Images and text: InternetIvan Rebroff :“Ave Maria” Adriana
The Novodevichy (New Maiden) Convent, also known as Bogoroditse-SmolenskyMonastery, is situated in the south-western part of the historic town of Moscow, closeto the Moscow River. The Convent territory is enclosed within walls and surrounded bya park, which forms the buffer zone. The park is limited by the urban fabric of the cityon the north and east sides. On the west side, it is limited by the Moscow River, and onthe south side there is an urban freeway. The north-west shore of the lake offerspicturesque panoramas that are important for the perception of the ensemble.The convent dates back from the 16th century (1524) when it was founded by TsarVasily III as a means to commemorate the Muscovite-Lithuanian War through whichthe Russians managed to capture the city of Smolensk from Lithuania. The constructionwas meant to serve both as a religious site and as a fortification. The original structuredid not survive the passage of time, so the building that stands before the beholderdates from a later period, more exactly from the 1680s. This marks the year when themonastery was subjected to massive restoration work.
The monastic complex comprises several churches. The most relevant one is the Cathedralof the Virgin of Smolensk. This follows the architectural style of the Cathedral ofAssumption, located in Kremlin, and consists of five colossal domes, an outstandingiconostasis which comprises 84 wooden piers, to which are added 16th and 17th centuryicons. The Church of Assumption is located to the right of the aforementioned cathedraland the Church of St. Ambrose is located at the back. The Gate-Church of Trasfigurationis situated at the entrance of the convent and it is representative for the Moscow Baroquearchitectural design. The southern gate is ‘guarded’ by the Gate-Church of theIntercession, an edifice consisting of three cupolas and a red and white façade. The BellTower (1683-90) is 72 m high in five tiers. It is built from red brick in Moscow Baroquestyle, using white-stone decorative elements. The convent has a number of residential andservice buildings, many along the walls.The Necropolis of the Convent was initiated in the 16th century. The cathedral served asburial place for women of the tsarist and ruling families. The cemetery around the cathedralwas used for nobility and honourable citizens. In 1898-1904, a new cemetery wasestablished outside the south wall, a burial place of the most eminent Russianintellectuals, and political and military figures.After the October Revolution, in 1922, the Convent was closed, and it became the ‘Museumof emancipation of woman. It was later reorganised as the historical and art museum of ‘TheNovodevichy Convent. At present this is affiliated to the State Historical Museum ofKremlin. Since 1980 Novodevich Convent is a residence of a Metropolitan, and in 1994 anunnery has again been introduced there.In 2004, it was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.