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Novodevichi Convent (part 2)

The Convent's architectural ensemble emerged in the course of the 16th—17th centuries. The 16th century complex is represented in our time by Smolensky Cathedral (1525), St. Ambrose Chapel with refectory and Princess Irina's Palace Chambers (late 16th century), the walls and towers founded in the late 16th - early 17th centuries. All the other structures in the 16th century Convent were wooden and repeatedly destroyed by fires.

Smolensky Cathedral is the oldest and biggest church in the Convent. The five-domed church resting on six pillars is girdled on three sides by a broad gallery. Its builders had chosen in favour of fagades almost utterly devoid of decorative elements. The general silhouette boasts a sculptural expressiveness and simplicity. Its interior has retained fine mural paintings and a magnificent iconostasis. Its frescos date to the early 16th century and were repeatedly renewed and remade. Truly scientific work on their restoration was first begun in 1928.

The subjects of the paintings reflect the main ideological problems of the emerging single Russian state. Events of its recent historical past - feudal disunity, struggle against the Golden Horde, unification of Russian lands - are personified in the images of Russian saints depicted on the frontal sides of the pillars. The principal compositions are devoted to the subject of worship of the Mother of God. This image is endowed with the city-protective functions characteristic of that age and conveying the troubled atmosphere that prevailed in the young state fighting for its unity.

The present iconostasis was set up in Smolensky Cathedral in 1683-1685. Its gilded frame executed in high relief is the work of the masters of the Kremlin Armoury Klim Mikhai-lov and Stepan Zinovyev working under Osip Andreyev. It comprises removable icons belonging to the Tsars Ivan IV, Fyodor loannovich and Boris Godunov. There are icons painted by the well-known 17th century Muscovite icon painters Simon Ushakov and Leonty Stefanov.

The Princess Irina's Palace Chambers with refectory and St. Ambrose Chapel are situated south-west of the Cathedral. The complex of these buildings was erected in the course of the 16th century, and completed in 1598. Frequent alterations changed the initial view of this old monument. Recent restoration work has led to the discovery of previously unknown forms of door and window casings and portals in St. Ambrose Chapel. One-pillar and two-pillar vaulted chambers of the refectory and cells have been restored.

The architectural ensemble of Novodevichi Convent acquired its final form in the 1780s. Masters working in the new baroque style succeeded in creating an integrally fused ensemble. The architectural features of the new style, realized in the multi-coloured, symmetrical fagades with their flat decor, and the abundance of white stone carving work, became part of the traditional architectural interpretation of the entire structure. In those years there were built the Church of the Dormition with refectory and outbuildings; the two gate-tower churches with the adjoining living chambers, the bell-tower and cells; the walls were elevated and crowned with towers. The elegant silhouettes of its churches, the multi-coloured decor of its walls and rooftops, and the abundance of white-stone ornamentation framing the doors and windows changed the general character of the architectural ensemble which acquired a warmer, more secular hue.

In the late 17th century the walls and towers of the Convent were reconstructed in view of the need for a new gateway. As Russia's western borders moved further from Moscow it became possible to pay more attention to the decorative aspect of the convent-fortress rather than to its fortification properties. The towers received a sophisticated colouring and were crowned with lace-like merlons, the walls acquired their present height and length.

The 17th century building scheme included a number of attached palatial chambers and sheds. In the late 17th -early 18th century chambers of this kind were inhabited by two of the four Miloslavsky Princesses. Tsarevna Sophia (Nun Susanna) occupied the chambers of Naprudnaya Tower (the north-western corner of the fortification walls); Tsarevna Yevdokiya Alekseyevna - the chambers built into the eastern wall of the Convent connected with the church in the first tier of the bell-tower.

The memorial aspect of the Convent is also an integral part of its history. The oldest structures of the necropolis date to the 16th—17th centuries, and among them the burial-vault in the ground-floor of Smolensky Cathedral. Its central part houses the tombs of nuns from the families of princes and boyars. In the eastern part are the tombs of womenfolk

Address of the museum: 1 Novodevichi Proyezd, Moscow For information dial: 246-85-26 Transport: "Sportivnaya" Metro station; trolleybuses 5, 15; buses 64, 808 ("Ulitsa Desyatiletiya Oktyabrya" stop).

from the family of Ivan the Terrible. An individual chamber holds the family tomb of the boyar В. M. Khitrovo who stood at the head of the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin from 1657. In the southern nave of Smolensky Cathedral are the tombs of Tsar Peter's sisters Sophia, Yevdokia and Yekater-ina Miloslavsky and that of his first wife Yevdokia Lopukhina.

The cemetery in the territory of Novodevichi Convent emerged in the 18th century. Many prominent representatives of Russian history and culture were buried there. Among them are the graves of the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812: D. V. Davydov and V. M. Timofeyev; the Decembrists S. P. Trubetskoi, M. I. Muravyov-Apostol and M. F. Orlov; the prominent writers and historians M. N. Za-goskin, 1.1. Lazhechnikov, A. N. Pleshcheyev, S. M. Solo-vyev, F. I. Buslayev and A. S. Uvarov.

In keeping with the Soviet state policy of protecting monuments of national culture the Convent's architectural ensemble undergoes comprehensive restoration work. Now it is nearing its end. Visitors to the museum will be able to attend exhibitions dedicated to the country's history and its multinational culture. One of these "Glorious Pages of Russian Military History of the 13th—19th Centuries" - will be presented in Princess Irina's Palace Chambers.