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Moscow Monasteries
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Saint Basil's Cathedral

The Intercession Cathedral (better known as the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed or St. Basil's Cathedral) is a multi-tented church on the Red Square in Moscow traditionally perceived as symbolic of the unique position of Russia between Europe and Asia.

The cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible and built between 1555 and 1561 in Moscow to commemorate the capture of Khanate of Kazan. In 1588 Tsar Fedor Ivanovich had a chapel added on the eastern side above the grave of Basil Fool for Christ (yurodivy Vassily Blazhenny), a Russian Orthodox saint after whom the cathedral was popularly named.

Saint Basil's is located at one end of Red Square, just across from the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin. Not particularly large, it consists of nine chapels built on a single foundation. The cathedral's design follows that of contemporary tented churches, notably those of Ascension in Kolomenskoye and of St John the Baptist's Decapitation in Dyakovo

Saint Basil's Cathedral should never be confused with the Moscow Kremlin, which is situated right next to it on Red Square. It is not at all a part of the Moscow Kremlin. Saint Basil's is located at the southeast end of Red Square, just across from the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin. Not particularly large, it consists of nine chapels built on a single foundation. Saint Basil's Cathedral is the most recognizable symbol of Russia. Its colorful onion domes are instantly recognizable around the world as emblems of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church. The church is actually the Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God, known as "Theotokos" or "Bogoroditsa" in the Orthodox Church.

But most know it as Saint Basil's Cathedral, named after the man who roamed the streets of Moscow trying to win converts during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Cannonized after his death, Basil the Blessed died the same year (1552) that many of the Mongol Khannates were captured. Basil had opposed the cruelties of Ivan, and was well-known for his fearless denounciation of the Tsar. When, after Ivan's death, his chapel was built onto the cathedral, the name of the chapel gradually came to be applied to the whole cathedral.

The cathedral is built of stone and brick covered with stucco in traditional Russian style with eight colorful onion domed chapels surrounding a central tent-roofed structure. The transition from the square sub-structure to the main octagonal tower is accomplished by recessive interspaced tiers of ornate kokoshniki. The eight chapels symbolize the eight assaults on Kazan, and are dedicated to religious festivals and saints on whose feast days the Russian army acheived major victories in the Kazan campaign. The interior, open to the public, has undergone much reconstruction. It was a branch of the Historical museum, but was returned to the Orthodox church for the Easter festivities of 1991.

Donskoy Monastery

Donskoy Monastery is a major male monastery in Moscow, founded in 1591 in commemoration of Moscow's deliverance from an imminent threat of Khan Kazy-Girey?fs invasion. Commanding a highway to the Crimea, the monastery was intended to defend southern approaches to the Moscow Kremlin

The monastery was built on the spot where Boris Godunov's mobile fortress and Sergii Radonezhsky's field church with Feofan Grek's icon Our Lady of the Don had been located. The legend has it that Dmitry Donskoy had taken this icon with him to the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. The Tatars left without a fight and were defeated during their retreat.

When the monastery was established, Boris Godunov personally laid the foundation stone of its cathedral, consecrated in 1593 to the holy image of Our Lady of the Don. This dimunitive structure, quite typical for Godunov's reign, has a single dome crowning three tiers of zakomara. In the 1670s, they added two symmetrical annexes, and a refectory leading to a tented bell tower. Its iconostasis, executed in 1662, formerly adorned one of Moscow churches demolished by the Communists. From 1930 to 1946, the cathedral was closed for services and housed a factory.

