5 most ancient churches in Moscow

Moscow is home to many churches. Too many to ever be able to list. Hundreds of them, each with their own unique architecture. What I love most is seeing the “onion” domes, standing proud among the modern buildings. However, I can’t help but ask myself: how much have they been through? What have they seen? What’s their story?

Moscow’s first stone church was built in 1326: The Assumption Cathedral. By the end of the fourteenth century the church was already in ruins, so a big construction to remodelate the place had begun. Unfortunately, when the building was nearing completion it suddenly collapsed due to an earthquake (however strange it may sound). If it weren’t for this disaster, the Assumption Cathedral would without doubt be the number one on this ranking.

By the end of the fifteenth century stone temples were already in abundance throughout all of the capital. But years have been cruel and very few of them stand to this day. The following is a list of five survivors. They are survivors in every sense of the word.

Here I will present to you Moscow’s five most ancient churches, dating back several centuries.

1. Kremlin. Cathedral of the Annunciation (Russian: Благовещенский собор)

In the heart of the Kremlin stands the Cathedral of Annunciation, built in the late fifteenth century on top of the ruins of an even older temple. Executed by local architects from Pskov, the church’s most prominent feature is its nine golden domes and the peculiar shape of the roof, ornamented with traditional designs.

Annunciation Cathedral
Wintery Annunciation Cathedral

2. Kremlin. Church of the Nativity (Russian: Церковь Рождества Богородицы на Сенях)

This second church, also located in the Kremlin, was founded by Princess Evdokia Moscovskaya in 1393, in memory of the Battle of Kulikov.

In 1514 the church was already in ruins, so renowned Italian architect Aleviz Novi erected a new church made out of brick. The old building then became the substructure and is now called the Chapel of the Resurrection of Lazarus. Today, there is no access to these churches, because they are located on a restricted area. A view of the domes from afar, is all that’s left to the eyes of the public.

3. Andronikov Monastery of the Saviour (Russian: Спасский собор Андроникова монастыря)

Chronicles haven’t documented the exact date of this monastery’s construction, but it is believed to have been in the middle of the fifteenth century. It was rebuilt several times, and its present appearance is the result of restoration that took place in the sixties.

Andrei Rublev, the greatest medieval painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes, spent the last years of his life at the monastery and was buried there. Today, the monastery is home to a museum of old Russian art, where much of his work can be found.

Andronikov Monastery of the Saviour
Andronikov Monastery of the Saviour
Inside view of Andronikov Monastery of the Saviour
Inside the monastery

4. Kremlin. Assumption Cathedral, or Dormition Cathedral (Russian: Успенский Собор)

After the earthquake, as a project of Prince Ivan III, the cathedral was rebuilt in the years 1475-79 by the celebrated Italian architect Aristotile Fioravanti. Thanks to Aristotile, the building is very innovative in its details, due to the use of both brick and stone, unusually thin arches, and spacious halls.

For centuries, this was the main church of Russia, serving as a place of coronation of the sovereigns and burial of the patriarchs. It is decorated with mural paintings of the 17th century, luxurious chandeliers, and a magnificent collection of ancient icons and other man-made curiosities.

Assumption Cathedral 2
Assumption Cathedral
Assumption Cathedral
Close-up of the Assumption Cathedral

5. Кremlin. Deposition of the Robe Church (Russian: Церковь Ризоположения)

Lastly, the fifth place goes to a church constructed in the end of the 15th century: Church of the Deposition of the Robe, which stands on the Kremlin’s Cathedral Square.

It is a small church decorated with thin white stone, creating a perfect contrast to the grandeur of the Assumption Cathedral located close by.

Upper Savior's Cathedral & Deposition of the Robe Church
Upper Savior’s Cathedral (left) and Deposition of the Robe Church (right)

Once again, thank you for stopping by.


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