Bolshoi kamenny most (Bridge)
The first Bolshoi Kammeny Most (Greater Stone Bridge) across the Moskva River was built in the late 17th century, when the threat of raids on Moscow’s southern reaches, protected by the single natural barrier — the river — abated. Yet, the population of Zamoskvorechye was growing, and fords, pontoon bridges mentioned by the Patriarch Macarius of Antioch in his Journey to Russia in the Mid—17th Century, and the wooden bridges of the time were simply unable to accommodate the residents’ needs any longer. Stronger structures were necessary.
In 1643, under orders from Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich, stonemason Jogann Cristler was invited from Strasbourg. Construction continued for nearly half a century, and it is presumed to have been completed by the monk (starets) Filaret. The new bridge, measuring 170 meters long and 24 meters wide, with two spans each of 15 meters, was dubbed Vsesvyatsky after the gates to the Bely Gorod (White City) fort to which it led.
The bridge’s roadway features a convex longitudinal profile. Much like Roman aqueducts, stone arches were semicircular. At its southern end, the bridge terminated in a building constructed as chambers with six gates at its bottom, which were guarded and closed for the night. This tower, trimmed ornately with white stone carvings and tiles, culminated in two tent-roof towers with open arcades around them. This was actually the first stone triumphal arch in Russia.
The massive structure given the name of the Greater Stone Bridge (Moscow already had two other smaller stone bridges) soon became a point of interest for Muscovites, who gave it the additional nicknames of Bersenevsky or Nikolayevsky Bridge. The bridge was lined with stone and wooden stands, always an attraction for crowds. In the late 18th century, however, all the stalls were removed. Each year, the bridge carried religious processions from the Kremlin’s Assumption Cathedral to the Donskoi Monastery. During seasonal floods or ice breakup the bridge acted as a public promenade, resembling a tribune overlooking races on ice. In 1696, while the city was gearing up to greet the victorious Russian troops returning from Azov, picturesque scenery depicting the heroic battle on land and sea was erected on Vsesvyatsky Bridge. Some 80 years later, Yemelyan Pugachev was led across the bridge to his place of execution.
The bridge remained in place for nearly two centuries, until 1859, when it was decided to replace it with a more modern and reliable three-span bridge made of metal and resting on new stone abutments, which still retained the name Greater Stone Bridge.
The one-span Greater Stone Bridge as it appears today (design by architects Vladimir Shchuko, Vladimir Gelfreikh, Mikhail Minkus and engineer Nikolai Kalmykov) was built in 1938 mostly of steel, and it is nearly four times as long and twice as wide as the old one. The bank abutments are clad in rough hewn gray granite slabs. The lattice in the spans over the roadway features patterns of sheaves and sickles, and the reliefs depicting an obelisk that stood in front of the Moscow City Council (Mossovet) building in 1918—1941 are used in the bridge ornament.
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