Zaikonospassky Monastery

The Zaikonospassky monastery is a male monastery in Kitai-gorod, Moscow, just one block away from the Kremlin. It was founded in 1600 by Boris Godunov. At first called "Saviour the Old", the cloister gradually acquired its present quaint name which alludes to its location and means "the Saviour behind the icon shops". Between the late 17th - early 19th centuries, the Zaikonospassky monastery was one of the enlightenment centers of Russia. In 1687-1814, it was home to the first Russian high school, called the Slavic Greek Latin Academy. Today's architectural ensemble includes the Saviour Cathedral (originally constructed in 1660-1661; rebuilt in 1717-1720 and 1742), several 17th-century chambers and former school building (1822). The Zaikonospassky monastery was closed after the October Revolution and later reopened as an institute of archives. There is a memorial plaque in honor of Mikhail Lomonosov, who was once a student at this cloister.

Simonov Monastery

Simonov monastery in Moscow was established in 1370 by monk Feodor, a nephew and disciple of St Sergius of Radonezh. The monastery land formerly belonged to Simeon Khovrin, a boyar of Greek extraction and progenitor of the great clan of Golovins. He took monastic vows in the cloister under the name Simon (hence the name); many of his descendants are also buried there. In 1379, the monastery was moved half a mile to the east. Its original location, where bodies of the warriors killed in the Battle of Kulikovo had been buried, is still commemorated by the old Simonov church.

During the 15th century, the cloister was the richest in Moscow. Among the learned monks who lived and worked there were Vassian Patrikeyev and Maksim Grek. A white stone cathedral was erected in 1405; it was later enlarged by order of Ivan the Terrible. As the monastery defended southern approaches to Moscow, it was heavily fortified in the 1640s. The last addition to the complex was a huge multi-storied bell-tower, modelled after Ivan the Great Bell Tower of Moscow Kremlin.

The monastery was abolished by the Bolsheviks in 1923, and soon thereafter most of its buildings were demolished to make way for an automobile plant. Surviving structures all date back to the 17th century and include three towers of cannon-like appearance and auxiliary buildings in the Naryshkin baroque style. Recently the Moscow government announced plans for a full-scale reconstruction of the famous cloister.

Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery

Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery is the southernmost historical monastery of Moscow. It is dedicated to Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Worker. The cloister was first mentioned in the city records in 1623, although it is believed that it had existed for more than a century prior to that. Its name (from the Russian verb "to interrupt") is explained by the fact that the Moskva River has repeatedly changed its flow at this place. The abbey began to expand in the mid-17th century and grew especially large at the turn of the century, when Patriarch Adrian made the cloister his summer residence and built the so-called Old Cathedral (1696-1700). In 1775, they opened a theological seminary on the premises of the monastery. Its main sources of income were Sukharev Tower, Iverskaya Chapel and other sketes, attached to it by the ecclesiastic authorities. In 1908, the vast New Cathedral was consecrated to the Holy Icon Our Lady of Iberia. The cloister was closed down in the 1920s. They resumed divine service in the Old Cathedral in 1991.

Novospassky Monastery

Novospassky monastery (New monastery of the Saviour) is one of the fortified monasteries surrounding Moscow from south-east. It was founded in the 14th century at the Saviour Church of the Moscow Kremlin. Upon its removal to the left bank of the Moskva River in 1491, the abbey was renamed "the New Saviour", to distinguish it from the original cloister in the Kremlin. The monastery was patronized by the Sheremetyev and Romanov boyars as a family sepulchre. In 1571 and 1591, the wooden citadel withstood repeated attacks of Crimean Tatars. Upon the Romanovs' ascension to the Russian throne, they completely rebuilt their family abbey in the 1640s. Apart from the 18th-century bell-tower and the Sheremetev sepulchre in the church of the Sign, all other buildings date from that period. They include the large Saviour Cathedral (1645-49) with frescoes by the best 17th-century painters, the Intercession church at the refectory, the House of Loaf-Giving, a hospital, private rooms for the monks, and the house of Patriarch Filaret. During the Soviet years, the monastery was converted into a prison, then into a police drunk tank. In the 1970s it was assigned to an art restoration institute, and finally returned to the Russian Orthodox church in the 1990s

