The tall brick walls and 12 towers of this monastery, completed in 1350, have often been the cinematic stand-in for the Moscow Kremlin. The main church, the 16th-century Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior, is distinctive for its extremely pointed onion domes and its New Testament frescoes by Gury Nikitin and Sila Slavin, 17th-century painters from the city of Kostroma. A museum in the monastery is devoted to their lives and work. The church also houses the tomb containing the remains of Dmitri Pozharsky, one of the resistance leaders against the Polish invaders in the Time of Troubles. Adjoining the church is a single-dome nave church, which is actually the original Church of the Transfiguration; it was built in 1509, constructed over the grave of St. Yefim, the monastery's founder; its bells chime melodically every hour on the hour. The adjacent 16th-century Church of the Assumption (Uspenskaya Tserkov) is one of the earliest examples of tent-roof architecture in Russia.
In the middle of the 18th century, part of the monastery became a place for "deranged criminals," many of whom were actually political prisoners. The prison and hospital are along the north wall and closed to visitors.