Built for Patriarch Nikon mostly in the mid-17th century, the highlight of the Patriarch’s Palace is perhaps the ceremonial Cross Hall (Крестовая палата), where the tsar’s and ambassadorial feasts were held. From here you can access the five-domed Church of the Twelve Apostles (Церковь двенадцати апостолов), which has a gilded, wooden iconostasis and a collection of icons by leading 17th-century icon painters.
In its heyday, the palace was a busy place. Apart from the Patriarch’s living quarters, it had huge kitchens, warehouses and cellars stocked with food, workshops, a school for high-born children, offices for scribes, dormitories for those waiting to be baptised, stables and carriage houses. The palace now contains an exhibit of 17th-century household items, including jewellery, hunting equipment and furniture. It often holds special exhibits, which can be visited individually, without access to the other buildings on Sobornaya pl.