Moscow has hundreds of churches and about 20 monasteries. In tsarist times, It was a city cobblestones, birch forests, and churches. In 1916, the poet Marina Tsvetayeva referred to Moscow as the city of "fifty times forty" churches with small pigeon hovering over the golden domes and floors brought to a shine by the kisses of worshippers.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, about half of Moscow's churches were destroyed, and the ones that remained were turned into warehouses, factories, sports clubs and offices. Of the 18 churches around the Kremlin, only nine survived. One Moscow church was replaced with a public toilet. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, new churches were built and many the city's 400 churches reopened as places of worship. A few churches remain as museums and archives.

Noteworthy churches include the beautiful 17th century Church of St. Nicholas and the Troitskaya Church. Church of Grand Ascension (Inner Northwest, Barrikadnaya Metro Station) is where Pushkin and his beloved Natalia Goncharova were married in 1831. Yelokhovsky Cathedral (Inner Northeast, Baumanskaya Metro Station) is often filed with worshippers and hosts important services overseen by the Patriarch. In the northern part of the church is the tomb of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker who is believed to make wishes come true if a candle is lit and prayers are made to him.

Savior's Cathedral (Inner Southeast, Andronievskaya pl. 10, Ploshchad Iicha Metro Station) is a small church at the Andrey Rublyev Museum and Andronikov Monastery. Built in 1427, it is the oldest stone building in Moscow. It is made of white stone, an incredible luxury for that time. From white stone only the richest churches and palaces were built. The church was totally reconstructed during 1950s after careful study of stones for clues on its construction.

Church of St. John of the Ladder (at Donskoy Monastery, Donskaya Sq., 1/17, Frunzenskaya Metro Station) is one of the oldest churches in Moscow. The first stone church was built in 1329 on the orders of Ivan Kalita. The existing structure was built between 1505 and 1508 and was designed by the architect Bona Fryazino. The bell tower was a model of the towers in the Assumption, Archangel and Annunciation Cathedrals. The church was closed in 1918. In the early 1990s, it was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church. Divine. Services are not performed.

Temple of Archangel Michael in Troparevo is another very church. The wooden church at site was first described in the 13th century and was rebuilt twice. In 1694 a stone church was erected. The south chapel, which holds the Venerable Wood of the Holy Cross, was built in 1789-1791. This church was closed in 1939. For a long time it was abandoned. In 1964 restoration work began. The dome was reset. In 1988 the church was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Mosques and Synagogues in Moscow

Cathedral Mosque (Olimpiysky Avenue, near the Olympic Stadium, Sportinaya Metro Station) is the main mosque of Moscow. The original structure was built in 1904 according to the design of the architect Nikolay Zhukov and has undergone some reconstructions since then. It was also sometimes called "Tatar Mosque" because its congregation consisted mainly of ethnic Tatars. There are four mosques in Moscow. Socially, the Moscow Congregational Mosque was often viewed as the central mosque in Russia. Cathedral Mosque remained open during the entire Soviet period though Friday afternoon prayers was sometimes banned..

There are four synagogues in Moscow: 1) Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue. 2) Holocaust Memorial Synagogue, 3) Marina Rosha Synagogue and Moscow Choral Synagogue. Synagogue in Maryina Roscha (Lokomotiv Metro Station) is a unique synagogue in that it was constructed when Moscow was under Soviet control. Built in 1926, it was a small log cabin that stood for almost seventy years. Prayers, circumcisions and weddings were held there throughout the Soviet period. The synagogue was burnt down in the fire in 1993. An impressive seven-floor Moscow Jewish Community Center(MJCC) was built to take its place. It was opened by main Russian rabbi Berl Lazar and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2000. Tel-Aviv-based architect Israel Godovich designed this building.

There is mikvah (ritual basin) for men and women in MJCC as well as a kosher restaurant and milk café. The program at community center includes not only public prayers, but also different kinds of entertainment. The facility has a library, Internet-cafe, art gallery, sports hall and weight room. Clubs and circles meet in the evening.

Moscow Choral Synagogue

Moscow Choral Synagogue (10 Bolshoy Spasogolinischevsky Lane, central Basmanny District,, near Kitai-Gorod Metro station) is one of the main synagogues in Russia and in the former Soviet Union. It is located close to the former Jewish settlement in Zaryadye. Moscow city authorities had officially banned synagogue construction inside Kitai-gorod, and thus the synagogue was built one block east from its walls.