Marfo-Mariinsky Convent

Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, or Marfo-Mariinsky Convent of Mercy in the Possession of Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Feodorovna is a female monastery in Moscow. The convent was founded in 1908 by Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Feodorovna (sister of the last Russian Empress) to assist sick, wounded, and maimed soldiers in their recovery. In 1908-12, Aleksey Shchusev designed the church of Sts Marfa and Maria and the Intercession Cathedral, both structures being Art Nouveau renderings of a medieval Novgorod type. The cathedral's snow-white walls are adorned with carved crosses by Sergey Konenkov. The interior contains frescoes and mosaics by Mikhail Nesterov and Pavel Korin. Both churches of the convent were closed down in 1926. In 1990, they erected a monument to Yelizaveta Feodorovna, who was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1992, divine service was resumed in the Church of Marfa and Maria.


Krutitsy is a former ecclesiastical estate and monastery, situated on the steep left bank of the Moskva River, in the south-east of present-day Moscow. Its name may be translated to English as "the Steep Banks". From 1454 to 1738, it was a residence of the Krutitsy bishops. After the Mongol invasion of Russia some Orthodox priests, both Greek and Russian, briefly entertained an idea of converting the Mongols to Christianity. The Mongols were quite tolerant to the Russian Orthodox church, and it has been speculated that Genghis Khan's mother was a Nestorian. In 1261, they established a bishopric with a seat in Saray, the capital of the Golden Horde. These bishops without congregation resided there for two centuries and styled themselves the "bishops of Tsar's and the Don". In 1454, when the Golden Horde had disintegrated into several warring principalities, the bishop moved his seat to Krutitsy near Moscow. In 1589, the bishops of Krutitsy were elevated to the metropolitan rank. They were made responsible for numerous parishes situated along the Lower Volga and Don rivers. By the late 17th century, the metropolitan of Krutitsy controlled about 1,000 churches. In 1738, this bishopric was merged with that of Moscow. Outer walls of Krutitsy metochion. Deserted since that time, the metropolitan's residence in Krutitsy has come down to us as an island of old Russian architecture at the heart of Moscow. The complex was originally centered on the Assumption Cathedral, built in 1460s and reconstructed in 1516. In 1675, the metropolitan had it rebuilt into a cross-vaulted chamber, which functioned as his reception hall. When the bishopric was demolished, the chamber was again turned into a church. Nearby stands the new Assumption cathedral, consecrated in 1683 and housing the metropolitans' burial vault. The most noteworthy structure of Krutitsy is the Holy Gate, designed by Osip Startsev and elaborately decorated with colored tiles. This barbican structure is considered a gem of the Muscovite baroque style which was all the vogue in the 1690s. It leads to a metochion garden, of which little remains now. In the imperial period of Russian history, Krutitsy was intermittently used as a political prison. Its buildings remember such tenants as the Archpriest Avvakum and the Russian political writer Alexander Herzen. In 1920, the bishopric of Krutitsy was restored, but the metropolitan had to reside elsewhere. In 1947, the bishopric of Krutitsy was merged with that of Kolomna. The same year, Peter Baranovsky, an outstanding Russian restorer, made Krutitsy a center of his restoration workshop. Much work was undertaken to renovate the buildings in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s but they still need to be improved.

