The Tsar Cannon (Moscow, Russia)

The Tsar Cannon

The Tsar Cannon is a large artillery piece on the grounds of the Kremlin in Moscow. A monument to the art of Russian artillery casting, the giant bronze was produced by Andrey Chokhov, a master craftsman in 1586. It is more than five meters long, weighs 39 tons, has a  890 millimeter caliber, and it was produced in 1586.  Cast at the Moscow Cannon Foundary. The Tsar Cannon is made of bronze; it weighs 39.312 tonnes and has a length of 5.34 m (17.5 ft). Its bronze-cast barrel has an internal diameter of 890 mm (35.0 in), and an external diameter of 1,200 mm (47.2 in).

There are two cast labels with script on the top of the barrel, one on the left and one on the right. The right reads “The decree of the faithful and Christ-king and the Grand Duke Fyodor Ivanovich, Sovereign Autocrat of all Great Russia with his pious and god-blessed queen, Grand Princess Irina”. The label on the left is much shorter and only reads “Cast in the city of Moscow in the summer of year 7904(c. 1585 in Gregorian calendar), in his third summer state, by Andrey Chokov.”

The barrel of the cannon is decorated with figurative reliefs and a portrait of Tsar Fedor Ioanovich on horseback. It also has eight cast rectangular brackets for use in transport, and is mounted on a decorated cast iron three-wheeled carriage. Since 1960 it has stood on the gun-carriage in Ivanovskaya Square surrounded by vast cast-iron cannon balls, each of which weighs about a thousand kilos. The cannon balls are only for show and there is no way that they would or could actually be fired. And while it was originally intended as a functional weapon, the Tsar Cannon has never been called upon to serve during a military action. Though it was never used in battle, it does bear traces of having been fired at least once.

Tsar Cannon Facts

  • Each of the cast iron cannon balls weighs about a thousand kilos.
  • The message “The grace of God, Tsar and Great Duke Fyodor Ivanovich, Autocrat of all All Russia” was cast just above the front right bracket.
  • The gun carriage was added in 1835 serves no other purpose than decoration. It was never the intention that the cannon would be fired from this carriage.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is the largest bombard by caliber in the world.
  • The Tsar Cannon is a unique item of the Kremlin’s artillery collection.
  • The cannonballs are decorative since the cannon would have fired lots of small balls much like a shotgun.
  • The Tsar Cannon along with its base and cannonballs were renovated in the 1970s.

Visiting the Tsar Cannon

  • The Tsar Cannon is located just past the Kremlin Armory, and faces the Kremlin Senate. It is to the west side of Ivanovskaya Square, between the ‘Ivan the Great’ Bell Tower and the Twelve Apostles’ Church.
  • The cannon is one of the more popular destination on the grounds for photos so it may take a while to snap a picture without dozens of other tourists.
  • Like all things at The Kremlin, the Tsar Cannon is guarded by military personnel. They are not mall cops! They take their job seriously.
  • The Tsar Cannon is 82 meters southeast from the Tsar Bell.  You do yourself a disservice by not seeing both.