In 1881, the community hired architect Semeon Eibuschitz, an Austrian citizen working in Moscow, to design a synagogue. However, his 1881 draft plan was not approved by authorities. The second draft, also by Eibuschitz, was approved in July, 1886, and construction began in May 1887. In 1888, the city intervened again and required the builders to remove the completed dome and the exterior image of the scrolls of Moses. Construction dragged on for five years, until the authorities once again banned it in 1892, giving two choices: sell the unfinished building or convert it into a charity. [Source: Wikipedia]

During the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Tsarist government was forced to lift all bans on worship, so Jews, Old Believers, and other minority faith groups were free to build their places of worship anywhere. Eibuschitz had died in 1898, and so the community hired architect Roman Klein to finish the construction. The synagogue opened in 1906. It operated throughout the Soviet period, although authorities annexed some parts of the original building for secular purposes in 1923 and 1960.

In October, 1948, Golda Meir, the first Israeli ambassador to the Soviet Union Golda, surrounded by a crowd of 50,000 Jews, paid an unauthorized visit to the synagogue to attend Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services, enraging the Soviet government. When the final illness of Joseph Stalin was announced in March 1953, the chief rabbi held a special service and called for fasting and prayer that the dictator might recover.The synagogue has been recently restored. Since 1990, it has been known for the Turetsky Choir Art Group.

Churches in the Kremlin

According to UNESCO: “The most significant churches of the Moscow Kremlin are situated on the Cathedral Square; they are the Cathedral of the Dormition, Church of the Archangel, Church of the Annunciation and the bell tower of Ivan Veliki. Almost all of them were designed by invited Italian architects which is clearly seen in their architectural style. The five-domed Assumption Cathedral (1475–1479) was built by an Italian architect Aristotele Fiorvanti. Its interior is decorated with frescos and a five-tier iconostasis (15th–17th century). The cathedral became the major Russian Orthodox church; a wedding and coronation place for great princes, tsars and emperors as well as the shrine for metropolitans and patriarchs. [Source: UNESCO]

“In the same square another Italian architect, Alevisio Novi, erected the five-domed Church of the Archangel in 1505-1508. From the 17th to 19th century, its interior was decorated by wonderful frescos and an iconostasis. In this church many great princes and tsars of Moscow are buried. Among them are Ivan I Kalita, Dmitri Donskoi, Ivan III, Ivan the Terrible the Terrible, Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich Romanovs. The Cathedral of the Dormition was built by Pskov architects in 1484–1489. Inside the cathedral some mural paintings of 16th–19th century have been preserved and the icons of Andrei Rublev and Theophanes the Greek are part of the iconostasis.”

Church of the Deposition of the Robe (next the west door of Assumption Cathedral) is a small single-domed church built by craftsmen from Pskov between 1484 and 1486 on the site of an ancient temple. Designed by Russians and used as private chapel by tsars, it served as a chapel for Orthodox church leader such as Metropolitans and Patriarchs and was later transferred to the Grand Prince's residence. . The interior is covered with 17th-century frescoes and contains a collection of 15th- to 17th-century woodcarvings. Cathedral of the Dormition was founded in 1326 and for several centuries served as the burial place of the heads of the Russian Church, including metropolitans and patriarchs.

Annunciation Cathedral

Annunciation Cathedral (near the Archangel Cathedral and connected to the Great Kremlin Palace in the Kremlin) is the house-church of the Russian royal family. Designed by Russian master from Pskov and built between 1484 an 1498, it is smaller than other buildings and is decorated with nine delicate golden domes: three on the original structure and six added by Ivan the Terrible, who also added an extension to the church where he could sit after his forth marriages prevented him from entering the main church.

Annunciation Cathedral is the best place in the Kremlin to observe icons. It contains some of the finest works by Theophanes the Greek (1340-1405), regarded ny many as Russia's most brilliant early icon maker. The cathedral also contains some famous icons painted by A. Rubylev and his apprentices. The central part of the church is paved with translucent golden-brown jasper stones. Most of the murals in the walls date to the 1560s.

The main attraction of the church is its magnificently-painted iconostasis. The six icons on the right hand side of the largest, central row — “Virgin Mary,” “Christ Enthroned,” “St. John the Baptist,” “Archangel Gabriel,” “Apostle Paul” and “St. John Chrysoston” — are believed to have been painted by Theophanes. What makes these icons special is the realness of the figures. The third and forth icons — “Archangel Micheal” and “St. Peter” — are by Rublyov. He is also believed to have painted many of the icons on the row above the largest row. Adjacent to Annunciation Cathedral is the Archangel Gabriel Chapel. It has a colorful iconostasis that dates to 1564.

