Place of Skulls
Tradition links the Place of Skulls with the deliverance of Moscow from the invasion by the Tatars in 1521. Chronicles first mention it in 1549, when the 20-year-old Tsar Ivan the Terrible gave a speech to the people from the Place of Skulls, calling for reconciliation among warring boyars.
The Place of Skulls that is made of stone with cast-iron gates was built under Boris Godunov. Before the capital was moved to St. Petersburg, the Place of Skulls was the main public and political tribune in Moscow. The Tsar’s decrees and important state documents were proclaimed here, and the relics of saints were placed here for everyone to see. Legend has it that under Vasily Shuysky, people healed themselves with the miraculous relics of Tsarevich Dmitry, who died in Uglich.
“Place of Skulls” is a translation of the Hebrew word “Golgotha”. Contrary to popular opinion, executions were not held in the Place of Skulls. Unruly boyars, the rebellious Streltsy and Stepan Razin were executed at some distance from the Place of Skulls, which was considered holy.
In the 18th century, the Place of Skulls was moved slightly to the east and rebuilt according to the project of Matvey Kazakov.
In 1 May 1919, in accordance with Lenin’s plan of monumental propaganda, a coloured wooden statue of Stepan Razin with his “gang” was unveiled here, which was later taken down.