The Dormition Cathedral

This Cathedral is justly considered as one of the greatest sanctuaries of Russia. For many centuries the Patriarchal Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin has been the spiritual and political centre of Russia. It is exactly the place where Grand Dukes and Emperors were crowned, the State Acts were announced and the Bishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs were dignified.

The history of the Cathedral goes as far back as the year 1326 when Grand Duke Ivan Kalita and holy hierarch Peter laid the first Moscow’s stone church dedicated to the Assumption. Some scientists believe that there were two earlier churches before the Kalita’s Cathedral, the wooden one (12th century) and the stone one (13th century).

The reason for building the Cathedral was to grant the “first-throned city” status to Moscow. Since then it was the Moscow’s Dormition Cathedral (not Vladimir’s one) that was to become the main Russian Cathedral. The Cathedral’s building that you can admire nowadays at the Red Square was built in 1475-1479. Legend has it that the architect made a deep crypt under the church’s foundation where the famous library brought to Moscow by Sophia Paleolog was kept (it would later go down in history as the Library of Ivan the Terrible).

The Cathedral is built of limestone together with brick. The latter was used for laying arches, dome drums, the eastern wall over the altar apses and the eastern square pillars hidden by the altar screen. Though the circular pillars are also made of brick, however, everything is fronted with limestone.

The Dormition Cathedral is a three-naved five-domed church. Powerful and precise proportions confer it with greatness and monumentality. The Cathedral is distinguished by its monolithic structure: all the divisions have the same sizes, altar apses are flattened and hidden by massive bands and large domes are adjacent to each other. The wall-painting and architecture of the Cathedral are designed to create the cosmic image. The church’s walls symbolise the sky which is supported by cathedral’s pillars.

The modern look of the Cathedral is defined by paintings of 1642-1643 and by its colossal iconostasis. The church was painted by 150 artists headed by Tsar’s icon-painters Ivan and Boris Paisenin and Sidor Pospeyev. The iconostasis was made at the instigation of Patriarch Nicon in 1653.

There is a so-called Monomach’s Throne in the Cathedral. “Throne” here means a place for praying created for Ivan the Terrible in 1551. The Throne is believed to be made by Novgorod’s carvers. In 1990, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, religious services resumed in the Cathedral, one of the greatest sanctuaries of Russia.

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