St. Andronik Monastery

St. Andronik Monastery, often transliterated as Andronikov Monastery is a male monastery on the left bank of the Yauza River in Moscow, consecrated to the Holy Image of Saviour Not Made by Hands and containing the oldest extant cathedral in Moscow. The monastery was established in 1357 by Metropolitan Alexis as a thanksiving for his survival in a storm. Its first hegumen was Saint Andronik, one of Sergii Radonezhsky's disciples. The extant 4-pillared Saviour Cathedral was built in 1420-1427. The great medieval painter Andrei Rublev spent the last years of his life at the monastery and was buried there. Actually, one of the biggest mass graves for lay brothers (called skudelnitsa) was located on the cloister's premises. In the second half of the 14th century, a monastic quarter formed outside the walls of the Andronikov Monastery, where they started producing bricks for the ongoing construction of the Moscow Kremlin (1475). From its beginning, Andronikov Monastery was one of the centers of book copying in Muscovy. Manuscript collection of the cloister included most of the works by Maksim Grek. In August of 1653, archpriest Avvakum was held under arrest at this monastery. Andronikov Monastery has been ransacked on numerous occasions (1571, 1611, 1812). In 1748 and 1812, its archive was lost in the fire. In the 19th century, there were a theological seminary and a library on the cloiser's premises. By 1917, there had been 17 monks and one novice in the monastery.

Epiphany Monastery

The Epiphany Monastery (Bogoyavlensky Monastery in Russian) is the oldest male monastery in Moscow, situated in the Kitai gorod, just one block away from the Moscow Kremlin. According to a legend, it was founded by Daniel, the first prince of Moscow, around 1296. It is also believed that a would-be metropolitan Alexis was one of the monks at this monastery. Stefan, Sergii Radonezhski's older brother, was the first recorded hegumen of this cloister. The first stone church at the Bogoyavlensky monastery was founded in 1342. In 1382, the monastery was sacked by Tokhtamysh's horde. In 1427, it suffered an outbreak of pestilence. The monastery also survived numerous fires, the most important being recorded in 1547, 1551, 1687 and 1737. Epiphany Cathedral (1696). The Epiphany monastery has always been under the patronage of grand princes and tsars. By the order of Ivan the Terrible, the monastery became a collection facility for metayage, quitrent, and fodder. In 1584, the tsar donated a substantial amount of money for the remembrance of the disgraced. In 1632, the Epiphany monastery was granted an exclusive right for tax free floating of a certain amount of building materials and firewood. The monastery had its own stables, forge and rented out its own facilities. Vasili III, Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov, the Romodanovsky boyars, Xenia Repnina, and others donated some of their sizeable estates to the monastery. In 1680-1687, the Epiphany monastery was home to a school of the Likhud brothers, which would later be transferred to the Zaikonospassky monastery and transformed into the famous Slavic Greek Latin Academy. The now-existing Epiphany cathedral was consecrated in 1696. A splendid specimen of the Muscovite baroque style, it incorporated some notable medieval sepulchres. In 1690s, they also built cells for monks and abbot's chamber, which would be re-built in the 1880s. In 1739, a belltower was erected. By 1744, the monastery had already owned 216 peasant homesteads and 1014 peasants. In 1764, monastic real estate was confiscated. Thenceforth monastery's staff rarely included more than 17 monks. In 1788, the Epiphany monastery was proclaimed a residence of the vicarian bishop of the Moscow bishopric. In the late 18th century, the buildings enclosing the monastery were rented out to the haberdashers. In 1905-1909, they built the so-called dokhodniy dom, or a building with "office space" for rent. By 1907, The Bogoyavlensky monastery had already had 14 monks and 18 novitiates and owned 60 desyatinas of land. It was also receiving an allowance of 1245 roubles from the state treasury. After the October Revolution, the Epiphany monastery was closed down. In 1929, they stopped holding services in the Bogoyavlensky cathedral. The monastic facilities were first transformed into a campus for students of the Mining Academy and workers, engaged in the subway construction, and later - into metalworks. In 1950s, they built an office building on the site of the monastery. Cathedral, belltower, monk cells and abbot's chamber were the only buildings to survive. In the 1990s, the Epiphany monastery was restored and officially returned to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Chudov Monastery

