Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
The Cathedral of the Assumption or Cathedral of the Dormition (Uspensky Sobor in Russian) was built between 1475 and 1479 AD by the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti. It is located on the north side of Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin, where a narrow alley separates the north from the Patriarch's Palace with the Twelve Apostles Church.
Tsar Ivan III had invited Fioravanti, a celebrated architect and engineer from Bologna, Italy, to come to Moscow and entrusted him with the task of building the cathedral from scratch in the traditions of Russian architecture. The cathedral in Vladimir was once again taken as a model for the building, and so Fioravanti travelled to Vladimir in order to study Russian methods of building. He designed a light and spacious masterpiece that combined the spirit of the Renaissance with Russian traditions.
The foundation for the new cathedral was laid in 1475, and in 1479 the new cathedral was consecrated by Metropolitan Geronty. The interior was painted with frescoes and adorned with many holy images, including Our Lady of Vladimir and the Blachernitissa.
The church's magnificent interior decoration is dominated by its fresco paintings. The huge iconostasis dates from 1547, but its two highest tiers are later additions from 1626 and 1653/1654 under Patriarch Nikon. It addition to its liturgical function, the iconostasis also served as a sort of trophy wall, in that Russian Tsars would add the most important icons from cities they had conquered to its collection. One of the oldest, icons with the bust of Saint George dates from the 12th century and was transferred to Moscow by Tsar Ivan IV on the conquest of the city of Veliky Novgorod in 1561.
In 1547 the coronation of the first Russian Tsar, Ivan IV (the Terrible), took place in this cathedral, while from 1721 it was the scene of the coronation of the Russian emperors. The last coronation (Emperor Nicholas II) took place here on May 26th [O.S. May 14th] 1896. The ritual installation of metropolitans and patriarchs of the Orthodox Church also took place in this cathedral, and their tombs are also to be found here. The patriarchate was abolished by Peter the Great and only restored after February Revolution of 1917.
On November 21, 1917 the cathedral was the setting for the installation of Tikhon (Belavin), the Moscow metropolitan, as patriarch. Subsequently he was canonized. After the transfer of the Bolshevik government to Moscow services in the Kremlin cathedrals were prohibited. It was only with Lenin's special permission that the final Easter service was held in 1918. The final moments of this Easter service was the subject of an unfinished painting by Pavel Korin entitled Farewell to Rus. Most of the church treasures were transferred to the Kremlin Armory, or were sold overseas.
According to legend, in the winter of 1941, when the Nazis had reached the threshold of Moscow, Joseph Stalin secretly ordered a service to be held in the Assumption Cathedral to pray for the country's salvation from the invading Germans. In 1991 the Assumption Cathedral was returned to the Church, although a museum still operates within it.
HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna attends a Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Assumption
On March 6th, 2013 a Divine Liturgy was performed by Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, Kirill to mark the 400th anniversary of the election of the first Romanov tsar, Mikhail Feodorovich on March 6th [O.S. February 21st] 1613. The Liturgy was attended by HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Russian Imperial House.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 May, 2013