Assumption Cathedral

Assumption Cathedral (past the State Kremlin Palace in the Kremlin) is where many tsars — including Ivan the Terrible — were married and crowned. It was the main center of the Russian Orthodox church from the 1320s to the 1900 and is where many Patriarchs and important figure in the church have been buried. Today it is the first major Kremlin building that visitors see that they can actually enter.

Assumption Cathedral is recognizable by it five massive, helmet-shaped golden domes and four semicircular gables. Almost every inch of the cathedral's interior is covered with icons, frescoes and religious paintings, even the columns. Church officials say this is because "the columns support the ceiling and the saints support the church." Another reason is that most people who entered the church around the time it was built couldn't read and the various images told them the stories of the saints.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation was the main church of the Russian tsars for about 150 years, and as a rule its superiors were spiritual advisers of the tsars. The building was designed by the Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti after a tour of Vladimir and Suzdal and built between 1475 and 1479. It replaced a smaller cathedral built in 1326. In 1812, the French used it as a stable and looted 295 kilograms of gold and five tons of silver (most of it was later recovered). During the Communist era the cathedral was turned into a museum. In October 1989 the first Russian Orthodox Service was held there is in 70 years.

Interior of the Assumption Cathedral

The tomb of many religious leaders are near the north, west and south walls. Next to the south wall in the tent-roofed wooden throne made in 1551 for Ivan the Terrible and known as the Throne of Monomakh because it contains carved scenes of the life of the 12th-century Grand Prince Vladimir of Monomakh of Kiev.

Hanging from the ceiling are huge chandeliers and lined up on the walls are priceless icons. The iconostasis was raised in 1652. The oldest icons are on the lowest level. They include “Savior with the Angry Eyes” (made in the 1340s) and an early 15th century, Rublyov-school copy of the “Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God” (the original is at the Tretyakov Gallery). The oldest icon, St. George, made in Novgorod, dates back to the 12th century. Most of the murals were painted in the 1640s. A group of three on the south wall date back to the time when the church was built.

The cathedral's most prized procession is the skull of St. John Golden Tongue, believed to watch over anyone who possesses it, and only recently given back to the church. A close second is a silver tabernacle called the Great Jerusalem. Decorated with likenesses of the Twelve Apostles, the silver vessel was a gift from Ivan the Terrible.

Archangel Cathedral

Archangel Cathedral ( in the Kremlin) is where all of Russia's leaders and tsars, but one, who ruled from the 1320s to the 1690s are buried. The exception is Boris Godunov, who is buried in Sergeiev Posad. Peter the Great and all the tsars that followed him, but one, are buried in St. Petersburg. The exception here is Peter II who is buried in Archangel Cathedral.

The Cathedral of the Archangel was founded by Prince Ivan Kalita. Dedicated to the Archangel Micheal, guardian of Moscow's princes, the cathedral was designed by the Italian Alevsio Novi and built between 1505 and 1508. Built on the site an earlier church constructed by Ivan Kalita in 1333, it has five domes, and built in Byzantine-Russian style with Renaissance and Venetian decorations.

The rows of sarcophagi that occupy most of the floor space were cared mostly in the 17th century. The real Dimitri lies under a painted stone canopy; Mikaial Romonav, the founder of the Romonav dynasty lies nearby. Ivan the Great is in front of the iconostasis. The tombs of Ivan the Terrible and his two sons, Ivan and Fyodor, unfortunately are hidden behind the iconostasis. On the south wall are portraits of many of the people buried here.

Venetian architect Aloisio the New succeeded at combining ancient Russian style with Renaissance motifs in the architecture. The cathedral houses the tombs of the rulers of Muscovy and their close relatives. At present, the church and the tombs serve as a museum.

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral (within Red Square) is Russia's most famous building. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victory over the Tatars at Kazan in 1552, this flamboyant cathedral with its swirling onion domes seems more like something a child would dream up, not a cruel tyrant. Crowning the red and white ice-cream cone towers are an assortment of flavored domes: lemon and blueberry swirl, orange and lime striped parfait and pine cone upside cake. Some call the structure Russia’s Taj Mahal.

There is some order to St. Basil's madness. The cathedral is a symmetrical ensemble of eight chapels surrounding a central chapel, topped with a tent. Each of the nine chapels has its own unique onion-dome. . The tall spire-like roof covers the main chapel in the center. Four large octagonal-shaped chapels are by the four largest domes on the east, west, north and south sides, Four small domes are in between. Extra spire-like roofs sit over the stairways. An additional chapel built over St. Basil's grave and and a bell tower were added later. Although most of the structure was built between 1555 and 1561, it didn't takes its present shape until the 1670s.

