A bell in exile
glich church bell suffered the same fate as any rebel: one of its ears (a handle) was cut off and its tongue (the clapper) cut out, for seditious speeches. It was publicly flogged alongside other troublemakers (human ones) and then exiled to Siberia. Its crime? Ringing in mourning for the death of tsarevich Dmitry on 25 May 1591. Regent Boris Godunov, whose iron hand did not discriminate between humans and objects, deemed its ringing to be a call to uprising.
Uglich forms part of the Russian Golden Ring, an area comprising a score of the most important cities of the Middle Ages, such as Plios and Rostov. These medieval towns, which surround Moscow, conserve beautiful convents, monasteries and churches that form part of Russian history.
Certainly, the death of the youngest child of Ivan the Terrible unleashed this rebellion, officially known in subsequent years as the Time of Troubles. Some believed he had been murdered and took up arms, though witnesses claimed he had stabbed a knife into his neck during an epileptic fit. On the spot where his body was found, the Church of St Demetrios on the Blood was erected. It is currently one of the main pilgrimage destinations for Russian orthodox Christians. When the Romanov dynasty came to power in 1613, ending the Time of Troubles, the young tsarevich was declared a martyr and a church was ordered to be built in his memory.
St Demetrios on the Blood is in Uglich Kremlin, a citadel built in the traditional Russian style, with vivid colours and the onion-shaped domes associated with orthodox churches. One of the buildings in this complex was the basis for 1713 construction of Transfiguration Cathedral. This curious temple has contrasting styles: its traditional Russian exterior houses frescoes that would be more fitting to the Italian Renaissance.
On the other side of the Volga, the Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist was commissioned by a merchant whose son had drowned at that point of the river as it curves around the city. Over the years, many other churches have been built, most notably the Resurrection Cathedral and Church of the Assumption. Their colourful domes give Uglich an entirely original skyline.
Numerous buildings in the Uglich Kremlin are currently used as museums of Russian customs and history. The Palace of the Prince, former home to the son of the tsar, became a museum after his death. The Museum of Myths and Superstitions of the Russian People explores the nation’s best-known legends and stories, as well as bringing together regional celebrations and traditions. At the Museum of the History of Russian Vodka, you can discover the art of manufacturing this spirit and admire old bottles. The 19th-century Childhood Museum conserves toys from the pre-revolution period, including several belonging to the little tsarevich, who played blissfully unaware of what his tragic death would lead to.
The bell, by the way, was returned to its home following a long exile, and now receives curious visitors