Corner Arsenalnaya Tower, Moscow

Corner Arsenalnaya Tower in Moscow is one of 20 Kremlin towers which defines one of Russia’s most renowned sites. Although the tower is known for forming the northern corner of the Moscow Kremlin, this battlement also owns a history uniquely its own.

Сorner Arsenal Tower (Сorner Arsenalnaya Tower) was constructed in 1492 by Italian architect Pietro Antonio Solari. Reaching a height of just over 60 meters, it was originally called Sobakin Tower in honor of the Sobakin family, a clan of nobility who lived nearby. It joined a growing list of Moscow Kremlin towers, including Senatskaya Tower (1491), Spasskaya Tower, (a.k.a Moscow Clock Tower,1491) and Troitskaya Tower (1499).

The walls of Corner Arsenalnaya Tower are four meters thick and built with an extended base and deep foundation for added stability. Originally, the tower could only be scaled using a special retractable ladder. An underground well, estimated to be 500 years old, served as an emergency water source in the event of a siege. In 1894, an attempt to drain the well by pumping out the water proved unsuccessful, as the water would automatically refill. Consequently, the well has been preserved to this day.

Secret corridors also ran beneath the tower, connecting it with a nearby underground river. They remained in use as late as the 18th century, yet now these passages have long been blocked and sealed. Nevertheless, the reality of their existence still evokes the imagination of history sleuths and conspiracy theorists, who speculate on the presence of secret dungeons beneath the fortification.

By the end of the 15th century, the Kremlin had grown dilapidated, requiring large-scale reconstruction efforts. The fortress was significantly expanded and Sobakin Tower further equipped to fulfill its original defensive function. In 1680, the Kremlin was again enlarged with the addition of Tsarskaya Tower, the last of the complex’s 20 turrets. After the Kremlin Arsenal was constructed near Sobakin Tower in 1702, the fortification acquired its current name, Corner Arsenalnaya Tower.

Inventories of the tower dating to the latter half of the 17th century attest to its sturdy construction. It required few repairs, and even the restoration work that was carried out around this time was aimed more at improving its appearance than at strengthening its defensive capabilities.

During the Patriotic War of 1812, the Kremlin was targeted in a massive explosion. The blast damaged all of the Kremlin walls and towers, including Corner Arsenalnaya Tower, whose walls were badly cracked and observation tower demolished. When the Russians regained control of Moscow after the war, massive repair efforts were undertaken to restore the Moscow Kremlin to its original glory. In 1894, the tower was repaired and the interior redesigned in order to house provincial archives.

Corner Arsenalnaya Tower managed to come out unscathed from both the 1917 Bolshevik Uprising and World War II. In 2015, large-scale renovations were undertaken on the tower, at which time the weathervane was updated and the walls, long damaged from prior centuries, were fortified.

Today, the durable Corner Arsenalnaya Tower in Moscow continues to stand as a symbol of the indomitable power of the Russian spirit.