One of the first structures to be built in the monastery, this cathedral proudly stands right in the middle of the monastery. Its five dome and six pillar arrangement and overall looks are very similar to the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kremlinand this is no coincidence as that was the intent. In fact, it was also surrounded by four chapels which have since been removed.
The cathedral is typically richly decorated inside with many highly prized icons and some or Russia's finest frescos. In fact, the cathedral was named after an ancient icon of Our Lady of Smolensk which has been the relic of Russian Tsars and Princes since 1046 and holds a rare exact copy made in 1524. The original icon went missing after the German occupation of Smolensk in 1943 and has not been found since.
The belltower was erected in the 1680s when the Monastery underwent a major reconstruction by Tsarevna Sofia Alekseyevna. This tower is somewhat brighter and more intricate than the slightly taller Ivan the Great Belltower in the Kremlin and it beautifully complements the multitude of churches around the Convent.
It has become a Moscow tradition that Monastery cemeteries are a place for the burial of nobility, cultural and political figureheads. Novodevichiy Cemetery is popular with visitors as it is home to many of Russia's best-known musicians and artists. Some of the most famous names are the writers Anton Chekhov & Nikolai Gogol, musicians Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich & Mstislav Rostropovich and politicians Nikita Khrushchev and Boris Yeltsin.
The Novodevichy Monastery was founded in 1524 by Grand Prince Vasili III in celebration of the capture of the city of Smolensk from Lithuania 10 years earlier. Dozens of local villages eventually came under the convent's ownership as it expanded over time and became a city in its own right with over 14,000 peasants under its rule in 1744.
The state continuously sponsored the convent allowing them to take in more nuns and bring up disadvantaged orphans as a result. This sponsorship was enhanced during the 17th century when the majority of the present-day buildings were constructed and a permanent guard was granted after a Polish invasion.
The Monastery is particularly famous for housing a number of Russian Tsarinas and royal family members over the centuries. Some - like Tsarevna Tatiana (Mihail Feodorovich's daughter) - did so through their own will, but others (most notably Peter the Great's sisters Ekaterina, Sophia and Evdokia after a failed coup) were incarcerated in the monastery in prison-like conditions.
In 1812 as Napoleon was leaving Moscow, the monastery was ordered to be blown up. Unlike the Kremlin, however, the plot was thwarted as one of the nuns drenched a section of the long fuse with water preventing the barrels of gunpowder from exploding.
After the Bolshevik revolution, the monastery effectively became defunct. It was formally shut in 1922 and turned into a museum which meant that luckily and unlike most other religious establishments it was not destroyed. In 1934 it joined the State History Museum and became one of its departments housing various exhibitions.
It was not until 1943 as Stalin aimed to relax his iron grip during the war that the first formal religious classes restarted in the Monastery and a year later the Bogoslovsky Institute ( Moscow Theological Institute which later moved to Troitse-Sergeev Lavra) was opened. By the end of the war in 1945 both of the main Cathedrals were reopened.
Later in the 20th century, the Metropolitan of Krutistky and Kolomensky was formally allowed to return to residence at the Monastery and by 1994 the Monastery returned to full functioning with the return of the nuns. On the 22nd March 2010 the Monastery was formally fully handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church by Vladimir Putin marking the end of almost a century of virtual Government control.
Throughout the Year
Entry to Novodevichy Convent
1 Novodevichiy proyezd