Home About Russian Travel News Novodevichy Convent, Moscow

Novodevichy Convent, Moscow

A slender six-tiered bell tower, towers crowned with elegant “crowns”, a Naryshkin combination of red, white and gold — this is how the Novodevichy Convent from Bolshaya Pirogovskaya Street appears. So it was conceived: the street itself, once part of the historic Prechistenka, was formed as a road to this aristocratic royal monastery.

The view from Pyrogovka - front door, postcard - is the visiting card of one of the most revered monasteries of Russia, taken under the auspices of UNESCO But the feminine essence of the monastery appears in all its grace from another point: the opposite bank of the Bolshoi Novodevichy Pond. In the summer, when the whole monastic ensemble is reflected in its calm waters, the spiritual joy of contemplating the monastery literally doubles.

The noise of the capital behind the white-red walls does not subside, but goes into the hum of tourist crowds. It is always crowded in Novodevichy, there are very few chances to find solitude, except in heavy rain or freezing cold. Buses loaded with curious travelers from around the world continually moor at the monastery gates. Children of different nations marvel at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Smolensk, in terms of its architectural value and antiquity (16th century), comparable to the Assumption and Archangel Cathedrals of the Moscow Kremlin. Both the Germans and the Japanese are turning their heads on, looking at the details of the amazing gate churches - the Intercession and the Transfiguration; The great architect Vasily Bazhenov, a sophisticated and strict connoisseur, called them the most beautiful Russian churches of its kind. Sofia Chambers are in a special note of some of our compatriots: they put a hand to the walls and make a wish, because (as the TV said so!) they consider the disgraced sister of Peter the Great to be holy and wait for miracles and fulfillment of desires from the place of her imprisonment. To be faithful, they record the wishes on the walls of the chambers — the nuns are in shock; the restorers groan. The French livened up at the mention of Napoleon: in 1812, the emperor examined the monastery, without stepping off his horse, and ordered the destruction of the Church of John the Baptist. The heroic treasurer Sarah, who managed to prevent the explosion of a mined monastery after the departure of the French, pleases feminists of all countries. They look at each other at the mention of the “Museum of women's emancipation” - the Bolsheviks opened it here in 1924, two years after the abolition of the monastery, originally honoring the formidable Sophia and the unfortunate Xenia Godunov, and all those who were tonsured here as nuns, queens and royal widows . The beautiful Novodevichy Convent has always been a kind of gender alternative to the courageous Kremlin.

No less than ancient churches, curious travelers are attracted to famous graves - the graves of the Russian-Soviet-Russian pantheon. The cemetery of the Novodevichy Convent in the 20th century continued the tradition of a particularly privileged place. Khrushchev joined the heroes of 1812, the tombstone of which was made by Nikita Sergeyevich’s “formalist” Ernst Neizvestny, and Boris Yeltsin (for some reason, the color brown was tangled on his grave instead of red) and many famous artists and folk artists. From Eisenstein to Alfred Schnittke, from Utesov to Gurchenko - the whole history of Soviet art.

From the side of the pleasure boat, the monastery complex behind the white walls looks almost like a Russian souvenir, almost fully sustained in the style of the Naryshkinsky Baroque. Khamovniki, a bend of the Moscow River - one of the most beautiful places in the capital.

Since 1994, Novodevichy again became a functioning monastery, but the premises and monuments had to be “brotherly” shared with the Historical Museum, founded in 1934. Smolensk Cathedral, Irininsky and Sofia Chambers remained at the museum, the rest of the churches and cells were transferred to the clergy. Since 2010, the monastery has departed in the free and indefinite use of the Moscow diocese. However, the museum continues to work, now as the "Church Museum of the Russian Orthodox Church." In addition to the museum and the church, the tourist community has become the third informal owner of the place.

Tourists, of course, deprive this place of silence befitting the ancient monastery, but they warm and enliven the monastic atmosphere. Everything is mixed up: hurried foreigners, who are trying to drive around all the sights of Moscow in two days, unorganized compatriots in search of “star” graves, the first ladies of different states - they are obliged to take them on a trip to Novodevichy. Whether in memory of the royal nuns, or in opposition to the Kremlin, where the statesmen gather.

The main cathedral of the Novodevichy Monastery - Smolensky - summer, so it is open only in the warm season, from late April to late September. Exact dates of opening and closing of the cathedral depend on weather conditions.

The museum expositions are located in the Sofia and Irininsky chambers. Currently, there are exhibitions of icons XX-XVIII centuries. Expositions periodically change - up to 14 thousand exhibits are kept in the museum’s storerooms, including real treasures: precious church utensils, unique salaries, royal donations to the monastery.

From 1964 to the present day, at the Assumption Church, there is a department of Metropolitan of Krutitsky and Kolomna, one of the most important officials of the Russian Orthodox Church. For many years it has been Bishop Juvenalius. Novodevichy - the only Moscow monastery, subordinated not directly to the patriarch, but to Metropolitan of Krutitsky and Kolomna.

