Take a Tour of Moscow’s Novodevichy Convent

Photo of the Novodevichy Convent
The Novodevichy Convent

Russia is full of incredible religious buildings. But surely one of the most breathtaking is the Novodevichy Convent.

One of Moscow’s most beautiful cloisters, it’s nestled in the southwest of the city, where the Moskva River bends to form what looks like a peninsula. It is an amazing architectural monument, and one of Moscow’s greatest attractions, second only to the Kremlin.

The Novodevichy (or New Maiden) Convent was founded by Tsar Vasily III in 1524 to mark winning the city of Smolensk back from the Lithuanians 10 years earlier. The new convent was consecrated in honor of the Mother of God Hodigidria which, according to legend, was painted by St Luke.

The Novodevichy Convent is reminiscent of the Moscow Kremlin in many respects. It is surrounded by fortified walls, while the stately five-domed Smolensky Cathedral built-in 1525 looks much like the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin.

During the reign of Boris Godunov, the walls of the Cathedral were decorated with frescoes depicting major historic moments in the struggle for the unification of Russia. In the late 17th century, a solid-gold multi-tiered iconostasis appeared, which is believed to have been the finest decorative work of the period in Russia.

The Convent served as a retirement home for the women of the royal and noble families. Their ‘retirement’ was either voluntary or forced, and having taken the veil, the women stayed at the convent for the rest of their lives. Perhaps the most famous residents of the Novodevichy Convent were Tsarina Godunova, widow of Tsar Fedor, Peter the Great’s older sister Sophia, and his first wife Evdokia.

The Novodevichy Convent has a tumultuous history. It was captured by the Polish and Swedish troops during the Times of Trouble in 1612 but was soon liberated by the militia army led by Minin and Prince Pozharsky, whose monument stands in Red Square. During its retreat from Moscow, Napoleon’s army tried to burn the Convent down, but the nuns managed to put the fire out.

After the Revolution of 1917, the Convent was closed and the nuns evicted to make room for the Museum of Women’s Emancipation. The convent was later reopened as a museum and became the official residence of Metropolitan Kruitsky and Kolomensky of the Orthodox Church. The complex of Novodevichy Convent is now open for visitors.

This is certainly one of Moscow’s ‘must-see’ sights, and there’s no one better to see it with than RNTO. To book your tour, visit the website today!