Novodevichy Convent in Moscow

Description

Novodevichy Convent
Photo from wikipedia.org

Novodevichy Convent, also known as Bogoroditse-Smolensky Monastery (Russian: Новоде́вичий монасты́рь, Богоро́дице-Смоле́нский монасты́рь), is probably the best-known cloister of Moscow. Its name, sometimes translated as the New Maidens' Monastery, was devised to differ from an ancient maidens' convent within the Moscow Kremlin. Unlike other Moscow cloisters, it has remained virtually intact since the 17th century. In 2004, it was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Structure and monuments

The Convent is situated in the south-western part of the historic town of Moscow. The Convent territory is enclosed within walls and surrounded by a park, which forms the buffer zone. The park is limited by the urban fabric of the city on the north and east sides. On the west side, it is limited by the Moscow River, and on the south side there is an urban freeway. The buildings are surrounded by a high masonry wall with 12 towers. The entrances are from the north (town side) and the south. The layout of the convent territory is an irregular rectangle stretching from the west to east.

The oldest structure in the convent is the six-pillared five-domed Smolensky Cathedral, dedicated to the icon Our Lady of Smolensk. It is situated in the centre of the axes between the two entrance gates. Extant documents date its construction to 1524–1525; yet its lofty ground floor, magisterial proportions, and projecting central gable are typical of monastery cathedrals built at the behest of Ivan the Terrible. Most scholars agree that the cathedral was rebuilt in the 1550s or 1560s. It was formerly ringed by four smaller chapels, in an arrangement reminiscent of the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kremlin. Its frescos are among the finest in Moscow.

The cathedral may be a focal point of the convent, but there are many other churches. Most date from the 1680s, when the convent was thoroughly renovated at the behest of the regent Sofia Alexeyevna (who, ironically, would be incarcerated there later). The blood-red walls and crown-towers, two lofty over-the-gates churches, a refectory, and residential quarters were all designed in the Muscovite Baroque style, supposedly by a certain Peter Potapov. In the old cathedral, a new bowl for holy water and gilded carved iconostasis were installed in 1685. Its four tiers contain 16th-century icons endowed by Boris Godunov; the fifth tier displays icons by leading 17th-century painters, Simeon Ushakov and Fyodor Zubov.

An arresting slender belltower, also commissioned by tsarevna Sofia, was built in six tiers to a height of 72 metres (236 ft), making it the tallest structure in 18th-century Moscow (after the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Kremlin). This light octagonal column seems to unite all major elements of the ensemble into one harmonious whole.

View from the neighboring house

History of the Convent

Muscovite period

Cathedral of Our Lady of Smolensk at the Novodevichy Convent (16th century).

Vasili III, the Grand Prince of Moscow, founded the Novodevichy Convent in 1524 in commemoration of his conquest of Smolensk in 1514. The structure began as a fortress at a curve of the Moskva River three versts to the south-west of the Moscow Kremlin. It became an important part of the southern defensive belt of Moscow, which had already included a number of other monasteries. Upon its founding, the Novodevichy Convent was granted 3,000 rubles and the villages of Akhabinevo and Troparevo. Vasili's son, tsar Ivan the Terrible (reigned 1533–1584), would later grant a number of other villages to the convent.

The Novodevichy Convent housed many ladies from the Russian royal families and boyar clans who had been forced to take the veil, such as Feodor I's wife Irina Godunova (in residence 1598–1603; she was there with her brother Boris Godunov until he became a ruler himself), Sofia Alekseyevna (Peter the Great's half-sister; in residence 1689–1704), Eudoxia Lopukhina (Peter the Great's first wife, in residence 1727–1731), and others. In 1610–1611 a Polish unit under the command of Aleksander Gosiewski captured the Novodevichy Convent. Once Russian forces had retaken the convent, tsar Michael Fyodorovich supplied it with permanent guards (100 Streltsy in 1616, 350 soldiers in 1618). By the end of the 17th century, the Novodevichy Convent possessed 36 villages (164,215 desyatinas of land) in 27 uyezds of Russia. In 1744, it owned 14,489 peasants.

Imperial period

Octagonal bell-tower (1689–90).

In the mid-17th century, nuns from other monasteries in the Ukrainian and Belarusian lands were transferred to Novodevichy Convent. In 1721, some of the aged nuns, who renounced the Old Believers movement, were given shelter. In 1724, the convent also housed a military hospital for the soldiers and officers of the Imperial Russian Army and an orphanage for female foundlings. By 1763, the convent housed 84 nuns, 35 lay sisters, and 78 sick patients and servants. Each year, the state provided the Novodevichy Convent with 1,500 rubles, 1,300 quarters of bread, and 680 rubles and 480 quarters of bread for more than 250 abandoned children.

In 1812, Napoleon's army made an attempt to blow up the convent, but the nuns managed to save the cloister from destruction. In Tolstoy's War and Peace, Pierre was to be executed under the convent walls. In another novel of his, Anna Karenina, Konstantin Lyovin (a main character) meets his future wife Kitty ice-skating near the monastery walls. Indeed, the Maiden's Field (as a meadow in front of the convent came to be known) was the most popular skating-rink in 19th-century Moscow. Tolstoy himself enjoyed skating here when he lived nearby, in the district of Khamovniki.