According to the chronicles, the first wooden church on the site of the present Novodevichy monastery was laid on May 13 (26), 1524, in memory of the conquest of Smolensk by Vasily III and “in memory of the“ arrival ”to Moscow at the end of the 14th century the miraculous icon of Smolensk Odigitria, as the researcher writes V.V. Kavelmaher. The monastery was founded on the very place where Muscovites said goodbye to the icon, sending it to Smolensk. The icon of the Mother of God "Odigitria" was brought by the Byzantine princess Anna Monomakh, the wife of Chernigov Prince Vsevolod Yaroslavovich, from Constantinople to Chernigov in 1046, hence the name - Odigitria means "guide". This icon, written, according to legend, by the Evangelist Luke, was especially revered in Russia. The guiding icon traveled a lot: from Chernigov it was moved to Smolensk, several times it moved from Smolensk to Moscow and back. In the Novodevichy Convent its list was kept, which is also considered miraculous. In the thirties of the 20th century, the original image of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God was seized and transferred to the Smolensk Museum, but the icon is listed as missing in the museum records. It is believed that during the Nazi occupation of Smolensk, it was carried to the people and is still preserved among the believers.

In honor of the Smolensk icon, the new monastery was named the Most Pure Odigitrii New Maiden, in contrast to the Ascension Monastery in the Kremlin, called Starodevichy. Basil III, and after him Ivan IV, endowed the monastery with several palace villages and villages. The Novodevichy Monastery was part of a semi-ring located outside of Moscow monasteries (Donskoy, Danilov, Simonov, Novospassky and Andronikov), who defended the city from the south.

The Novodevichy Convent immediately received numerous privileges and patronage of the ruling persons. The special position of the monastery consisted in the fact that its nuns became more than once the grand and royal widows, “extra” princesses and queens (most often against their will) and disgraced aristocrats. This was already implied when the monastery was created: Tsar Vasily III was going to send his wife, Solomon Saburov, to the newly built monastery. In 1598, the widow of Tsar Fedor Ioannovich Irina took a veil here as a nun under the name of Alexandra. Irina's brother Boris Godunov lived next to her in the Novodevichy Convent until his election to the throne. Later, in the Novodevichy Convent, his daughter Ksenia Godunova lived - a woman from one of the most tragic destinies in Russian history.

The chambers where Irina Godunova supposedly lived have survived to the present day. True, historians and restorers doubt it: most likely, Irina lived in the same place, but in wooden chambers, later replaced by stone ones. So far, none of the versions has found documentary evidence, and the chambers continue to be called Irininsky.

In the Time of Troubles, the monastery was broke, several times fell into the hands of the enemy and turned into a fortress. With the accession to the throne of Mikhail Fedorovich, the monastery was restored, the monastic life resumed. Alexey Mikhailovich and Fedor Alekseevich endowed the monastery with patrimonies and contributions, making it a royal pilgrim. From about this period Novodevichy became one of the most influential and richest monasteries in the country.

The architectural complex of the monastery, as we see it today, appeared almost at the same time, at the end of the XVII century. Of the single ensemble, only two earlier structures are distinguished - the Smolensk Cathedral and the Church of St. Ambrose. True, so far the restorers have not come to a common opinion about the dating of these temples. In particular, the Smolensk Cathedral dates from a time period from the first quarter to the end of the XVI century.

The walls and towers of the monastery were erected in the style of Moscow (Naryshinsky) baroque that was popular at that time - a brick with white stone details. The city walls, like the Kremlin, are surmounted by double-pronged teeth. On the main corners of the walls there are four round towers, between them - eight square. The towers are decorated with characteristic "crowns", which were previously considered the latest addition, made in the XVIII century. Modern researchers have come to the conclusion that the “crowns” appeared immediately, along with the walls and towers: the same-branded brick was used everywhere (the stamps were changed every 10–20 years). Therefore, the monastery ensemble is distinguished by an amazing integrity of forms and styles.

Many monastic buildings were erected in the 1680s, under Princess Sofia Alekseevna: The Refectory Chamber with the Assumption Church, the Transfiguration and the Pokrovskaya Gate Churches, two residential buildings for the daughters of Alexei Mikhailovich, the sisters of Peter I. At the same time, the layout of the buildings in the monastery: the main buildings are set on the central axes.

Tsarevna Sophia was forcibly tonsured as a nun and imprisoned in the Novodevichy Convent in 1698. In this way, the monastery entered its name in the history of the streltsky riots. They interrogated and executed the rebels here. By order of Peter I, they were hung in front of the windows of Sophia’s cell, who had become the nun of Susanna. Here she died in 1704.

Twenty years later, the first wife of Peter Yevdokiya Lopukhina came to Novodevichy and was transferred here of her own free will. At the beginning of the events of the church split in the monastery contained the boyar Morozov.

After the church reform of Catherine II, Novodevichy was assigned to the I class of monasteries. According to the testimony of contemporaries, then the monastery was perhaps the richest in Russia.

