Churches and Monasteries

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This centrally located early 14th century cloister defines Moscow architecturally more than most other similar landmarks. Vysokopetrovsky Monastery is assumed to have been founded by Prince Ivan Kalita. They say the prince went hunting in these parts shortly before his death, and he had a vision of a snow-covered mountain. First the snow disappeared, and then the mountain itself vanished into thin air. Ivan Kalita asked Peter, the Metropolitan, to interpret the meaning of the vision. The Metropolitan said, "The high mountain is you, the prince, and the snow is me, a man of humility. I must leave this life before you." Much aggrieved, Kalita ordered a church built where he had seen a mountain in his vision, and a monastery would spring up around it later on. The central landmark of the cloister is the Church of Peter the Metropolitan, built in 1517 by Aloisio the New, the Italian architect who also created the Cathedral of the Archangels in the Kremlin.


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Barely noticeable amid the surrounding greenery, this monastery stands right in the city centre, where Ulitsa Sretenka (Sretenka Street) meets Rozhdestvensky Bulvar (Rozhdestvensky Boulevard). It was founded in the 14th century to commemorate Russia's victory over Tamerlane, the Mongolian conqueror. It is believed that Tamerlane's army was stopped by the miracle-working Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, one of the most sacrosanct relics of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had appeared in Moscow just as Tamerlane approached the city's walls. The monastery became an NKVD dormitory during Soviet time, and a school was built above the cemetery of 1812 war heroes. The five-dome 17th century church (the monastery's only surviving historic building), a nice walk down the hydrangea-lined paths, and the amazing men's choir (people travel to Moscow from all parts of Russia just to hear it) will make your trip here worth your while.

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This early 20th-century Neo-Byzantine church is one of a kind in Moscow and in Russia. The architect who created the church, Sergey Solovyov, followed the instructions of his customers, the proprietors of Kuntsevo Estate, who wanted the church to be built in 6th-century Ravenna style. The church fell into neglect during Soviet time, but has been restored just recently.


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There used to be a 16th-century church here, built in honour of the ordainment of Prince Basil III for Princedom. The prince received Orthodox ordainment on the day when Christians remembered and celebrated Pope Martin I, or Saint Martin the Confessor, and so the church was named in his honour. The church was rebuilt in the 18th century in the style of Russian Classicism, to the design of Rodion Kazakov, a name-sake and pupil of Matvey Kazakov, then Moscow's No. 1 architect. The greatest treasure in this church are early 19th-century murals by the Italian artist Antonio Claudio, which had survived a major fire.


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The Krutitsy Patriarchal Metochion is a magnificent Christian historical landmark, well preserved and meticulously restored. Founded in the 13th century as a monastery, Krutitsy would be used as residence by several generations of bishops. The historic bishopric residence complex stands on a high Moskva riverbank, where Krutitsy, the community which was the centre of the local principality, was located in the 12th century. The complex consists of the 17th-century Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, the two-storey Metropolitan's chambers, some 19th-century buildings, Krutitsky Teremok, and Resurrection Passages, faced with two thousand rare tiles. The latter is perhaps the most outstanding building of the complex. Krutitsy stopped operating as a Christian mission in 1924. The estate was given to the military, who painted over the frescoes, broke off the tiles, converted the chambers to barracks, and the graveyard, to a football field. According to one theory, Lavrenty Beriya, Member of the Political Bureau (Presidium) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, was held here in 1953 following his arrest. The mission would probably have fallen apart by now, if its restoration had not been entrusted to Pyotr Baranovsky, one of the top restoration artists in the Soviet Union, specializing in Russian architecture. Baranovsky had founded the Andrei Rublev Museum at the Andronikov Monastery of Our Saviour, and was rumoured to have rescued Saint Basil's Cathedral from demolition.

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This centrally located monastery near Shabolovskaya Metro station was founded in 1591, right after Muscovites had defeated the army of the Crimean Khan Gazy II Girey outside the Kremlin walls. The cloister is dedicated to the Icon of Our Lady of the Don, with which, according to the chronicles, Dmitry of the Don had been blessed for the Battle of the Kulikovo Field. This icon, believed to have been painted by Theophanes the Greek, had remained inside the monastery church for many years before it was handed over to the Tretyakov State Gallery. Napoleon's soldiers looted the monastery in 1812, but the eight-tier carved iconostasis of the Bolshoy Cathedral of Our Lady of the Don, crafted at the end of the 17th century, had survived as if by miracle. The paintings on the iconostasis betray Italian influences. Its bottom tiers were painted by the famous icon painter Karp Zolotarev. The monastery's other landmark is its old necropolis, filled with historic gravestones of the gentry since the 17th century. Guided tours of the graveyard are available, but must be ordered in advance. On the wall across from the monastery entrance are surviving bas-reliefs from the Church of Christ the Saviour, destroyed in 1931.