In 1871, the Filatyev brothers donated money for a shelter-school for the orphans of "ignoble origins". Also, the convent housed two almshouses for nuns and lay sisters. In early 1900s, the Cathedral was surveyed and restored by architect and preservationist Ivan Mashkov. By 1917, there were 51 nuns and 53 lay sisters residing in the Novodevichy Convent.

Soviet period and beyond

In 1922, the Bolsheviks closed down the Novodevichy Convent (the cathedral was the last to be closed, in 1929) and turned it into the Museum of Women's Emancipation. By 1926, the monastery had been transformed into a history and art museum. In 1934, it became affiliated with the State Historical Museum. Most of its facilities were turned into apartments, which spared the convent from destruction.

In 1943, when Stalin started to make advances to the Russian Orthodox Church during World War II, he sanctioned opening the Moscow Theological Courses at the convent. Next year the program was transformed and became the Moscow Theological Institute. In 1945, the Soviets returned Assumption Cathedral to the believers. The residence of the Metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna has been located in the Novodevichy Convent since 1980.

In 1994, nuns returned to the convent, which is currently under the authority of the Metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna. Some of the churches and other monastic buildings are still affiliated with the State Historical Museum. In 1995, religious resumed services in the convent on patron saint's days.

UNESCO World Heritage Site proclamation

In 2004, the Novodevichy Convent was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the UNESCO team evaluation, it was affirmed that the convent is the most outstanding example of the so-called "Moscow Baroque". Apart from its fine architecture and decorative details, the site is characterised by its town-planning values. The team also pointed out that the convent is an outstanding example of an exceptionally well preserved monastic complex, and that it integrates the political and cultural nature of the existing World Heritage site of Moscow Kremlin. Moreover, the convent is itself closely related to Russian Orthodoxy and the Russian history of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Bell tower fire

On March 15, 2015, a fire engulfed the convent's tallest bell tower, which pinnacles at height of 72 meters. The monastery had been undergoing major repair work and was covered in scaffolding. It took firefighters almost three hours to put out the fire. The blaze reportedly affected an area of three hundred square metres, but it was restricted to the scaffolding and didn't do any damage to the historical building itself. The speculated cause of the fire was a short circuit caused by heat guns used for drying the facade. The press service for the Moscow cultural heritage department has blamed the fire on the firm doing the restoration work. However, Russian Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov said that heat guns were not in use on the territory of the convent and the bell tower had been disconnected from the mains power supply.

Necropolis and cemetery

The Necropolis of the Novodevichy Convent was initiated already in the 16th century. Like other Moscow monasteries (notably the Danilov and the Donskoy), the Convent was coveted by the Russian nobility as a place of burial. Sergey Solovyov and Alexei Brusilov are only two of the many prominent Muscovites buried within convent walls. The Napoleonic hero Denis Davydov is also buried in the grounds.

In 1898–1904, the so-called Novodevichy Cemetery was established outside the south wall. Anton Chekhov was one of the first notables to be interred at the new cemetery, and Nikolai Gogol was later reburied there too. During the Soviet epoch, it was turned into the most high-profile cemetery in the Soviet Union, with the likes of Peter Kropotkin, Nikita Khrushchev, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Konstantin Stanislavski, Boris Yeltsin, and Mstislav Rostropovich being interred there.

Photo (38)

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Video (3)

Street view

Info

Schedule:
All days at 07:00-19:00

Reviews

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25.02.2017 Elena
Cultural program at the Holy places?! Get outside the walls of the Monastery and see, here is the whole story!
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23.02.2017 Ildar
Nice place. Beautiful monastery. The pond and Park nearby with benches and a Playground.
 Excellent
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20.02.2017 Yura
Love to walk here. Nice place. Near the monastery, around the pond is good. And inside the monastery well. One of the few suitable for walking places in Moscow.
 Excellent
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11.02.2017 Irina
A place for the soul, if it exists
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27.01.2017 Denis
One of the most beautiful monasteries of Moscow. Clean well-kept grounds. Near the monastery is a pond and Park where you can spend time.
 Excellent
30.12.2016 Oscar
God.bless.Rusia.
 Excellent
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14.12.2016 Ruslan
The coolest historical place in the MSC. Within the monastery walls the old cemetery.
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16.10.2016 Svetlana
Very nice Park area along the river. Spring and summer are just ideal for walks and beautiful shots.
 Excellent
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16.10.2016 Denis
Cozy place, quiet Park, beautiful monastery, monument, duck with ducklings.
Very nice place, recommend for walking.
 Excellent
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05.10.2016 Yuriy
Beautiful monastery. Quiet place with its pleasant atmosphere. A walk in the Park is a special treat, you will not regret.
 Excellent
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25.09.2016 Dimeys
All in ruins, and perpetual renovation.
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12.09.2016 Andrey
Very beautiful pond, at night everything looks very romantic
 Excellent
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26.08.2016 Paola
not easy to reach by walk
 Not bad
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19.08.2016 Traveller
Orthodox women's monastery in Moscow draws attention to the architectural masterpieces of Russian Baroque. The current convent interesting lots of historically significant buildings – the Mariinsky chambers, the chambers of the Princess Sophia, a Church complex.
 Excellent
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15.08.2016 Svetlana
A very beautiful place! In the Park, on the shore of the pond, a group of students paint on canvases monastery. Along the shore is lowered into the water the willow branches, forming a cap, inside which you can go) a lot of tourists, young boys and girls have run. Someday I want to visit the territory of the monastery.
 Excellent
13.08.2016 Sergey
One of the most beautiful places of Moscow with a special atmosphere. The best time to visit - may (lilac blooms) and "Zolotaya osen" (see photo).

