The Cannon And The Bell: The Tsars of Moscow Kremlin

Cannons and bells have always had a special relationship. They are made from the same metals and often in the same factory. Throughout history, bells have been melted to make cannons during times of war, and cannons have been melted to make bells during times of peace. It is not surprising, hence, that the biggest specimens of both share the same grounds of the Moscow Kremlin, lying less than a hundred meters from each other.

The Tsar Cannon
The Tsar Cannon is a 40-ton behemoth with a caliber of 890 mm, considered to be largest in the world. It was built in 1586, by master bronze craftsman Andrei Chekov at the behest of Tsar Theodore I, the son of Ivan the Terrible. Unfortunately, the cannon was too large to have any practical purpose as firing a solid cannonball from its barrel would have caused it to wreck. For a long time, it was thought that the canon was never used but late 20th century analysis revealed that it had been fired at least once, possibly a grapeshot rather than a cannonball.
Perhaps, the Tsar Cannon was built mostly as a show of power rather than actual military use. In those days, Russian cannon masters had a reputation as among the world’s best. They devised models of weapons that had no parallel in the West. Russian gunsmiths were the first to add grooves to the interior walls of barrels, long before spiraled rifling appeared in the 19th century. Oblong shells, fixed front and rear sights, and breech loading systems are all innovations by Russian cannon masters. The Russian army also maintained one of the largest artillery arsenals in Europe.

The cannon originally stood in Red Square for more than a century, before it was moved to the Kremlin. Today, it stands mounted on a gun carriage and, for added effect, several large cannon balls are placed under its muzzle.