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Church of the Archangel Gabriel at Chistye Prudy, otherwise known as Menshikov Tower, was built in 1707 by a group of Russian and Italian architects led by Domenico Tresini, the Swiss architect who designed Saint Petersburg. The church was commissioned by Alexander Menshikov, a close associate of Peter I's, hence its name. The church's fanciful sculptural decorations were destroyed by a lightning strike at the end of the 18th century. Its wooden spire, crowned by a clock and an angel shape weather-vane, burned down. The domes fell down through the ceiling, injuring many people. The tower had to be rebuilt, this time with a dome in place of the spire. This is the oldest Petrine Baroque building in Moscow.

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This imposing six-storey Byzantine mosque, Moscow's main Moslem temple, is among the tallest mosques in Europe. This mosque opened with much fanfare in September 2015, on the eve of the Moslem festival of Kurban Bayram, but another mosque had stood on this spot before, built in 1904. Due to its dilapidated condition, it was decided to build a new mosque, and construction began in 2011. Apart from the men's and women's praying rooms, the new mosque houses a Museum of Islam and an art gallery. The mosque holds several precious sacraments: an old handwritten Koran, a mantle from Kaaba (a gift from a Saudi prince), a collection of silver tablets with sacred texts, and a hair from the head of the Prophet Mohammed, which the mosque is never going to put on display, fearing it would never be able to handle the enormous visitor flow.

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This convent was founded in the 16th century by Prince Vasily III, the father of Ivan the Terrible. In 1514, while fighting the Lithuanians over Smolensk, the prince promised, standing by the town wall, "If it would be the Lord's will that I conquer my native town of Smolensk and the land of Smolensk, I shall put a women's cloister in a suburb of Moscow, and within it, a church in the name of the Holy Virgin." In ten years' time, he did. Right from the start and for two centuries thence, the nuns of the convent would be the wives and brides of the court who had fallen into disfavour. There is a theory that construction of the convent had coincided with Vasily III's pressing need to part with his first wife Solomonia Saburova, who would take the name Sofia when she became a nun. Vasily, who was then 26, had screened 500 potential candidates before he chose Solomonia. Twenty years into their marriage it became evident that Solomonia was infertile, so the prince decided to place her in a convent and find himself a new wife. However, it was not this convent, but the Convent of the Nativity, that he sent her to and, according to one legend, the ex-princess gave birth to a baby boy right away. The boy would grow up to become a notorious brigand, Kudeyar, one of the most controversial figures in Russian history. For centuries to come, many a high-ranking widow and simply undesirable noblewoman would be sent to the Novodevichy Convent to become nuns. Some of the better known ones were Princess Sofia, Peter I's older sister, who was sent to the convent by her brother as punishment for an attempted coup, and Peter I's wife Evdokia Lopukhina, who simply became "redundant:" the veil was practically forced upon her.

Novodevichy is one of the few Russian cloisters that have hardly changed at all since their look shaped up between the 16th and 17th centuries. The convent is a prime specimen of the architectural style known as Moscow or Naryshkin's Baroque, which had emerged in Moscow on the cusp of the 17th/18th centuries. The key landmarks inside the convent are the five-dome Cathedral of the Icon of Our Lady of Smolensk, modelled on the Kremlin's Cathedral of the Assumption, with its 17th-century frescoes still extant, the 72-metre (236-foot) Baroque bell-tower, the second tallest in Moscow after the Ivan the Great Bell-tower inside the Kremlin, and the chambers of Evdokia Lopukhina with Moscow's oldest sun-dial on the wall. There is a graveyard at the convent where many people of consequence were buried, from the writer Nikolai Gogol to the first president in Russia's modern history, Boris Yeltsin. After you have seen the convent and perhaps thought of the royal wives languishing their life away amid these ornate walls, you may want to proceed to the Novodevichy Pond with sumptuous green meadows around it. A monument to a mother duck with ducklings stands by the pond. The convent is under UNESCO protection. All restoration work here is carefully supervised by historians.