The Chudov Monastery (also known as Alexius) Archangel Michael Monastery) was founded in the Kremlin in 1358 by metropolitan Alexius. The construction of the monastery together with the cathedral was finished in 1365. The cathedral was replaced with a new one in 1431 and then once again in 1501-1503. It was traditionally used for baptising the royal children, including future tsars Feodor I, Aleksey I and Peter the Great. The monastery abbot was considered the first among the hegumens of all the Russian monasteries until 1561. Alongside Simonov Monastery and Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra, the Chudov Monastery was the biggest center of the Muscovite book culture and learning. Prominent monks of the monastery, who dedicated their lives to translating and correcting ecclesiastic books, include Maksim Grek, Yepifany Slavinetsky and Karion Istomin. Patriarch Hermogenes was starved to death by the Roman Catholics in the monastery vaults in 1612. The Time of Troubles over, they opened the Greek-Latin School with support from Patriarch Philaret. In 1744-1833, the cloister accommodated the Moscow Ecclesiastic Consistory. As the time went by, new churches were added to the monastery complex. These included the Church of St Alexius the Metropolitan and the Church of Annunciation (both built in 1680) and the Church of Saint Andrew (1887). In 1918, the Chudov Monastery was closed down. All of its structures were dismantled in 1929. The Soviets erected the Red Commanders School, named after the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and built on the spot of the Chudov Monastery and the nearby Ascension Convent. All of the monastery?fs manuscripts of 11th-18th centuries were transferred to the State Historical Museum.

Danilov Monastery

Danilov Monastery, in full Svyato-Danilov Monastery or Holy Danilov Monastery is a male monastery on the right bank of the Moskva River in Moscow, Russia. Since 1983, it has functioned as the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox church. It was founded in the late 13th century by Alexander Nevsky's son Danilo. Shortly before his death in 1303, Danilo took monastic vows and later was buried at Danilov Monastery. The Russian Orthodox church venerates him as a saint. The very first Muscovite archmandrite came from this monastery in 1300. In the 14th - 15th centuries, Danilov Monastery fell into decline. In 1560, Ivan the Terrible brought it back to life. In 1591, when the armies of a Crimean khan Kaza Giray approached Moscow, the area around Danilov Monastery was turned into a fortified mobile camp. In 1606, the rebels under the command of Ivan Bolotnikov and Istoma Pashkov collided with the army of Vasili IV not far from the monastery. In 1607, an impostor by the name of Ileyka Muromets, who had pretended to be tsarevich Peter (son of Feodor I of Russia), was executed next to Danilov Monastery. Being in the center of many military events during the Time of Troubles, the monastery was severely damaged in 1610. In the early 17th century, it was surrounded by a brick wall with seven towers. In 1710, there were 30 monks in Danilov Monastery. In 1764, there were only twelve of them on staff. In 1900, however, the number rose to seventeen. In 1812, the monastery was ransacked by the French army. The monasterial sacristy and treasury, however, had been transported to Vologda and Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra shortly before the French occupied Moscow. First documented information on Danilov Monastery's landownership can be traced back to 1785, when it owned 18 desyatinas of land. By the end of the 19th century, the monastery had already possessed 178 desyatinas and a few buildings in Moscow. In 1805, they opened an almshouse for elderly women in the monastery, which was later turned into an almshouse for elderly clergymen and their widows. In the second half of the 19th century, Danilov Monastery's cemetery was a final resting place for many writers, artists and scientists, such as Nikolai Gogol, Nikolai Yazykov, Vasili Perov, Nikolai Rubinstein and many others. The remains of most of them, however, were transported in Soviet years to the Novodevichy Cemetery. By 1917, Danilov Monastery had 19 monks and four novices and owned 164 desyatinas of land. After the October Revolution, the monastery housed archmandrites, deprived of their pulpits. In 1929, the Soviets issued a special decree on closing the monastery and organizing a detention facility on its premises under the auspices of NKVD. The last monastary closed in Moscow became the first one to be returned in 1983 to the Moscow Patriarchy and became a spiritual and administartive centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1988, the monastery was restored. They built a residence for the Patriarch and Synod, a funeral chapel and a chapel in commemoration of the 1000 years of Russia's baptism.

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