Each chapel is named in honor of a saint and a person involved in Ivan the Terrible’s Kazan campaign. The central chapel honors Pokrova Bozhiej Materi's, whose name is attached to the official Russian name of the church: The Museum “Pokrovsky Cathedral”. St. Basil’s has nine iconostases — one in each chapel — with about 400 icons, dating to the 16th to 19th centuries. The walls are decorated by frescos.

The inside of St. Basil's is open from 11:00am to 3:30 pm everyday except Tuesday. Admission for foreigners is about US$2.00. The museum St. Basil’s isn't nearly as impressive of turbaned building itself. There is a small exhibition on St. Basil and some fine frescoes of saints, flowers and landscapes and a collection of church utensils. Among the most valued objects is 17th-century chalice belonging to tsar Alexey Mihajlovichu You can also see the web of scaffolding that supports the central tower. Near St. Basil's is the Place of Skulls, the traditional execution site, and a statue of a Russian general who drove the Poles from the Kremlin in 1612.

History of St. Basil's Cathedral

The original church was constructed between 1555 and 1561 under a decree by Ivan the Terrible to honor the capture of the Kazan khanate. Kazan was taken after a siege on October, 1, 1552, on feast day of Pokrova Bozhiej Materi. One of the “official” name’s of church is the Church of the Cover of Bozhiej of Mother. The site where the church was built is said to have been where the where a barefoot holy man named Vasily Blazhennyj was buried. It is said he raised money for the future cathedral, brought it to present-day Red Square and threw through the money over right shoulder and where the coins landed is where he was buried and the church as to be built.

St. Basil's was designed by the architect Posnik Pokrovsky and based on a style first displayed in wooden churches and based on a plan by Metropolitan Makarius to create an image of the Holy City of Jerusalem.. Known in Russian as Pokrovsky Cathedral “on the Moat”, it was founded based on the vow given by Tsar Ivan the Terrible before his campaign to Kazan in 1552 and Metropolitan Makarius’s blessing. According to legend the eyes of Pokrovsky were ordered gouged out by the Ivan the Terrible after it was completed so they that they never be used be build something more beautiful that St. Basil's. This is likely a myth.

St. Basil's is named after the holy man Vasily (Basil) who predicted Ivan's victory at Kazan and Ivan's murder of his son. Vasily died during the siege of Kazan and was and later canonized. He is buried beside the church . Napoleon called St. Basil’s a mosque and kept his horses in it. He would have torn it down if he had conquered Russia. The white platform nearby is where tsarist proclamations were held and criminal beheaded.

Stalin ordered St. Basil's to be blown up in the spring of 1936 to make more room for military parades. Only when the 43-year-old restoration specialist Petr Baranovsky threatened to chain himself the cathedral did Stalin cancel the order. St. Basil's Cathedral was repaired and repainted in 1948 and spruced up again prior to the 1980 Olympics.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral (next to the GUM on Red Square) was founded in 1936 to celebrate the expulsion of the Poles in 1612. It housed “The Virgin of Kazan” icon which is credited with helping to drive the Poles out. In 1936, the church was destroyed reportedly because it created an obstacle for the May Day paraded. In 1993 it was rebuilt.

It is believed that the first wooden church on this site was built in 1620 by Prince Pozharskii. Soon after a stone cathedral replaced it that was consecrated in 1636. The church has been rebuilt several times and suffered serious damage during the Napoleonic invasion. Between 1925 and 1930 it was restored, but the cathedral was demolished in 1936. A modern building was built in here 1990 to 1993. It is an operating Orthodox church.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Cathedral of Christ the Savior(near the Moscow River and the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, about a kilometer from the Kremlin) is the largest church in Russia. Originally built in 1812 to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon and completed after decades of work in 1883, it boasted five gold domes 14 bells in four separate belfries with a combined weight of 65 tons. It was large enough to accommodate 10,000 worshipers and contained 312 kilos of gold. The highest dome was 103 meters tall, as tall as a 30-story building, and 30 meters wide.

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was is the cathedral of the Moscow diocese and and the Russian Orthodox Church. The decision to build it “in commemoration of our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from threatening to it death” was made by Emperor Alexander I. It was built on the site of the Alexis nunnery. In 1883, it was regarded as the highest building in Moscow and the biggest church in Russia.

In 1931, under Stalin's orders, the church was looted of its bells, icons and gold and destroyed with explosives. Thousands of holy pictures, 48 marble reliefs and 177 marble tablets were obliterated. Stalin wanted to replace the cathedral with a Palace of the Soviets — a building 37 meters (115 feet) higher than the Empire State Building, topped by a statue twice as large as the Statue of Liberty. Lenin's index finger alone was planned to be 15 feet long. The ground proved to be too spongy to support such an edifice. All that came of the building was a massive foundation that kept flooding.