Best as I know of the monuments which still belong to the state. Unfortunately, so it is often in the woods. But inside is very cozy and tidy.

It makes little sense to describe the sights. More importantly, after visiting this place I have a light peaceful atmosphere.
 Excellent
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09.08.2016 Marina
One of my favorite places in the world!! Make sure to go inside the monastery, it is spectacular!❤
 Excellent
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07.08.2016 Elena
Very spiritual place with good energy
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06.08.2016 Kondaba
Nice to see
 Excellent
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25.07.2016 First
good place
 Excellent
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05.07.2016 Igor
Historical place , beautiful and quiet Park. Hopefully mad enough not to spoil.
 Excellent
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18.06.2016 Petr
Very cool and free.
 Excellent
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05.06.2016 Svetoslav
Very beautiful and peaceful. Especially when there are no tourists=)
 Excellent
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29.05.2016 Olga
Read the story, if you walk there. Very nice and with more information walk more interesting!
 Excellent
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11.04.2016 Stephen
Wonderfully scenic and peaceful place. Very well preserved buildings. Perfect example of a religious retreat, but in the center of the city.
 Excellent
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28.03.2016 Mihail
The area is not landscaped. The place is gorgeous.
 Good
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13.03.2016 Ilya
A pleasant place for walking, beautiful architecture, the pond, the feeling of being somewhere outside the city
 Excellent
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19.01.2016 Anton
Memorial place of the christening. Quiet and beautiful.
 Excellent
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16.01.2016 Dmitriy
A terrific place for walking. Very cute and friendly species around a small pond. On the evening of good architectural lighting.
 Excellent
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12.01.2016 Aleksandr
One of the symbols of Moscow. Beautiful white stone wall was the backdrop for a large number of historical films.
 Excellent
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09.01.2016 Ruben
Safe from the point of view of pathogenicity cemetery.
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15.11.2015 Anya
Currently there is restoration and this peaceful place turned into a noisy construction site. Suggest to temporarily refrain from visiting. But the outside is almost all finished - beautiful!
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31.10.2015 Anastasia
Leaning against Sofianou tower you can make a wish. What I do when I'm here.
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20.10.2015 Freddy
Repair exterior wall.
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11.10.2015 Larissa
Beautiful place! Adorable walk here + cemetery and some coffe around for a lovely and peaceful afternoon
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12.08.2015 Natalie
Peace
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10.08.2015 Alice
Best place to quietly reflect and to make an important decision. And just to get my thoughts in order. Beautifully and emotionally here.
30.06.2015 Igor
Novodevichy monastery founded by Grand Prince Vasili in 1524 Vozniknovenie the return of Smolensk to Russia after the victory in the war with Lithuania and Poland. The amazing beauty of the monument of architecture, history and culture of Russia.
 Excellent
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12.06.2015 Elena
Restoration is in full swing, everywhere is stacked the forest, or already mounted.Scurry builders, but not annoying. At the grave of abbess Leonida irises overwhelming size and beauty.
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25.03.2015 Nelly
Very quiet and peaceful , but all is not best:( all shabby and unkempt
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10.11.2014 Alexandra
The legend about the tower Sofiino - bullshit answer. This legend has 6 years old, and I live here since my childhood and nothing like this before! Only the monument of architecture of the ruin, fools.
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01.11.2014 Paul
Visited this monastery several times and I have the impression that it is under construction always, but hanging out here is great - the monastery is very beautiful and photogenic. Always a lot of tourists.
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27.10.2014 Natalia
Quiet, deserted, but there is a duty priest who communicates with all
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21.10.2014 Anastasiya
The peace and quiet. In the Church you can put candles. The tower of Sophia to write her wish, saying that will come true.
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03.10.2014 Regina
It's worth a stroll not only a huge territory, but also to go inside(often historical exhibitions inside)
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28.09.2014 Jana
Beautiful, quiet and pleasant for walks place. Don't forget to make a wish at the tower of Sofiysky, it helps..
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21.09.2014 Irina
With the holiday!!!!!
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30.08.2014 Anastasiya
A very beautiful place. The walls of the outdoor swimming pool create an extraordinary mood. :-)
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16.08.2014 Evgeniya
Such an amazing place:quiet,cozy,you can feel the presence of God! Unfortunately,not all people understand it, surprised when I see people Smoking(foreigners) on the territory of the monastery.
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13.08.2014 Elenia
Quiet and peaceful
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