The complex of Patriarch Palace and the Church of Twelve Apostles were the Patriarch Nikon’s ambition and desire to rival the tsar in terms of wealth and authority in the middle of the 17th century. Even though there was the metropolitan residence inside Kremlin and it had been there since the 14th century, the patriarch of Moscow and All Russ commissioned the Kremlin architects in 1653 to replace the existed structure with a more luxurious and magnificent palace. The palace and the church were two separate structures with a link that appeared like a complex of palace and church which located at the Cathedral Square. There are several magnificent structures around the Cathedral Square including the Dormition Cathedral, the Cathedral of Annunciation, the Cathedral of Archangel, the Ivan Bell Tower, and the Terem Palace, but the Church of Twelve Apostles still shines on the Cathedral Square nevertheless. Unlike the Church of the Deposition of the Robe, one can notice the tops of the Church of Twelve Apostles outside the Kremlin’s walls.
We can consider this church as one perfect example of the 17th century Moscow’s architecture. The three-story building stands on a high podium so it wouldn’t look shorter than its neighboring cathedrals. There are also two arch-entry under the structure which connects the courtyard and the Cathedral Square. The architects of this structure applied two sets of columns to adorn the exterior of the building. The five helmeted domes of the cathedral were the patriarch personal desire to honors both the Byzantine church traditions and follow the Vladimir-Suzdal’s 12th-century churches.
The Patriarch Palace and the Church of Twelve Apostles are two separate buildings as we mentioned, but since the beginning, they recognized as one complex rather than two individual. The Patriarch Palace had three floors and each one of them had their different purpose. The ground floor was mostly for the housekeeping staff and the kitchen, the second floor was the ceremonial hall, and the third floor was the patriarch personal office. As of today, the most likable part of the palace is the second floor where Patriarch held his feasts and formal ceremonies for the tsar and other significant people of the government. The ceremony hall designed as a cross and was also known as the Chrism Room. The 280m2 secluded ceiling of the hall with no column is one of the architectural charms of the place even today.
The Church of Twelve Apostles originally built as the patriarch personal church, and that's why it had an internal connection to the palace. One who enters the church will quickly notice the astonishing frescos of the 17th century. Besides the frescos, there are also a five-layer iconostasis and a 12th-century painting of Saint Peter and Saint Paul inside the church. The iconostasis was brought to the church from the Voznesensky Monastery which does not exist anymore.
Unfortunately, during the October Revolution and the civil war afterward, the buildings inside the Kremlin complex including the Church of Twelve Apostles damaged severely and a complete renovation was required, after the war. The entire exterior of the church and the palace were marked with the bullets of the Red and the White armies, but the interior didn’t need as much repair as the surface. When the war ended, the entire Kremlin complex went under restoration to become a large museum complex. The interior of the Patriarch Palace and the Twelve Apostles Church kept untouched so it can turn to the museum of applied art of the 17th century of Russia.
The church and the palace, just like other structures inside the Kremlin complex operated under the State Kremlin Museum administration to hold the museum exhibitions. One of the permanent exhibitions of the church was the museum of applied art of the 17th century of Russia. The exhibits inside this display were all from the church and the palace including the icons, the frescos, the staff clothes, the patriarch expensive clothes, the boilers which were one of the required tools to make holy oil of the Orthodox Church, the jewels and treasures that belonged to the church, and furniture of the Patriarch Palace.
In a trip to Moscow, touring Red Square and the Kremlin Complex is one of the essentials of the journey. We recommend anyone who joins in for a tour to Moscow to visit the more modest parts of the Kremlin complex, as well as the popular ones since each one of them are valuable alone and beside others. If you enjoyed visiting the cathedrals inside the Kremlin complex, make sure to visit the Red Square’s cathedral as well such as the St. Basil’s Cathedral at the south side, and the Kazan Cathedral which locates beside the resurrection gate.