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New Savior Monastery (Novospassky Monastyr)
New Savior Monastery (Novospassky Monastyr) Review
The monastery was built in 1462, but its history dates to the 13th century, when it was inside the Kremlin. The current site on the banks of the Moskva River is "new" because it was a transfer ordered by Ivan III, also known as Ivan the Great, who wanted to free up space in the Kremlin for other construction. Ivan was the first Russian leader to categorically (and successfully) renounce Russia's allegiance to the khan of the Golden Horde. It was during his reign that a unified Russian state was formed under Moscow's rule. This monastery was just one of the numerous churches and monasteries built during the prosperous time of Ivan's reign. None of the monastery's original 15th-century structures has survived. The present fortification wall and most of the churches and residential buildings on the grounds date from the 17th century. In more modern times, a site just outside the monastery's walls was one of the mass graves for those executed during Stalin's purges.
You enter the monastery at the nearest entrance to the left of the Bell Tower Gate, which was erected in 1786. The first thing you see as you enter the grounds is the massive white Sobor Spasa Preobrazheniya (Transfiguration Cathedral). You may notice a resemblance, particularly in the domes, to the Kremlin's Assumption Cathedral, which served as this cathedral's model. The structure was built between 1642 and 1649 by the Romanov family, commissioned by the tsar as the Romanov family crypt. The gallery leading to the central nave is decorated with beautiful frescoes depicting the history of Christianity in Kievan Rus'. It's worth timing your visit with a church service (weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm, Saturday at 8 am, Sunday at 7 and 9 am) to see the interior. Even if the church is closed, the doors may be unlocked. No one will stop you from taking a quick peek at the gallery walls.
In front of the cathedral, on the right-hand side, is the small red Nadmogilnaya Chasovnya (Memorial Chapel), marking the grave of Princess Augusta Tarakanova, the illegitimate daughter of Empress Elizabeth and Count Razumovsky. The princess lived most of her life as a nun in Moscow's St. John's Convent, forced to take the veil by Catherine the Great. During her lifetime her identity was concealed, and she was known only as Sister Dofiya. The chapel over her grave was added in 1900, almost a century after her death. In an odd twist, Princess Tarakanova had an imposter who played a more visible role in Russian history. The imposter princess appeared in Rome in 1775, to the alarm of Catherine, who dispatched Count Alexei Orlov to lure the imposter back to Russia. Orlov was successful, and the imposter Tarakanova was imprisoned in St. Petersburg's Petropavlovskaya Krepost (Peter and Paul Fortress). A mysterious character of European origin, the imposter never revealed her true identity. The false Princess Tarakanova died of consumption in 1775. Her death in her flooded, rat-infested cell was depicted in a famous painting by Konstantin Flavitsky in 1864.
To the right as you face Transfiguration Cathedral stands the tiny Pokrovsky Tserkov (Church of the Intercession). Directly behind the cathedral is the Tserkov Znamenia (Church of the Sign). Painted in the dark yellow popular in its time, with a four-column facade, the church was built between 1791 and 1808 by the wealthy Sheremetyev family and contains the Sheremetyev crypt. In the rear right-hand corner of the grounds, running along the fortification walls, are the former monks' residences.
Proletarskaya station is the closest metro stop. Take only lefts to get out of the station, and you will emerge on Sarinsky proyezd. With your back to the metro, walk toward Trety (3rd) Krutitsky pereulok, the busy street a short distance ahead. This will take you in the direction of the Moskva River, and as you head to where the streets intersect, the yellow belfry of the monastery gate church will appear in the distance to your right (southwest). When you reach the intersection, use the underground passageway to cross to the other side. From here it's just a short walk up a slight incline to the monastery's entrance.
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