The Chudov Monastery during the coronation ceremonies, 1896
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested rebuilding inside the Kremlin the Chudov Monastery and Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent that were torn down during the Soviet era.
At a meeting Thursday with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Kremlin curator Sergei Khlebnikov, Putin said the plan would only be realized if it receives support from both the public and UNESCO.
"We need to discuss this issue with Moscow's architectural community and get it approved by UNESCO," Interfax cited Putin as saying. The Kremlin, built between the 14th and 17th centuries, is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The plan would involve tearing down a Soviet building currently used for administrative purposes, the 14th corpus, to make room for the monasteries and church. The 14th corpus has been under restoration since 2011, and developers missed their expected completion time after encountering difficulties. The delays have prompted the city government to consider whether or not it would be more expedient to change the development plan altogether and tear the corpus down.
The 1930s saw the destruction of many monuments and symbols of Russia’s spiritual heritage, including the Chudov Monastery and Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent in the Kremlin, the Maly Nikolayevsky Palace, the Cathedral of the Savior on Bor and the Red Porch (Krasnoye Kryltso).
The Chudov Monastery had particular significance for Russian Orthodox traditions over the centuries. It was founded in 1365 when the Metropolitan of All Russia Alexy gave his blessing for the construction of a stone church dedicated to the Miracle of the Holy Archangel Michael. The church remained standing for only half a century before its ceiling collapsed in 1431. The church was immediately rebuilt, but at the beginning of the 16th century, Grand Prince Ivan III ordered it pulled down, redesigned and rebuilt, which was done in 1503.
The resulting church was extremely beautiful, a marvel of harmony and proportion, drawing on classical Russian architectural traditions and rightly considered one of the finest examples of early Moscow architecture. The church’s interior was also a work of art, with a carved wooden iconostasis over the wall separating the sanctuary from the rest of the church. Part of the sanctuary itself was topped with a gilded carved wooden canopy, which, according to the inscription it bore, was the work of the “slave of God, Pyotr Remizov.”
A century after Metropolitan Alexy died, the Church of St. Alexy was built on the monastery’s territory and dedicated to his memory. Another church, the Church of the Annunciation, was built nearby. Changes and additions to the churches’ interiors continued right up until the early 20th century.
The Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent
The Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent was founded at the beginning of the 15th century very near the Kremlin’s Spassky (Savior’s) Gate. The foundation of its main cathedral was laid in 1407 by the widow of Dmitry Donskoy, who took the name of Yefrosinya when she took her vows as a nun. In 1518, Grand Prince Vasily III decreed the construction of a new cathedral, the Cathedral of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cathedral was completed in 1521 and was reconstructed at the end of the 16th century on the orders of Boris Godunov.
Over the centuries, many of the wives and sisters of the Moscow grand princes found peace in the Voznesensky Convent, which was one of the most famous and respected convents in Russia. Aside from the main cathedral, another church, the Church of St. Michael, was built there in 1634. The Chudov Monastery and Voznesensky Convent were both closed after the Soviet government moved into the Kremlin in 1918. The buildings remained standing until 1929, when the authorities decided to raze them to make way for a military training facility.
On February 17, 1905, the carriage of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (Governor General of Moscow and husband to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna) passed through the gate of Nikolskaya Tower of the Kremlin and turned the corner of the Chudov Monastery into Senatskaya Square. It was here that the grand duke was assassinated by a bomb thrown by a waiting revolutionary. Grand Duke Sergei’s body was later buried in a crypt of the Chudov Monastery. A memorial cross was erected on the spot where he was killed. After the Revolution, the cross was destroyed.
Putin also expressed support for Sobyanin's idea to allow tourists to walk through the Kremlin from the Spassky Gate, which is currently closed off.
Dmitry Shvidkovsky, rector of the Moscow Architectural Institute, was quoted by Interfax as saying it would take up to two years to devise a development plan for the project suggested by Putin and get it approved with UNESCO.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 August, 2014