After Stalin's death. Khrushchev abandoned the project and turned the foundation into the world's largest outdoor heated swimming pool, with a surface area of 13,000 square meters and enough space to easily accommodate 20,000 people a day. The pool was closed down in the 1990s because steam from the heating system was damaging the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum.

New Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Between 1995 and 1997 a new Christ the Savior Cathedral was built. Almost an exact replica of the original, it cost of US$300 million and was built to mark the 850th anniversary of Moscow's founding in 1997. The church was built largely through the efforts of Yuri Luzkhov, mayor of Moscow from 1992 to 2009, who solicited donations and found money in the city’s budget..

Situated along the Moscow River, the Christ the Savior Cathedral rises above the Moscow skyline. The tallest domes are 15-stories high. The main building is a marble-covered reinforced concrete structure with fake-stone sculpted reliefs, computer-outlined frescoes, a gilded giant cupola and four smaller gilded bulbs. The three-ton gold cross on the central dome is one of the highest points in Moscow

In 1995, the Stolichny Bank of Savings gave the church 53 kilograms of gold used for gilding domes and other ornaments. "Because of modern techniques," only 15 to 20 kilos was used in gilding the giant cupola and four smaller bulbs. Some critics charge so little gold was used that it is fraudulent to refer to as gold. Efforts were made to convince the patriarch to authorize the use of a gold substitute (in a test the patriarch reportedly was given two metals and asked which one was gold: he chose the one made of titanium nitrate sprayed with gold lacquer).

Shrines of the Temple include ones for: 1) the revered icon of Smolensk Mother of God; 2) the icon “the Saviour Almighty”; 3) the Icon of St. Nicholas, written at Bari; 4) the relics of Apostle Andrei Pervozvannyi; and 5) the relics of Apostle. Jacob. A wing originally designed to contain a Sunday school was turned into a high-tech media center used for broadcasting official ceremonies. Some people want to see the remains of the tsar Nicholas II and his family buried in the new Christ the Savior cathedral but that didn’t happen. You can climb part of the church bell tower as part of a guided tour. From here you can see the Kremlin, Gorky Park, the Crimean Bridge, the skyscraper at Tinkers embankment, Novy Arbat and Poklonnaya Hill.

The cathedral has plenty of critics. Many Muscovites feel it was too hastily built, the construction was shoddy and the ornamentation too kitschy. One filmmaker told National Geographic, "This is a junk copy of the original that was never much good in the first place...This is a cathedral being built by money raised in an era of Romanian furniture sets thinking they are Louis 14th. And yet there is vitality, real life in all those. This is an aesthetic built on illegal money and faux Orthodoxy and tawdriness. But what else is there? This is our life! To get angry at this is to be angry with life itself." Yeltsin said the project "shows that Russia is alive, the Russian spirit is alive." Billboards around Moscow gushed: "Cathedral of Christ the Savior — Symbol of Russia's Renaissance."

Monasteries in Moscow

There about 20 monasteries. in Moscow. There used to be more. Many were destroyed or shut down and their buildings were used for other things after the Communists came to power in 1917. In 1922, the two functioning monasteries in the Kremlin — the Ascension Monastery and the Chudov Nunnery — were demolished.

Simonov Monastery was founded at the end of the 14th century by disciple and nephew of St. Sergius of Radonezh Fedor (who later became the Archbishop of Rostov). Near the monastery there is a pond, according to legend, dug by Sergius of Radonezh. For a long time the monastery served not only spiritual, but also a defensive, function: its walls protected Moscow from the Tatar raids. The monastery was significantly damaged in the Time of Troubles (1598—1613) and was closed from 1771-1795 years under Catherine the Great. In The Soviet era, it was cloased and five of its six religious buildings and its necropolis were destroyed. All that is left today is the southern wall with three towers, a church and several other buildings.

Sretenskiy Monastery (on Bolshaya Lubyanka, 19 ) was founded in the 14th century and was the site of several important events in Russian history. The church of Mary of Egypt was located here on Kuchkovo field. It was built in 1378 by Prince Vladimir the Brave for his mother Mary. In 1395 the land was transferred to the Grand Prince Vasily I. Before going to war against Tamerlane, the prince ordered the revered icon of the Vladimir Mother of God. Meeting to be brought to Moscow and placed near the Church of Mary. The icon was taken by the current Bolshaya Lubyanka to the Assumption Cathedral. The modern Sretenskiy Monastery complex includes the Sreteniye Cathedral of the Vladimir Mother of God Icon with two chapels, galleries, a belfry and a few service buildings.

