On the eastern side of Cathedral Square stands the magnificent Ivan the Great Belltower, which, at a height of 81 metres, was the tallest building in all Russia for almost 400 years. It was the work of an Italian, Marco Bono, who was ordered by Ivan the Great to design a belltower for the Archangel, Assumption and Annunciation Cathedrals next to the 1329 Church of St. John Climacus-under-the Bells.
Between 1532 and 1543, architect Petrok Maliy built the four-storey Assumption Belfry, which stands next to the tower and houses the 64-ton Resurrection Bell, cast in the 19th Century. In 1624, the tent-roofed Filaret Tower was added.
In 1812, Napoleon's soldiers tore down many of the buildings of the Kremlin, and attempted to blow up the bell tower. Thankfully they failed, although the belfry and the Filaret Tower were badly damaged. They were restored in 1819 by the architect D.I. Gilardi.
There are 21 bells in the tower and belfry, of which the Assumption Bell, located in the central arch of the belfry, is the largest at 70 tons. It was always the first bell to ring on church holidays, a signal that started all the other church bells in Moscow. In 1918 the last Easter service in the Kremlin took place, and the bells of Ivan the Great did not ring again until 1992.
Wide scale restoration work was carried out in the 1950s, and an exhibition hall was created on the ground floor, which is still used for various temporary exhibitions.