Founded in the 17th century, this convent is a Christian place of pilgrimage, being the repository of the remains of Saint Matrona of Moscow. It is believed that adoration of the relics of Saint Matrona heals life-threatening illnesses. Initially intended as a men's cloister, Intercession (Pokrovsky) Convent was build amid a graveyard, where beggars, homeless people and "fools for Christ" were buried. The popular name for the convent was "Bozhedomsky." The convent had been rebuilt many times before it was closed in the early 1900s. A part of the local necropolis was destroyed, and Tagansky Park was planted in its stead. The convent runs an orphanage for girls.

Simonov Monastery was founded in the mid-14th century. Once one of the largest and most affluent monasteries around Moscow, the monastery protected the southern reaches of the city in the 16th and 17th centuries. Enemies, who felt jealous of the monastery's lands and riches, often raided and looted the cloister, and the Time of Troubles left it completely devastated. During the plague epidemic in the mid-18th century, Catherine II ordered the monastery converted to a hospital for plague victims. After the plague was brought under control at the end of the 18th century, Simonov Monastery was reopened, and would exist peacefully for 140 years, until 1920. Soviet authorities had some of the monastery buildings demolished, and on the newly vacant land the ZiL Palace of Culture was built, one of Moscow's rather few Constructivist landmarks, created by the brothers Leonid and Alexander Vesnin. Gravestones from Simonov Monastery's graveyard, once reserved for Moscow gentry, are now on display at Donskoy Monastery. The main landmarks at Simonov Monastery are its towers and its exquisite refectory, created in the 17th century by a famous Moscow architect, Osip Startsev. There once was a pond near the monastery. The protagonist of Nikolay Karamzin's short novel Poor Liza killed herself by drowning in that pond.

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An outlandish-looking modern building in the heart of Moscow. Through the glass you can make out the reconstructed Mauritanian facade of the synagogue that had stood here since the end of the 19th century. This temple became the centre of religious life for Moscow's Jewish community when the choral synagogue at Kitay-gorod was closed down. A fabulous view of the city opens up from Jerusalem, the kosher restaurant on the roof of the synagogue. Moscow's only kosher pizzeria is also here.

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This early-1900s Neo-Gothic temple is now Russia's main Catholic cathedral. Moscow's Catholic community asked the city's governor for a piece of land to build their church on at the end of the 19th century. The governor agreed and let the Catholics choose where they wanted their church to stand, but set two conditions: the church had to be built far enough away from the city centre so as not to confuse Orthodox Muscovites, and it could not be too conspicuously decorated. Only minimal decorations were allowed inside and outside the church. A suitable plot was found on Malaya Gruzinskaya Ulitsa (Malaya Gruzinskaya Street), where many Polish Catholic railway workers lived. As for external understatement, they decided to ignore the governor's prescription. When the governor saw the drawings of the Neo-Gothic church with its many towers and spires, the likes of which Moscow had never seen, he thought the church looked beautiful, and approved the construction. But the church was not destined to serve very long as a place of worship. Soviet authorities dissolved the parish and had the Mosspetspromproyekt research institute move in, which would remain on the premises until 1996. Then the church was returned to the Catholic congregation, restored and consecrated by Pope John Paul II himself via television link-up. The church hosts concerts and educational lectures on devotional music from time to time.

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The Andronikov Monastery of the Saviour, standing on a high hill overlooking the Yauza River, was founded in 1357, allegedly on account of Alexius, the Metropolitan of Kiev, having survived a mighty storm while travelling by sea three years before. Alexius was on his way to Constantinople when a terrible storm struck. The Metropolitan prayed and promised that, if it would be the Lord's will that he reached the Golden Horn Harbour alive, he would have a monastery built to honour the saint whose day would be the day when he arrived in Constantinople. That day was the Day of Our Saviour Not-Made-By-Hand, when an important Christian relic is celebrated. In Moscow, a street close to the monastery was named Zolotorozhskaya (Golden Horn Street) in memory of the miraculous survival of the Metropolitan of Kiev in a storm.

The monastery's Cathedral of the Saviour, built in 1425–1427, is the oldest church in Moscow outside the Kremlin, and possibly was the first stone church to be built in the city. The church walls once were painted with murals by Andrey Rublev, the great Russian icon painter, but only a few fragments of the murals have remained. Andrey Rublev lived, worked and died in this monastery in 1428, and is buried here. The Central Museum of Old Russian Culture and Art Named after Andrey Rublev is also inside the monastery's walls, boasting a large collection of rare and precious icons. The monastery hill is a good place to watch the sunset, offering a clear view of the Kremlin's towers and Moskva City high-rises. The Hammer & Sickle Palace of Culture is an abandoned Constructivist landmark next to the monastery. The palace has been conserved for reconstruction. No one is allowed inside, but you can sneak a look over the fence.