Danilov Monastery

Danilov Monastery ( 5 Bolshoi Starodanilovsky Pereulok, on the right bank of the Moscow River, Tulskaya Metro Station) is the oldest monastic structure in Moscow, the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church and home of the residence of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch. In the tsarist era it attracted Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. During the Soviet era it was the home of a factory and then a home for children of parents who were imprisoned in Stalin's gulags.

Built in the 13th century by Danilov, the first prince of Moscow, and rebuilt extensively under Ivan the Terrible, Danilov Monastery is fortress monastery with old churches and a white fortress wall that was originally conceived as an outer city defense. The main buildings include the Patriarch's Official residence, with a 13th-century Armenian carved stone cross on one wall; Trinity Cathedral; where services are regularly held; St. Simeon Stylites Gate-Church, whose bells are the first to ring in holy days in Moscow; the Church of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils; and the Church of the Resurrection of the Holy Word. The former guest house had been turned to an elegant hotel used by Russian leaders to meet their foreign counterparts. Gorbachev welcomed U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy here at the Moscow summit in 1988.

Throughout its long history, the monastery has suffered a great deal and played a military role, as the defense of Moscow’s southern borders. In 1591 the walls helped repel an attack of the Crimean Khan Kazi Giray, In 1606 at the monastery was the site of fighting between the troops of Tsar Vasily Shuisky and a group of rebels. In 1610, the monastery was set on fire by the impostor False Dmitry II while fleeing Moscow, but soon rebuilt and enclosed by a brick wall with seven towers. In 1930 in the Soviet era, Danilov monastery was closed, the last monastery in the city to be shut down. The majority of its monks were executed in 1937. The relics of St. Daniel disappeared.

Danilov Monastery Danilov Monastery was given back to the Orthodox Church to mark Russia's millennium observation in 1988. It is a busy working monastery filled on many days with worshipers lighting candles, crossing themselves and filling bottles with holy water. Visitors are allowed to enter but they are expected to be on their best behavior: proper dress and no photographs. Among the important figures buried in Danilov Monastery are the great Russian writer N.V. Gogol, the artist V.G, Perov and the musician N.G. Rubinstein.

Novodevichy Convent

Novodevichy Convent (Inner Southwest, near Lenin Stadium on the Moscow River, Sportivnaya Metro Station) is one of the most delightful group of buildings in Moscow. Partly modeled on the Kremlin, it consists of churches with gold cupolas and other buildings behind turrets and a huge, white crenelated wall. Novodevichy means "New Maidens." This is probably a reference to a market located nearby used by the Tatars to sell harem girls.

Novodevichy Convent was founded in 1524 as a religious retreat (and prison) for women from the upper classes. Many women from royal and boyar families took their vows here, which meant that they sacrificed both their land and wealth to the monastery. Peter the Great banished his scheming sister Sofia here in 1689 after she encouraged a failed uprisings and had comes of the coup plotters hung outside her window. He also had his first wife imprisoned here. The convent was once a major landowner, with 36 villages and 15,000 serfs, and served the tsars as a fortress. Napoleon set up a government here for two months. In 1922, the Bolsheviks evicted the nuns from the convent but kept the complex intact as the Museum of Women's Emancipation and later made into a state museum. After the break of the Soviet Union it opened gain as a working monastery.

The Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO: “The Novodevichy Convent, in southwestern Moscow, built in the 16th and 17th centuries in the so-called Moscow Baroque style, was part of a chain of monastic ensembles that were integrated into the defence system of the city. The convent was directly associated with the political, cultural and religious history of Russia, and closely linked to the Moscow Kremlin. It was used by women of the Tsar’s family and the aristocracy. Members of the Tsar’s family and entourage were also buried in its cemetery. The convent provides an example of the highest accomplishments of Russian architecture with rich interiors and an important collection of paintings and artefacts. [Source: UNESCO]

“The Novodevichy Convent, situated at the crossing of the Moscow River, was founded by Grand Duke Vasily III in the 1520s.” It “is the only ancient nunnery which served as a fortress at the same time. In the 16th-18th centuries the nunnery was the chosen convent for women from the tsarist dynasty as well as the wealthy boyar and nobility families to take the veil. The Novodevichy Convent had close links to the Kremlin and is closely linked to the political, cultural and religious history of Russia, to major historic events and to important historic figures of the Russian state. These include Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov and the Time of Trouble of early 17th century, the father of Peter the Great, Alexey Michailovich as well as his daughter Princess Sofia Alekseevna and her struggle for power with the incoming Emperor Peter I, and the Patriotic War against Napoleon in 1812. The elite nature of the convent means that it contains examples of the highest class of architecture with rich interiors. Built in the late 17th century, the monastery is one of the most outstanding and representative examples of the so-called “Moscow Baroque”, having retained its integrity better than any of the other rebuilt monasteries in Moscow.”

The Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent site is important because: 1) it is the most outstanding example of the so-called “Moscow Baroque”, which became a fashionable style in the region of Moscow. Apart from its fine architecture and decorative details, the site is characterised by its town-planning values. 2) It is an outstanding example of an exceptionally well preserved monastic complex, representing particularly the “Moscow baroque” style in the architecture of the late 17th century. 3) the ensemble integrates the political and cultural nature of the existing World Heritage property of Moscow Kremlin. It is itself closely related to Russian Orthodoxy, as well as with Russian history especially in the 16th and 17th centuries.

“The Novodevichy Convent is authentic in that it has not undergone destruction or rebuilding. The Convent has remained untouched mainly due to its use as a museum in the 20th century, while other ensembles were misused or just ruined. Moreover, the complex has integrally preserved its general layout as well as its individual buildings. It has also been returned to a function close to its original one. The sacral buildings today fulfil a liturgical function, the monastic structures are inhabited by monks and the ostentatious residential buildings now fulfil cultural functions as a museum.

Buildings in Novodevichy Convent

According to UNESCO: The Convent is a major centrepiece of the southwestern part of the historic town of Moscow and the Moscow River, and has a high town-planning value. Even though the character of the city’s urban surroundings has greatly changed, the Convent still remains an integral part of the landscape, unlike other monastic complexes. It is an outstanding example of Orthodox architecture. The ensemble consists of 14 buildings, including 8 cathedrals (a shrine, 4 churches, a belfry with the Barlaam and Josaphat church and two chapels) and a number of residential and service buildings. The monastery is sometimes called “the Moscow Kremlin in miniature”. Its oldest building is a stone cathedral dedicated to the Icon of the Mother God of Smolensk built in 1524–1525 after the fashion of the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. [Source: UNESCO]

“The Convent is enclosed by a high masonry wall with twelve towers and with entrance gates to the north and south. It has two major planning axes and its main focal point, the Smolensky Cathedral, is located at their crossing. It is dedicated to the highest shrine of Russian Orthodoxy, the Icon of the Mother God of Smolensk “Hodigitria” and is the Convent’s oldest stone building. The interior of the Cathedral is unique in respect of its performance, riot of colour and well-preserved wall paintings of the late 16th century which were created during the reign of Boris Godunov. Completely persevered is the wooden-framed five-tier iconostasis, typical of Moscow Baroque and created in 1683-1685, with its decorated gold-coated carvings.

Buildings within the convent include the Transfiguration Gate-Church, Sofia's Chambers, a great bell tower (with a golden dome topped by six red-and-white brick tiers), the Assumption Church, St. Ambrose's Church and the Irinia Godunov Building, where Boris Godunov's sister lived. The Bell Tower, built in 1683-1690, is unique among medieval Russian convents or among other buildings of Moscow Baroque style. According to UNESCO: “Due to its great height (72 meters),unusual disposition, elegant proportions and beautiful decorations, the belfry has always been the main vertical element of the whole western part of the historic town of Moscow thus contributing to the Convent’s town-planning value.”

Smolensk Cathedral (within Novodevichy Convent) is a lovely 450-year-old onion-domed church within by an ancient fortress-like wall. Modeled after the Assumption cathedral in the Kremlin, it contains 16th-century frescoes and an iconostasis with icons given by Sofia and Boris Godunov, who received a delegation here on 1598 that wanted him to be tsar.

Novodevichy Cemetery (adjacent to Novodevichy Convent) is the Russian equivalent of the Pantheon in Paris. Among the famous Russians buried here are Gogol, Chekhov, Eisenstein, Prokiev, Khrushchev, Chekhov's wife, Shostakovich, Tupolev (the plane designer) and Stalin's second wife. According to UNESCO: The Necropolis of the Novodevichy Convent was initiated in the 16th century and developed in the following centuries as a burial place for the nobility and honourable citizens. From 1898 a new cemetery outside the south wall of the Convent was used as a burial place for the most outstanding Russian intellectuals as well as political and military figures. It is one of the most eminent historic necropolises preserved in Russia.”

