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Marfo-Mariinsky Convent in Moscow


Marfo-Mariinsky Convent
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Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, or Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy in the Possession of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (Russian: Марфо-Мариинская обитель, Марфо-Мариинская обитель милосердия во владении великой княгини Елизаветы Фёдоровны) is a female convent in Moscow.

The convent was founded in 1908 by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (sister of Alexandra Feodorovna, the last Empress of Russia—both of whom are counted among the Russian New Martyrs) to assist sick, wounded, and maimed soldiers in their recovery, and to provide for the needs of the poor and orphans.


Grand Duchess Elizabeth was the widow of Grand Duke Sergeii Alexandrovich, who had been assassinated by terrorists in 1905. After her husband's death, she gave away her magnificent collection of jewels, including her wedding ring, and sold her other possessions. With the proceeds, she opened the Convent of Ss Martha and Mary and became its abbess. Her vision was to begin a religious community, made up of women from all social strata, that would merge the ideals of saints Martha and Mary, dedicated both to prayer and to serving the needs of the poor. She purchased a tract of land in Moscow and constructed a hospital, an orphanage for girls, and quarters for the nuns. Working in conjunction with church authorities she developed the monastic rule and habit—which differed somewhat from the traditional habit of Orthodox nuns—that would be used at the convent. At its peak, the convent housed 97 sisters and served 300 meals daily to the poor.

In 1908-12, Aleksey Shchusev designed the Church of Saints Martha and Mary and the Holy Protection Cathedral, both structures being Art Nouveau renderings of a medieval Novgorod architectural 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.

Life Within the Convent

The sisters woke at 6:00 A.M. and organized their rooms. At 7:30 they gathered in the hospital chapel for a common rule of prayer followed by the reading of a gospel, an epistle, a psalm, and perhaps a brief sermon by the priest serving that day. The sisters departed from the chapel after receiving a blessing from the priest and greeting the mother superior. They then gathered for some tea before going to their daily obediences. Those who were not immediately needed at their obedience remained in the chapel for the Divine Liturgy. Sisters were responsible for the reading and chanting in both churches. The chant was generally of a simple monastic style, with concert singing very seldom used. The choir members also did handiwork in the community workshop, where all the clothing of the sisters was made. Following morning prayers, the sisters would be found at their various obediences: some in the hospital awaiting the doctors making rounds, others in the clinic to provide treatment such as massages, injections, etc., for the ailing, others in the school, and yet others in the kitchen or other areas of the house. Twice a week between the hours of 11:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. the spiritual father offered the sisters a lecture, one week on the catechism, and the following week one on the holy fathers. The sisters prepared for Holy Communion at least four times a year during the major fasts, though they were allowed to receive more often if they wished. At 12:30 lunch was served with the reading of the life of the saint of the day during the meal. Meals were prepared in accordance with church fasting rules. Tea was served at 4:00P.M. followed by vespers and matins at 5:00 P.M. Sisters who have completed their obediences were present at these services. Before feast days and Sundays, all-night vigils were held. At 7:30 P.M. dinner was served. There was common evening prayer at 9:00 P.M. in the hospital chapel. The sisters retired to their cells following prayer, receiving a blessing from the superior as they departed. By 10:30 P.M. all prepare for sleep, and by 11:00 P.M. there was quiet and all lights were extinguished.

Spiritual Life

For their spiritual strengthening and edification the sisters visited with the Abbess or spiritual father at appointed times. Four times a week an akathist hymn was read during the evening prayer rule: on Sundays, to the Savior; Mondays, to Archangel Michael and all the Heavenly Hosts; Wednesdays, to Sts. Martha and Mary; and Fridays, to the Mother of God or the Passion of Christ. The sisters were also obliged to attend Vigil and Liturgy at the Chudov Monastery on the feast days of the holy hierarch St. Alexis of Moscow, February 12 and May 20. A pilgrimage was also made to the sepulchre church of the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich on February 4, the day of his repose.

Habit of the Convent

The sisters wore white cotton robes on Sundays and feast days. The work uniform was a grey cotton robe cut like a cassock, sewn together in front and closed on the sides. with white cuffs on the sleeves. The head covering of tonsured members was a white apostolnik cut in the monastic style with a grey woolen veil. Those tonsured also wore a cross made of cypress wood around their necks on a white string. The icons of Christ-Not-Made-By-Hands and the Protection of the Mother of God are on one side of the cross; the other side holds an icon of Sts. Martha and Mary and the inscription: Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all your soul, and all thy mind, and all thy strength; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Sisters received this cross at their tonsure into the sisterhood, giving a vow to devote this specific period of their lives to God and neighbor, and to abide by the rules of the community. All sisters were given a prayer rope upon entering the Community with the obligation to recite the Jesus Prayer 100 times daily. Postulants did not wear the prayer rope externally, but those tonsured wore the prayer rope they received a second time at their tonsure on their left hand. Postulants wore a long white kerchief on their heads, which covered their foreheads completely. On Sundays and feast days the sisters wore white robes. The postulants wore gray robes.