1812 was one of the brightest pages of the history of the monastery. On August 30, Abbess Methodius received from Bishop Augustine an order to take out valuable relics and leave the monastery. Methodius took the most revered icons, salaries to them, the treasures from the monastery sacristy and on August 31, together with the abbot of other monasteries, went to Vologda. Part of the nuns, including Treasurer Sarah, remained in Novodevichy. From September 2, the French got to the monastery, but could not get inside - the gates were locked. The walls would not have stopped the soldiers of Napoleon - it was enough to have a few shots from a cannon - but the assault was quite peaceful. It began on September 4, 1812. According to eyewitnesses, a French corps approached the monastery, one of whose soldiers climbed over the wall and forced the nuns to open the gate. On September 8, a large army entered the monastery, but there was no robbery or destruction - the soldiers were ordered to observe order and show respect. Napoleon’s General Davout settled into the hell-chamber’s chambers, and on September 25 Napoleon himself arrived: inspected the monastic buildings and ordered the church of John the Baptist to be blown up. This was done for purely practical reasons - the church prevented the shelling in the direction of Moscow.

On October 6, the nuns were announced: those who want to be saved must leave the monastery. From the 8th to the 9th, everyone gathered to leave the monastery; only Treasurer Sarah remained with several nuns. Bypassing the monastery, they saw boxes of gunpowder under the Smolensk Cathedral. The crates were open, and the wicks laid in them were set on fire. The nuns had time to put out the wicks and poured the powder with water. The monastery and its main cathedral were saved.

Whether this story corresponds to reality is hard to say. The leading restorer of the Novodevichy Monastery Nikolai Sergeevich Romanov specifies: “Perhaps the plot was not so dramatic, and the nuns did not save the monastery from the explosion at the last moment. But the name of the treasurer Sarah, however, not invented - she really lived in a monastery. So for the time being we cannot disprove or confirm this page of the history of the monastery”.

In the XIX century, the monastery lived a quiet, peaceful life. In 1871, a shelter was opened to educate orphan girls. In 1898-1904, the monastic necropolis was expanded - inside the walls there was no room for burials, therefore, by the project of architect Mashkov, new walls were erected on the south side of the monastery, behind which the “new” cemetery, now known throughout the world, was built.

Since 1934, the Novodevichy Convent has become a branch of the Historical Museum. However, the residents on the monastery territory remained for a long time - the latter left the monastery only in the 1960s.

From 1939 to 1984, the famous restorer-architect Peter Dmitrievich Baranovsky lived in the Hospital Chambers of the Novodevichy Monastery. He had a small apartment here. Unlike the other tenants, the honored and elderly Baranovsky was not evicted from the territory of the monastery. A modest plaque is hanging on the walls of the chambers now.

In 1943, theological courses opened in Novodevichy, in the following - the Theological Institute, later transformed into the Moscow Theological Seminary and Academy (transferred to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra).

The decision to resume monastic life was taken in 1994. The first Mother Superior of the revived Novodevichy became the legendary nun Seraphim. Before the monastic tonsure, which she took at the age of 72 years, Varvara Vasilyevna Chernaya-Chichagova was engaged in chemistry, and very successfully. “She was the deputy director of the Institute for the Rubber Industry, an eminent chemist, and even created a new area of ??production - latex technology. There was a strict, tough leader, a member of the party. If she did not renounce her faith in public, she didn’t say exactly about her. And when she retired in 1986, she changed her life drastically. I decided that it was time to humble my pride, and went to sell candles in the church of Elijah the Prophet on Ostozhenka. At the same time, she conducted research in order to submit her grandfather (who was shot after the revolution, Metropolitan Seraphim) to a commission to be counted new martyrs. So it was noticed by the Metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna Juvenalia, under whose jurisdiction is the Novodevichy Convent. He noticed Varvara Vasilievna, appreciated, personally tonsured a nun and made Abbess Novodevichy, whom she stayed until his death in 1999. The cleverest woman was, after all, ”the leading restorer of Novodevichy Nikolay Sergeevich Romanovtold reporters. Mother Seraphim was buried at the entrance to the Church of the Assumption. Interestingly, the current abbess of Novodevichy, Mother Margaret, “in a past life” was engaged in genetics.

Since March 1999, the veneration of St. Helena (Devochkina), the first Abbess of the Novodevichy Monastery, has been resumed. On hegumenism in the New Maiden Monastery, she was summoned from Suzdal to Vasily III. Already under Alexey Mikhailovich, Elena was revered for holiness. According to church legends, St. Helena often visited the sisters of the monastery during difficult times - during the plague of 1771 and in 1812, on the day Napoleon invaded Russia (it is believed that Moscow had not yet known about the attack of the French troops). Hegumeness Elena died in 1547 and was buried in the monastery on the north side of the altar of the Smolensk Cathedral. Later a stone slab was inserted into the altar wall of the cathedral in front of the tomb, which has survived to the present day. It is known that the grave of the first Abbess has long served as a place of special veneration. After the destruction of the monastery cemetery and the redevelopment of the entire territory in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the gravestone named Abbess of Helena only approximately indicates the original place of her burial.

Join our tours and take a look at this amazing attraction:
Excursions - www.uvisitrussia.com/day-tours/tours-to-moscow/
Tours - www.uvisitrussia.com/tours-to-moscow/