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Spasskaya Tower with a clock is the official entry point to the Kremlin. It was constructed after the design of the Italian architect Pietro Antonio Solario in 1491. In XVII century an 8-faceted spire was added to it. In the middle of the XVII century a double-headed eagle was added to the top of the spire.
The name of the tower is due to the image of the Saviour (Spas) above its gate. The holy image and the gate itself were an object of worship in the past: nobody dared to go through the gate on horseback, and people who were walking, were supposed to take off their hats in front of the holy image which had a special oil lamp always burning in front of it (this tradition was going on till the XIX century). Violators of this tradition were made to kneel and to bow 50 times touching earth with their forehead every time. This gate was the starting point for the armies departing to wars, as well as a for religious processions. Russian tsars entered the Kremlin through Spasskiye gates for the coronation ceremony.
According to the legend, the wind blew off Napoleon's tricorne hat from his head as he was riding through Spasskiye gates on horseback. Before retreating from Moscow with his army Napoleon was planning to blow up the tower, but a group of Don cossacks managed to put out the fire on the explosives.
There were chapels on both sides of the Spasskiye gates where the priests' duty was to look after the lamp above the gate. Both chapels were destroyed by the bolshevicks in 1925.
The nowadays clock with 4 faces appeared on the tower in the middle of the XIХ century to replace the clock of the XVIII century that Peter I had brought from Holland. The first clock appeared on the tower in the XVII century. It was smaller, and its face was painted with images of the sun and the sky full of stars, and it had only hour hand.
The four faces of the nowadays clock are 6,12 m in diameter. The circumference and the clock hands are plated with pure gold. Roman numbers are 72 cm high, the minute hands are 3,27 m long, and the hour hands are 2,97 m long. The Small Chimes strike every 15 minuted, and the Big Chimes strike every hour.
At 3.00 pm and at 3.00 am the clock of the Spasskaya tower plays the anthem of Russia.
In the XVII century the clock looked differently: the face of the clock had images of the sun and the sky full of stars, and there was only one hand that showed hours.
Since 1770 the clock not only chimed the time, but also played a melody called «Oh my dear Augustin ...» (empress Catherine II liked that melody very much) and in the XIХ century it played various marches and hymns.
In 1917 the clock was damaged by a bullet fired by the bolsheviks who were assaulting the Kremlin that was protected by military cadets. In 1918 the clock was repaired and set to play «The Internationale».
The mechanism that controls the four faces of the clock weights 25 tons. Correct work of the clock is ensured by a powerful magnet, and by a special system of weights and counterweights. In the past the mechanism was launched manually, and since 1937 it is launched by three electric engines.