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This monastery in the Neskuchny Sad (Garden) at the foot of Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) has always lived a quiet life ever since it was founded at the end of the 17th century. No one ever attacked the cloister. Saint Andrew's Monastery has always stood tranquilly in a quiet neighbourhood, but it was not always inhabited by monks. The monks were relocated to a fraternal Donskoy Monastery in 1742, while Saint Andrew's became a prison-house and an orphanage. Those charitable institutions were closed in the early 1800s, and a poorhouse was opened instead. The staff of Moscow's 1st Goznak banknote printers moved in at the beginning of the 20th century. This all ended in 2013, when the complex once again became Saint Andrew's Stauropegic Monastery. It is equally interesting to view the monastery from the Moskva River embankment, and from the observatory by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Television broadcasts of the key church services beam out of this Moscow Patriarchate cathedral, built in the 17th century in the Moscow Empire style. Although erected at the city's edge, the church never saw any dearth of parishioners. People flocked en masse to worship in this tall, elegant cathedral. The cathedral at Yelokhovo was one of the very few churches in Moscow, which were not closed down by Soviet authorities. The church is the repository of the relics of Saint Alexius, the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, a 14th-century diplomat and enlightener. Alexius II, the late Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, was also buried at the Epiphany Cathedral.


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This convent at Ulitsa Bolshaya Ordynka (Bolshaya Ordynka Street) was founded in 1909 by Princess Elizaveta Fyodorovna, the wife of the Emperor's brother, Prince Sergei Alexandrovich, after the prince was assassinated. The grieving Elizaveta Fyodorovna sold all her family jewellery and bought a mansion with a garden at Ulitsa Bolshaya Ordynka. Then she had a cloister built on her land for nuns who would provide medical assistance. The famous Russian architect Alexey Shchusev built a church on Elizaveta Fyodorovna's land, and artist Mikhail Nesterov, whose paintings are on display at the Tretyakov State Gallery, painted it. The cloister would not stay the way Elizaveta Fyodorovna had wanted it to be very long. The princess was arrested and killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, and the convent was closed down eight years later. A polyclinic was opened on the premises of the former convent in 1926 with sisters of mercy for medical personnel. Later on, the church was reappointed as a cinema, and the rest of the estate was given to restoration workshops. When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the cloister was returned to the church. Nowadays it houses an orphanage for girls, a nurse care service, and a charity diner.

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The majestic Saint Basil's Cathedral, Moscow's most readily recognizable temple, a must-see landmark for all tourists and visitors in Moscow, dominates the Red Square. It has a second name: Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, or Pokrovsky Cathedral. Saint Basil's is not one, but nine churches with 11 domes. The church was ordered to be built by none other than Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victory over the Kazan Khanate. The multicoloured domes, as most historians believe, were created and built in 1561 by two architects: Barma and Postnik Yakovlev. However, some argue that Barma was simply an alias of Postnik Yakovlev, and the domes were a one-man job. Yet another hypothesis asserts that the church complex was created by some unknown Italian architect. They say that Postnik and Barma (or Postnik alone) were blinded once the construction was finished, to make sure they never build something as beautiful again somewhere else. But historians will not buy this, knowing that Postnik would build the Kazan Kremlin after St. Basil's was built. Saint Basil's Cathedral has museum status. Visitors are admitted with or without a tour guide.
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This active convent, standing on the bank of the Moskva River right in the heart of the city, was founded in the 14th century. Many of its buildings have suffered varying degrees of fire damage over the centuries. The convent has been recently renovated and restored. Only the tiny gate-house Church of Our Saviour Not-Made-By-Hand, built in Naryshkin's Baroque style, was never touched by fire. Built at the end of the 17th century, this church is an officially recognized architectural landmark. The Rimsky-Korsakov family burial vault is in the basement of the gatehouse church. It will not take long to see the whole convent. It is a quiet place that blends in nicely into the backyards of Ostozhenka, a Moscow neighbourhood with much to see, where pompous modern structures stand side by side with old houses, such as Feodor Chaliapin's former home in Trety Zachatyevsky Pereulok (Trety Zachatyevsky Lane). Walking by the convent walls, some recent archaeological finds may come to mind: they found a mammoth tusk here along with ancient funeral accessories and a piece of old Russian fabric with the image of a unicorn.

