Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tsar Cannon

The Tsar Cannon is a large, 5.94 metres (19.5 ft) long cannon on display on the grounds of the Moscow Kremlin. It was cast in 1586 in Moscow, by the Russian master bronze caster Andrey Chokhov. Mostly of symbolic impact, it was never used in a war. However the cannon bears traces of at least one firing. Per the Guinness Book of Records it is the largest bombard by caliber in the world, and it is a major tourist attraction in the ensemble of the Moscow Kremlin.

By the 16th century, bronze casting technology in the Tsardom of Russia was advanced enough to create many artillery pieces noted for their large caliber and rich ornamentation. Artillery was extensively used in the Conquest of Kazan and in numerous other battles. The exact reason why the Tsar Cannon was cast is unknown. The master bronze-caster Andrey Chokhov is known to have resided near today's Lubyanka Square from 1568-1629.

The Tsar Cannon was placed at several points around Moscow in its history. It is known to have been mounted on a special frame with a fixed inclination angle in Red Square near the Place of Skulls in order to protect the eastern approaches to the Kremlin, indicating that it originally did have a practical application. However, by 1706, it was moved to the Kremlin Arsenal and mounted on a wooden gun carriage. It was not used during the French invasion of Russia, although Napoleon Bonaparte considered removing it to France as a war trophy. The wooden gun carriage burnt in the fire that consumed Moscow in 1812, and was replaced in 1835 by the present metal carriage.
In 1860, the Tsar Cannon was moved to its current location on Ivanovskaya Square near the Tsar Bell, which is similarly massive and is the largest bell in the world (but which has never been rung).
The cannon was last restored in 1980. It was thoroughly studied at that time and gunpowder residue was found, indicating that the cannon had been fired at least once.

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