The Novodevichy Convent

Translated as the New Maidens’ Convent, the snow-white walls of the convent seem to be edged with terracotta from the stone laces of the tower. This combination of shape and colour forever stays in the memory and is associated with the Novodevichy Convent. It is for a reason it is considered as one of the most beautiful convents and monasteries in Russia.

The Convent was founded by the Grand Duke of Moscow Basil III Ivanovich in May 1524. The convent’s cathedral was consecrated in honour of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God “Hodegetria” which in Greek means “the Guide” or “the Counsellor”. The place for the convent was not chosen by accident. It was placed near the picturesque Moscow River’s bend, three miles from the Kremlin where the Muscovites said goodbye to the Smolensk Icon in 1456. The Icon was brought to the cathedral of the Novodevichy Convent in August 1525. On that day the Tsar Basil III and the Metropolitan Daniel led the Procession themselves.

After Michael Romanov had ascended Moscow’s throne the ravaged convent was restored and fortified. The last echo of the Time of Troubles was the sending of the dethroned Tsar Basil Shuisky’s widow, Maria Petrovna, to exile in the Novodevichy Convent. The reign of Tsarevna Sophia Alekseyevna was the Novodevichy Convent’s golden age. The unique architectural ensemble, overwhelming with its truly royal magnificence was built during the Tsarevna’s reign. The Convent’s towers and walls that had been set by Godunov were further strengthened and enlarged.

The main cathedrals of the convent shape a regular east-faced cross with the oldest stone structure of the Novodevichi Convent, the Smolensky cathedral, positioned in the centre of the cross. The Smolensky cathedral built in laconic manner of the late Middle Ages is encircled with richly decorated churches and buildings of the late 17th century constructed in the Muscovite Baroque style. The key point of the convent’s architecture is a contrast of white-stone architraves, arches, galleries, balustrades and the churches’ cramoisy facades topped with elegant gilt domes, and this entire beauty is framed in snow-white tower-walls ornamented with fancy terracotta ‘crowns’. The belfry is the last building reared during Sophia’s reign. The rebellion of the Riflemen put an end to the Regency of the Tsarevna; she was sent to the Convent where she lived until her death.

It was only at the end of the 20th century that its true historical look had been returned to the Novodevichy Convent. Five centuries have left many priceless monuments of architecture, icon-painting and applied works that attract lovers of the antique to the Convent. Travel to Moscow