“Throughout its existence the ensemble’s buildings have been restored several times. In 1890-–1900 the architect S.K Rodionov performed restoration works for the Convent. In cooperation with I.P. Mashkov, a famous architect and a researcher of Old Russian architecture, S.K. Rodionov restored Smolensky Cathedral and cleaned oil paints off the mural paintings.

The ensemble has been subject to restoration in the late 20th century, but this has not involved replication. The restoration was preceded by thorough examination of the monuments. The restoration process by the architect N.C.Romanov was characterized by a high standard of scientific excellence and reliability. Regular restoration and conservation, work together with monitoring performed by authorized bodies, provide for preservation of authenticity.”

Donskoy Monastery

Donskoy Monastery (Inner South, east of Gorky Park, Shabolskaya Metro Station) is the youngest of Moscow's fortified monasteries. Founded in 1591 as a repository for the “Virgin of the Don” icon, it was the headquartered of the Russian Orthodox Church from 1918 to 1927 and then was closed down. It was restored in the early 1990s. Its main buildings are the Virgin of Tikhvin Church, New cathedral and Old cathedral. There are some elaborate tombs in graveyard of noblemen buried after the plague of 1771.

Donskoy Monastery is notable for its elegant architecture, rich history and is under the control of the Moscow Patriarch. History of the monastery begins in 1591 when the very religious tsar Fedor Ioanovich decided to build a place to house his favorite icon; the “Virgin of the Don” also known as the Donskaya Holy Mother of God, believed to have been created in 1392 by famous icon-maker Theophanes the Greek. According to legend Sergii Radonezhskiy carried this icon, blessed by Dmitriy Donskoy, on his famous military campaign. Believers also connect the withdrawal of troops of the Crimean Khan Kazi Girey from Moscow this icon. At the present the original icon is kept in Tretyakov Gallery. The one in the monastery is a copy.[Source: Russian Tourism Official Website]

The first church was built around the same time the foundation for the monastery were laid. The first monastery existed only a short time before being devastated in the Times of Troubles. When Romanovs came to power, the monastery was restored. In the late 17th century, the Old and New Donskoy cathedrals were built. At that time, the monastery was not wealthy. It was surrounded by wooden fence and monks lived modestly in simple cells. It was at the end of 18th century that monastery had enough fund to carry out extensive reconstruction that shaped it into the spectacular complex, with thick brick walls and towers, that we see today. But, unfortunately, even this didn’t save the monastery from devastation of Napoleon’s troops.

After the Bolshevik Revolution the monastery was closed. In 1934 it was opened center of Russian architecture. During World War II, monks and clergymen collected money for the armed forces and helped created a tank column that was sent to the front lines with honors and prayers. In 2003, tanks that returned from war safely were transferred to Donskoy Monastery . One of them can be seen there now. In the 1990s the monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and underwent reconstruction.

Interesting buildings and features at the Donsky Monastery include the Great and Small Cathedral, Church of St. John Climacus (Ioann Lestvichnik), high reliefs of the first Cathedral of Christ the Saviour that could be seen on the east wall of the Monastery and rare icons. Among those buried in the necropolis are Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Saltychikha (Daria Saltykova), S.N. Trubetskoy, first Moscow State University rector, and Zhukovskiy, the founder of Russian aviation.

Old Believers Churches

Old Believers Churches (Inner Southeast,near Rogozhskoe Cemetery , a kilometer from Ploshchad Iicha Metro Station) lie around an Old Believer Community that thrived around near Rogozhskoe Cemetery in late 18th century. The Intercession Church contains one of Moscow's finest collection of icons. The oldest dates back to the 14th century. Six others are attributed to Rublyov. There are three other Old Believer churches and some Old Believer tombs in Rogozhskoe Cemetery.

The Old Believers community in Moscow is relatively large. The community dates back to 1771, when an Old Believer merchant, IA Kovylin, created an almshouse near the gates of the Transfiguration during the plague epidemic. Over time, the community grew, gaining new adherents, among whom were a group of wealthy conservatives, who spent their money in the community, including the construction of various buildings. One of these structures became the Temple of the Holy Cross, built in 1811.

Old Believers churches resemble Orthodox churches but have no altar due to the church’s rejection of liturgical worship. In the middle of the 19th century, Old Believers were persecuted and many of their churches and Fedoseevskaya prayer houses were closed. Only after the group was tolerated again in 1905 did the Old Believers community reveive. In 1923, the majority of Fedoseevskaya prayer houses, in addition to the temple of the Holy Cross, were closed but reopened after World War II, when the Transfiguration Cemetery became the center of three concerts.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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