kremlin  |  kolomenskoe novodevichy  |  peterhof  |  winter palace    


The Novodevichy Convent.The Novodevichy Convent (New Nunnery or Maiden), a 16-17th century complex of 15 buildings, surmounted by golden domes, is one of the oldest religious complexes in Moscow.

It was here that women from the royal family and top-ranking boyar families took the veil, thereby closely linking its history with the life of the Russian state from the 16th to early 18th centuries.

The Novodevichy Convent is situated on the inner side of the horseshoe band of the Moscow River near the Devichye (Maid's) field. The nunnery was called Novodevichy (New Maiden's) to differ from Ascension Nunnery, called Starodevichy (Old Maiden's).

The Novodevichy Convent. Smolensk Cathedral.It was established in 1524 as a monument to the freeing of Smolensk (the main city on the way to the west, the city was freed from the Litva in 1514, who had captured the town as early as the beginning of the 15th century.) from Polish rule.

The walls and the towers were erected in the end of 16th century during the reign of Boris Godunov. The architects drew inspiration from the Kremlin and the Cathedral of the Assumption. Boris Godunov's sister and the wife of Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich Irina, all the sisters of Peter I consecrated nuns there. The first wife of Peter I Evdokiya Lopukhina ended her life in the nunnery.

The Novodevichy Convent.
The Novodevichy Convent.

Mariinsky Chamber.The oldest building pictured is the Smolensk (translated as mother of God) Cathedral (1524-25.) The prototype of this church was the Moscow Cathedral of the Assumption. Designed by Aristotle Fioravente, the construction of this monastery church architecturally demonstrated the importance of Moscow to the State. The imitation of the Kremlin Cathedral is evident in the similar division of the walls into vertical sections, in the architecture frieze with colonnades and in the cathedral's five domes. But this imitation was only superficial.

The Novodevichy Convent. Smolensk Cathedral. The exterior of the Cathedral has a more soaring structure, and the interior pillars are square in plan, which increases number of the soaring lines. The frescoes and icons of the 16th and 17th centuries have been preserved to this day.

Russian architects created a festive ensemble by combining traditional Russian architecture with some compositional devices of the Moscow baroque architecture.

The Convent was part of the defense half-circle outside the city (Donskoy, Danilov, Simonov, Novospassky and Andronikov Monasteries). In 1922 the Nunnery was closed. Now it is a museum, but part of it used as Nunnery.

Model of the Novodevichy Convent, located on its territory. Model of the Novodevichy Convent, located on its territory.

Smolensk Cathedral.
The Novodevichy Convent. Smolensk Cathedral.

The Novodevichy Convent. Headstone.The Novodevichy Convent Itself Is a unique 16th-17th
century architectural ensemble. It is dominated by the huge five domed Cathedral of the Smolensk Icon of Our Lady (1524 1525) which was modeled on the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin. In the early 17th century, during the reign of Boris Godunov, the walls of the cathedral were ornamented with frescoes representing historic episodes in the struggle for the formation of a centralized Russian state. In the 1680s, K.Mikhailov and O. Andreyev together with a number of other Russian master carvers created one of the finest ornamental works of the period - a multitiered gilt carved icons, demonstrative of their exquisite taste and tremendous skill.

The Novodevichy Convent. Church of the Protection.
The Novodevichy Convent. Church of the Protection.

The icons carved on the walls of the Smolensk Cathedral. 17th century.The floor of the cathedral is made of ornamental cast-Iron plates. The other structures - the refectory, the gateway churches, the Irminskiye and Lopukhinskiye Chambers, and the cells were also built In the 1680s. The decorative Moscow baroque style serves to harmonize the buildings with the abundance of white-stone ornamentation on the red-brick walls. The convent's bell tower rivals the famous Bell Tower of Ivan the Great in the Kremlin in its beauty. Elegant and highly decorative it was erected in 1689-1690, and consists of six octagonal stepped tiers crowned with a gilt cupola. Each tier is surrounded by a balcony with a parapet supported by ornamental balusters.

As soon as the convent was founded, a cemetery was opened on its grounds, which subsequently became a traditional burial place for the church dignitaries and feudal lords of Moscow.

The Novodevichye Cemetery. The tombstone on the grave 
of the writer Nikolai Gogol.The graves of quite a few prominent public and cultural figures famous in Russian history such as the Decembrists M.Muravyov-Apostol, A.Muravyov and S. Trubetskoi, the poet Denis Davydov who was a hero of the Patriotic War of 1812, have been preserved in the burial grounds of the cloister. In 1898, the so-called New Cemetery was established behind the south wall of the convent. Surrounded by a wall in 1898-1904, it became the most venerated cemetery in Moscow. Here lie the bodies of outstanding writers, poets and artists such as N. Gogol, A. Chekhov, V. Bryusov and V. Mayakovsky, the artists V. Serov and I. Levitan, as well as famous actors, scientists and public figures.

The body of F. Shaliapin was transferred here from France. The tombstones to be seen at the Novodevichye Cemetery include works by the celebrated Russian sculptors.

kremlin  |  kolomenskoe novodevichy  |  peterhof  |  winter palace

Site Produced by --- Contact --- Disclaimer --- Last updated in April 2003.