Charitable Works

A primary obligation of the sisters was to visit the poor. A few sisters were sent out daily in pairs to visit assigned areas of the city. The Grand Duchess received over twelve thousand petitions annually. A portion of these were reviewed by the sisters, processed along with the numerous other requests and information about the poor received from other sources.


In 1920, the Convent was forced by the Soviet authorities to provide a comprehensive listing of the Order’s properties, both moveable and immoveable. This document has all information concerning not only the Cathedral of the Holy Protection, but the lower church of the Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers, the hospital Church of Sts. Martha and Mary, the funerary chapel, and the Psaltery. This extraordinary catalogue and several which were later published provide a complete enumeration of the liturgical objects, icons, artworks, valuables, and their placement.

Despite the anti-religious sentiment, it was well-understood that the Convent and its churches represented a rare gesamtkunstwerk (complete work of art), and that its synergy of architecture, decoration, and collections of fine and decorative art were exceedingly important.

By 1922, however, the government began to order a systematic nationalization and confiscation of the convent's property, beginning to remove valuable gold and silver objects such as ikon oklads, rizas, gospel covers, crosses and ecclesiastical and liturgical objects.

In 1923, the convent tried to remake itself as the “Martha and Mary Community of Industry” in order to continue their works despite the civil war and official atheist position of the government. By 1925, the convent was being attacked for its makeup of former aristocrats and bourgeoises, and soon, the organization was under strain.

In 1926, the Church of SS Martha & Mary was closed, though the remaining nuns were able to remove over 200 icons and the “royal doors” from the cathedral by moving them to the Church of the Holy Protection. Shortly after this, the order was officially disbanded, and eighteen of the remaining nuns were exiled to Turkestan in Central Asia.

In 1928, both churches were finally closed, looted, pillaged, and desecrated. The frescos by Nesterov were covered and the church was turned into a movie theater. From 1945, the Church was used by the Grabar Institute as an icon and painting restoration studio.

Restoration of the Order and Convent Complex

Veneration of the Grand Duchess as a Saint and New Martyr had begun outside of Russia soon after her interment at Jerusalem, and her memory was honored secretly within the Soviet Union. With the collapse of communism, the tide of history turned quickly. Elizabeth had already been canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1981, but in 1990 a monument was erected on the convent grounds, and in 1992, the Grand Duchess was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church (see Romanov sainthood). Later that year, the celebration of divine services was resumed in the Church of Martha and Mary, and in 1994 the sisterhood was re-established.

In 1999 the Educational Center of the SS Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy was founded, with the blessings of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, for the purpose of training Orthodox girls as certified nurses.

Royal British, Greek, and Danish Connections to the Convent

As a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Grand Duchess Elizabeth is closely related to the Greek, Danish, and British Royal families.

Elizabeth's older sister was Victoria, Marchioness of Milford-Haven, whose daughter Alice married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. Princess Alice became the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and later founded a nursing order of Greek Orthodox nuns, the "Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary". This was modelled on the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent that her aunt had founded in Russia, but the order eventually failed for want of suitable applicants. Princess Alice was buried near Grand Duchess Elizabeth in the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalen on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

In 2002, HRH Prince Charles commissioned the British composer and convert to the Russian Orthodox Church, John Tavener, to write a choral piece in memory of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The work was entitled "Elizabeth Full of Grace" and celebrates the life, death and glorification of Saint Elizabeth the Grand Duchess. It was premiered at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on 28 February 2003 by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Chorus and Orchestra. Proceeds from the performance went to benefit the charitable work of the Saints Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy.

Photo (25)

г.Москва. Церковь Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы Марфо-Мариинской  обителиПокровский собор Марфо-Мариинской обители Дворик Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы Marfa-Marinskaia tenementМарфо-Мариинская обительцерковь Покрова Марфо-Мариинской обителиХрам в честь Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы (архитектор А.В.Щусев, росписи М.В.Нестерова)БУДОЧКАМарфо-Мариинская обительц Покрова Марфо-Мариинской обителиДЕТСКАЯ ПЛОЩАДКАМарфо-Мариинская обительобитель.ДворикВ МАРФО-МАРИИНСКОЙКЕЛИИБольшая Ордынка с Угла Иверского ПереулкаМарфо-Мариинская обительХрам в честь Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы (архитектор А.В.Щусев, росписи М.В.Нестерова)УХООКНОСТУЛКЕЛИИНА МАРФО-МАРИИНСКОЙ ОБИТЕЛИПРЕДВЕСЕННЕMonument of Elizaveta FedorovnaМосква МарфоМариинская обитель