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Built in the early 1800s, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Maroseyka neighbourhood is an architectural rarity in Moscow, and one of the oldest Lutheran churches in Russia. Sunday services in Russian and German are held every week here to the accompaniment of organ music. This was the headquarters of Diafilm Studios in Soviet time. Today Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul boasts such valuable Christian relics as a 1665 altar Bible, a late 19th century organ, and a mid-18th century Baroque altar. The church gives public organ concerts on a regular basis, with separate playlists for adults and children. Some of the best organists from Europe play here. Visit the website below to see the concert schedule.


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The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, formally one of Russia's main sanctuaries, has proved too "official" and too full of VIP parishioners on holidays to ever become truly a "people's" church. It was reconstructed in 1997 exactly where the original Cathedral of Christ the Saviour had stood before it was blown up on December 5, 1931 as part of Joseph Stalin's ambitious redevelopment plan for Moscow. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was conceived as the central cenotaph for soldiers who had perished in the earlier years in battles with Napoleon's army. The names of the heroes were engraved on the walls of the church, which the court architect Konstantin Ton (the creator of the Grand Palace of the Kremlin) had built in 1883 in memory of Russia's devastating war with Napoleon Bonaparte. The plan was to build the church in the Volkhonka neighbourhood, but so big was the church that the 17th-century Saint Alexius Convent had had to be razed to make room. They say that the convent's mother superior cursed the new church, saying it was not going to last. And it did not. It would be blown up nearly 50 years later, in the winter of 1931, to make room for the new Palace of Soviets. In its 50-year history, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour had seen royal coronations and grand national celebrations. The great Feodor Chaliapin sang here, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Overture 1812 was premiered in the church. The Palace of Soviets was never built: the war with Nazi Germany played havoc with the city's development plans. The outdoor "Moskva" swimming pool was built on the former church grounds in 1960. The pool was so huge its vapours provoked corrosion of the metal bearing parts in the neighbouring buildings, and caused damage to the artworks in the Pushkin Museum nearby. Construction began on a replica of the former church in the early 1990s. It is a humongous structure. Top government officials attend services here on church holidays. There is an observatory at the top, and a concert venue in the basement. One would have to pay a visit to the Donskoy Monastery to get some sense of the haut-relief artwork from the original church. The fragments of the original Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which had survived the blast, are there, lined against the monastery wall.

The first tent-roofed temple to be built in Russia in the early 16th century to the order of Grand Prince Basil III, the Church of the Ascension stands on a scenic hillside in the park of Kolomenskoye. The church was created by Petrok Maly, the Italian architect also known as Peter Fryazin Junior. "Fryazin" was the nickname then given to all Italian architects who came to work in Moscow. There was an Aleviz Fryazin (Aloisio da Milano), who built in the Kremlin, and there were Bon Fryazin, Anton Fryazin, Mark Fryazin and Ivan Fryazin. These people were not name-sakes: each had his own original Italian name and surname. It is believed that Basil III has this church built, intending to pray for an heir. Ground was broken, and two years later Basil's male child was born, the future Ivan the Terrible. The church was not yet finished when the child was born. Its tent-roofed design makes this church unique: very few similar churches were ever built in Russia. The Church of the Ascension is under UNESCO patronage.


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Rarely does one find a temple so festive in appearance. The Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, created in the Russian Uzorochye style, was built in the mid-17th century close to an ambassadorial roadside guesthouse, hence the place-name. This tiny open-work edifice a two-minute walk away from Pushkinskaya Ploschad (Pushkinskaya Square) is often featured in Moscow city guides and picture postcards. The Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos was the last tent-roofed church to be built in Moscow. Soon thereafter Patriarch Nikon issued an edict, which forbade the construction of tent-roofed churches in Russia forever. Soviet authorities had the church converted to a rehearsal space of the Moscow Circus, where dogs and monkeys would be trained. Much of the credit for the restoration of the church goes to actor Alexander Abdulov of the Lenkom Theatre nearby.


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This church of rare beauty, a prime example of Moscow (or Naryshkin's) Baroque, was built by an anonymous architect near Fili Park at the end of the 17th century. Lev Naryshkin, Peter I's uncle, paid for the construction. Peter I visited this church many times, according to historians. The iconostasis was created by Armoury artist Karp Zolotarev, the icon painter who had painted the lower tiers of the famous altar at the Donskoy Monastery. This church was badly damaged during Napoleon's brief occupation of Moscow. French soldiers had turned it into a stable and a mending workshop. It was restored in the 1980s. While it is okay to walk in to see the interior art any time, this is an active church, so it is a good idea to double-check the church's hours on its website before you go, as the hours may change.