One of Moscow's most beautiful sights is the Novodevichy Convent which was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004. Novodevichy Convent, whose name translates as New Maiden Convent, was founded in 1524 on the orders of Grand Prince Vasili III of Moscow to celebrate Russia's recapture of Smolensk in 1514. The convent is dedicated to the Our Lady of Smolensk Icon. It was built as a fortified convent on the River Moskva. Later the convent served as a place of retirement or imprisonment for female members of the royal family. In 1598 Irina Godunova (the widow of Tsar Feodor I) became a nun under the name of Aleksandra at the convent and died there in 1603. Sofia Alekseevna, the half-sister of Peter the Great and former regent of Russia, was imprisoned here from 1689 up to her death in 1704. Most of the buildings in the convent and its walls date from around this time. In 1727, Tsarina Yevdokia Lopukhina (the first wife of Peter the Great) was permitted by her grandson Emperor Peter II to return from exile in Schlisselburg and to settle at Novodevichy Convent. She died there in 1731. In 1812 as French troops were leaving Moscow, they tried to burn down the convent, but according to legend the fire was put out by the nuns in time. The convent was closed in 1922 and reorganised as a museum which became a branch of the State Historical Museum in 1934.
Today the convent remains a museum run by the State Historical Museum, but two of its churches have been returned to the Orthodox Church. Today it is possible to visit the convent as a tourist or as a pilgrim. If you are part of an excursion or want to visit the Our Lady of Smolensk Cathedral and the exhibits you must buy a ticket. If you only want to walk around the territory by yourself, you can get away with not buying a ticket (although technically this rule only applies to people wishing to pray in the churches). However you must buy a photo-pass to take photos, although this is not that strictly enforced. The museum holds exhibits in the convent's Tsareva Sofia Chambers and the Irina Godunova Chambers attached to the St Ambrose's Church, as well as in the Our Lady of Smolensk Cathedral.
Transfiguration of the Saviour Gate-Church
The main entrance to the convent is served by the Baroque-style Transfiguration of the Saviour Gate-Church which stands over the convent's Northern Gates - red in colour with five small golden domes. The church was built between 1687 and 1689. Built onto the western side of the Northern Gates is the Lopukhinskie Chambers, which dates from the same time as the church.
Our Lady of Smolensk Cathedral
The convent's main cathedral is the impressive Our Lady of Smolensk Cathedral. There is some confusion as to when the cathedral was built but most historians date it to either the 1520s or the 1560s. In any case the cathedral was built using the Kremlin's Dormition Cathedral as an example. The building is topped with five domes, one larger central golden dome surrounded by four silver domes, and has galleries around three of its sides.
Inside, frescos dating from the 16th century have been preserved. The cathedral also holds an old and revered copy of the Our Lady of Smolensk Icon. Today the cathedral remains a museum and you need to buy a ticket to see its frescos. There are also some exhibitions located inside.
Aside from its cathedral, one of the convent's most famous sights is its Bell Tower which was built in the late 17th century in the elaborate Naryshkin Baroque style. The tower consists of six tiers and is topped with a golden dome. Inside the tower holds two churches: Sts Barlaam and Josaphat's Church on the lower level and St John the Theologian on the upper level.
Today the main working church within the convent is the Dormition Church, which was built between 1685 and 1687 as a single-domed structure with a long refectory built onto the front of the church. Along with the rest of the convent, the Dormition Church was closed after the Revolution, but in 1945 it was reopened and became the convent's main church. In 1964 the cathedra of the Metropolitan of Krutitsky and Kolomna was moved here and in 1988 the iconostasis of the destroyed Dormition Church at Pokrovka was installed here. Now the church holds the oldest Russian copy of the Our Lady of Iveron Icon.
The gate-church over the convent's Southern Gates is the Intercession Gate-Church. It dates from around the same time as its northern counterpart and was built in a similar Baroque-style although this gate-church only has three domes. Built onto the church's eastern side is the Mariinskie Chambers. The Southern Gates would lead straight to the neighbouring Novodevichye Cemetery if they were open, but the cemetery can only be accessed by leaving the convent.
|Location||1 Novodevichy Proezd|