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21.11.2017 Leon
Interesting place in the center of Moscow (15-20 minutes walk from the Red Square). Very cosy garden. Rather quiet and inspiring despite location. Free historic excursions on Sunday (midday). Astonishing murals of Nesterov inside main (Porkovskaya) church. Better have some cash with you
07.11.2017 Leon
Interesting place in the center of Moscow (15-20 minutes walk from the Red Square). Very cosy garden. Rather quiet and inspiring despite location. Free historic excursions on Sunday (midday). Astonishing murals of Nesterov inside main (Porkovskaya) church.
23.10.2016 Anastasia
If you have not been to Pskov or Novgorod, but I always wanted to see and the temples – you here. The building of the main temple is built in the Pskov-Novgorod style. Very nice and quiet.
23.10.2016 Sergey
Amazing place.
09.10.2016 Alex
Beautiful temple. Sedate service.
26.09.2016 Rene
Amazing place - beautiful, quiet, clean. Really the abode, the abode of mercy and love.
15.09.2016 Olga
A relaxing place to be. On site is a pleasant Park with delicious roses, children's Playground, the refectory. Perfect purity.
22.08.2016 Alla
Vasnetsovskie harmonious frescoes in the interior. The courtyard is well-groomed, pleasant.
03.08.2016 Thomas
Beautiful gardens, and the chanting and hymns at the evening service were very enchanting
25.07.2016 First
good place
19.07.2016 Damir
Highly recommend to visit this place. It was built in 1909 by the famous Russian and Soviet architect Shchusev. Its unique atmosphere is inspiring.
30.06.2016 Nikolay
That's great! Inside a beautiful Park.
27.05.2016 Sergey
An unexpected secret garden, you cut off all the noisy Moscow.
29.03.2016 Margarita
Beautiful place. Neobychny the main Cathedral of the Intercession of the blessed virgin.
24.03.2016 Alevtina
Wonderful, quiet place. Welcome sisters, willingly respond to requests, help. Great Charity service. And very appreciate meeting with Bishop Panteleimon. In my opinion, this communication with the layman rarely seen in Moscow.
18.02.2016 Firewolf
This relaxation, when you are in it
10.12.2015 Andrey
16.10.2015 The
This convent, a fine example of the "modern Russian church", was built by the famous architect Alexander Schusev in the Russian Revival style.
27.08.2015 Egorova
I would like to say Katya Petrova, for the lies and slander she will be responsible before God. All that is written in the revocation of a lie
26.04.2015 Alice
In the heart of Moscow is hidden a beautiful abode. Very relaxing place to be.
01.04.2015 Ivan
Wonderful quiet location in the centre of Moscow. Right the oasis, especially in spring and summer. Monastic services are surprisingly slender, sedate - filled with a peaceful spirit. Serve cloistral and fully. I'm comfortable that the evening service starts at 18:00 and not 17:00 as in other temples. Those who are afraid to confess I recommend this place all professed priests with respect, care and love to everyone. To the question asked at confession you can receive spiritual advice that will answer the internal question or a solution to the problem.
31.03.2015 Photoya
wonderful atmosphere and peace in the heart of Moscow.
02.11.2014 Yulia
Absolutely impossible for the atmosphere of the place to the city centre. In the shop are very delicate christening dress
07.06.2014 Vikulka
didn't even know that in Moscow there is such a wonderful, quiet place) you can sit in the garden and hear the birds sing. no fuss. beauty!))
31.03.2014 Cosy
Nice atmosphere! On-site nice and clean. Everything has a pleasant experience. Yes, there is a good priest, FR Alexander!
30.07.2013 Alexander
A wonderful secret garden in the heart of Zamoskvorechye
27.06.2013 Olga
Paradise in the city center. Very emotional place.
15.06.2013 Anna
Before you travel to Ireland and did not know that our churches have Celtic crosses...
31.03.2013 Andrey
Fundraising for Syria
10.01.2013 volgania
One of the most amazing cathedrals of the city: built in 1913 by Alexei Shchusev on the money of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna in Russian style.
12.11.2012 Eugenia
Founded by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna to help sick, wounded and maimed soldiers. The project Shchusev built the Cathedral of the Intercession (1908-1912) is a single-domed Church of the Pskov architects.
04.08.2012 Aleksey
542 8495 00 00 fundraising for Krymsk
24.05.2012 Taly
It was the quest that was handed out when in the MSC. brought belt of the Holy virgin.And later handed out leftovers that were not distributed in Church
20.05.2012 Alexander
The exhibition of the history of the Royal family.
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Изменено: 2018-02-14 19:23