One of the largest cannons ever made, the Tsar Cannon, is placed on Ivanovskaya Square, in front of the Church of Twelve Apostles. Together with the Tsar Bell that is situated nearby they represent unique examples of 16th Russian foundry work.
The cannon was cast by Andrei Chokhov, talented Russian master. He started as a caster in Ivan Grozny's court, and later headed the school of casting art at the Moscow Cannon Yard, where at all he had worked for 60 years. He had cast many guns and bells and won recognition as the best caster of Moscow. That's why in 1568 it was he who received the order of tsar Fyodor Ivanovich to cast the giant bronze weapon.
Even nowadays the dimensions of the cannon are just stunning. The 5,5 meters long cannon weighs nearly 40 tons and has a barrel 5.34 meters long with a caliber of 890 mm. This giant weapon could shoot with stone balls that weight 800 kg each. Although Andrei Chokhov himself called his creation a cannon, as the inscription moulded on the barrel states, this weapon was often called "Russian shot-gun", while to fire it a case-shot was used.
The barrel is richly decorated with reliefs, ornaments and inscriptions. To the right there is a depiction of tsar Fyodor Ivanovich, riding a horse and holding a scepter, and an inscription "By divine mercy Grand Duke and Czar of all Russia Fyodor Ivanovich". The chassis decorates an allegoric scene, presenting a fierce Russian lion devastates a snake symbolizing Russia's enemies.
The cannon was placed on Red Square in front of the Spasky (Savior) Gate to defend the Kremlin and the Moscow-River. In 1591 when the troops of Kaza-Girei were approaching Moscow, the Tsar Cannon was positioned at Kitai-Gorod, but it hadn't been fired.
In the 18th century the cannon was moved to Kremlin and situated in the yard of the Arsenal, where Peter the Great planned to create a depository of Russian and foreign weapons. Then together with another big cannon it was moved to the main gate.
In 1812, when the French army retreated from Moscow, the biggest part of the Arsenal was blown up. The Tsar Cannon was done no harm, but the wooden gun-carriages, it and another weapons standing in the yard of the Arsenal, were burnt down.
In 1835 the cannons were placed on the decorative cast-iron gun carriages that had been made in Saint Petersburg to the design of A.P. Brullov. The hollow cannon balls lying in front of the canon were cast at the same time. Although they are merely decorative, they weigh a ton each.
In 1843 the Tsar Cannon once again changed its place - the Tsar Cannon and other ancient Russian weapons were arranged along the facade of the State Armory, where different antiquities were kept, and all the captured guns were left in front of the Arsenal.
In 1960 the old building of the State Armory was demolished, as the place was needed desperately to erect the Kremlin Congress Palace, and the cannon was moved back to the Arsenal. Later the Tsar Cannon was assigned a place on Ivanovskaya Square where it stands today.
It is surprisingly enough that for 400 years of its existence this redoubtable weapon has not killed a man, moreover it has never been fired at all. It is really miraculous, as the cannon was cast as a battle weapon. Nevertheless, the Tsar Cannon stays merely a unique monument of the 16th century defense technology and the largest cannon in the world.