chalice is connected with the name of Yuri
Dolgoruky, the legendary founder of Moscow.
last quarter of 15th century, under the rule of Ivan III,
was significant stage in the development of jewelry art in
Moscow. The best craftsmen made valuable church plate for
the newly built Kremlin cathedrals. Among the exhibit of
that time are the censer from the Cathedral of
Annunciation (1489), and two tabernacles from the
Cathedral of Assumption, called "Bolshoi"
(Great) and Maly (Small) Zions (1486), shaped as
single-domed cubic churches, which is typical of early
At the beginning of 16th century, Moscow became the
unifier of Russian lands. Skilled craftsmen from all over
Russia worked in Moscow Kremlin workshops, where they
created valuable articles used in palaces, at court
ceremonies and church services. Foreigners, also, worked
in Kremlin, side by side with Russians. Despite close
contact with foreign culture, the art of Russian craftsmen
retained its national features.
Moscow jewelers of 16th century reached high level of
perfection in the application of various techniques in
their work with precious metal and stones, particularly
the technique of engraving and niello work. A gold plate,
weighing 3 kg (1561), made by order of Tsar Ivan the
Terrible for Kabardinian Princess-Tsarina Maria
Tyemryukovna is distinguished by its exquisite simplicity
and classical perfection.
A gold censer, belonging to Tsarina Irina, wife of Fyodor
Ivanovich (1589) and a censor from Archangel Cathedral
(1589) are also wonderful. jewelry from the period of Ivan
the Terrible is represented by gold filigree enameled icon
encasements and luxurious gold cover for the manuscript of
the Book of Gospels (1571) from the Cathedral of
Annunciation. The cover is picked out in delicate filigree
with precious stones set into it in engraved casts.
and innovations were combined in 17th century and
foundations of secular culture were laid. Painting
developed simultaneously with decorative and applied art
and its main branch, gold and silverwork. Jewelry of that
time is extremely ornate and polychrome of enamels and
gem-stones is characteristic feature. Elements of the
daily life style also overlap into the themes of religious
Tendency toward polychrome is evident in the works of the
outstanding Moscow silversmith Gavrila Ovdokimov, for
example, the cover of the Book of Gospels (1632), donated
by Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov (1613-1645) to
Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery.
Roofs of the shrines of Prince Dmitry (from Archangel
Cathedral) and of St. Cyril of Belozersk, prominent
enlightener of Russian Middle Ages, were donated by boyar
F.I. Sheremetev to the Monastery of St. Cyril of Belozersk,
and are unique works of Old Russian metalworking art of
A chalice (1635) presented by Patriarch Nikon to Tsar
Alexi Michailovich is a real masterpiece of enameling. The
cover of the Book of Gospels was made in Moscow Kremlin
workshops in 1678 and it vividly demonstrates the
stylistic trends of decorative art from that period.
Gold and silverware were considered to be necessary
attribute of 17th century court life. It usually imitated
wooden and ceramic worlds. Richly decorated bratinas
(loving-cups) used to be passed around by people at the
table. They often bear the names of their owners and
didactic texts inscribed on the edge of the cups. Gold and
silver ladles were used for drinking red and white mead
and were also given as awards. Their exquisite shapes and
fine niello pattern rims with pearls and uncut gem-stones
make them particularly attractive. Gold ladles, which
belong to Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich, were used during
receptions at Facets Palace. Small ladles, wine cups,
goblets, glasses and plates for serving various dishes are
also of special interest.
and silverwork of 18-early 19th century
occupies central place in Armoury collection. By that time
secular trend was taking shape in Russian art, which
was, in fact, largely determined by radical economic and
political reforms, carried out by Peter I. Russia was
involved in the all-Europe art process. In 1712, St.
Petersburg became the capital of Russia. The best
craftsmen from West-European countries were invited to
build and decorate it. Gold and silversmiths were
transferred from Moscow and Kremlin to the new capital.
New style, Petrin baroque, was formed in Russian Art.
Jewelry was decorated with embossed, high relief
scallop-shells, scroll work and cartouches-border scenes;
acanthus leaves and tulip flowers were prevalent in floral
decoration. Snuff-boxes were usually decorated with enameled
miniatures of Peter I, which appeared at that time.
In 1740s-1760s, articles made from precious metals were
made in the style of rococo school, with cast and embossed
high-relief designs. In the third quarter of 18th century,
rococo style was replaced by classicism.
Large jewelry firms were established in Moscow and St.
Petersburg, such as Sazikov's (1793), Faberge's (1842),
Ovchinnikov's (1853), Grachev's (1856) and Khlebnikov's
(1860). Articles, made by these firms, are displayed in
next two halls are devoted to arms and Armour, made in
12-19th century. They house wonderful samples of Russian,
West European and Oriental combat arms and ceremonial and
hunting weapons, as well as armour and chain mail to
protect the rider and his horse. They were connected with
tsarist court life and the establishment and development
of Russian statehood and are characterized by the
combination of European and Oriental techniques in
Works by armoires from Holland, Germany, Britain, Italy,
France, Iran, Turkey are shown as well as Russian arms;
and also the biggest collection of West-European
silverwork of 13-19th century. Foreign states' diplomatic
gifts to the royal family make up the basis of the unique
collection. It vividly demonstrates the history of
Russia's political ties and trade relations with other
countries. It also acquaints the visitors with all the
main stylistic trends in silverwork from Gothic to Empire.
Works reflect the high level of proficiency of goldsmiths
from Britain, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Poland , Sweden
Collection of regalia and articles of royal court
ceremonies of 13-19th century, collection of tsar's
thrones, tsar's carriages, valuable fabrics, old Russian
secular and religious dress, gala costumes of 18-20th
century, political and ornamental embroideries and
jewelers are also displayed in this museum.