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Novodevichy Convent - a corner of an ancient Moscow

Novodevichy Convent in Moscow is a monument of history and architecture, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, a branch of the Historical Museum, one of the most forceful "places of power", according to urban old-timers.

The walls of the Novodevichy Convent saw the Tatars in the 16th century, archers in the 17th century, the French in the 19th century. This place keeps a memory of events and people who played an important role in Russian history.

The monastery cannot be taken separately from the surrounding park and cemetery so visitors of the Novodevichy Convent have the opportunity to visit three unique places that make part of its complex.

How to get there

Novodevichy Convent is located at Novodevichy proezd 1, Moscow. The easiest way to get to the monastery is by metro. The nearest metro station is «Sportivnaya». Leaving the metro, you can walk along the 10th Anniversary of the October Revolution street to Novodevichy Convent. If you do not prefer a 15-minute walk, use buses number №64 or 132, trolleybuses №5 or 15.

Opening hours from 10.00 to 17.30. Ticket offices close at 17.00. Tuesday is a day off and visitors will not be able to enter inside.

A brief history of the Convent

The history of this unique place began with the fact that Knyaz Vasily the Third made a promise that he would build a monastery if he conquered the Smolensk lands from the Lithuanians.

Thus, the monastery was founded in 1524 by Knyaz decree in honor of the capture of Smolensk.The monastery was founded on a slope descending to the Luzhniki. The walls and towers were originally built of wood.The main cathedral was consecrated in honor of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God "Hodegetria".

For many years, the Novodevichy Convent was the richest and most privileged monastery in Russia. Only noble women who sacrificed their treasures were able to enter it.

The appearance of the monastery was gradually transformed, and in the 17th century a magnificent ensemble of the monastery was formed in the Moscow Baroque style. The towers were decorated with openwork crowns, a bell tower was erected, and the refectory and the Assumption Church appeared.

Over the years, lodgers appeared in the Novodevichy Convent, who did not voluntarily cross the threshold of the monastery. Here the noblewoman Morozova was kept in custody, Peter I imprisoned Tsarevna Sophia here who did not want to give up the throne to her brother, and shortly before her death Evdokia Lopukhina, the first wife of Peter the Great, was also transferred here.

During the war of 1812, the French could blow up the monastery.The nuns managed to extinguish the wicks leading to the powder kegs at the last moment and put out the fire that had begun.

In 1922, the monastery received a new life - first it became the Museum of Woman Liberation, and then - the Historical Museum and the Art Museum. Thanks to the opening of these institutions, it was possible to preserve the architectural complex of the monastery almost unchanged in the Soviet period. In 1934, the Novodevichy Convent was included in the State Historical Museum as a branch. In 1943, theological courses were opened here, and later the Theological Institute was opened.

And only in 1994 the monastic community reappeared in the monastery.The monastery became an architectural monument of federal significance in 1995, and in 2004 it was included in the UNESCO List of Cultural and Natural Heritage in connection with the 480th anniversary of its foundation.

Interesting facts and legends of the Novodevichy Convent

  • Why the monastery is called Novodevichy

There are 3 versions. According to the first version, on the site of the monastery there used to be a field where the most beautiful girls were chosen and sent as a tribute to the Golden Horde. According to the second version, the first abbess of the monastery had the surname Devochkina. The third version is considered the most probable, and in accordance with it, the monastery was intended for girls, and the prefix ""novo" (“new”) appeared to distinguish it from another nunnery located in the Kremlin.

  • The story of Napoleon's arson

Napoleon wished to burn the monastery while retreating from Moscow. Barrels of gunpowder were installed in the monastery but the nuns managed to put out the fire in time. However, Napoleon wanted to see the glow over the building with his own eyes. One inhabitant found out about Napoleon’s aim. To save the shrine, he decided to set fire to his own house located near the convent. Seeing the flame, Napoleon began to retreat.

  • Fulfillment of desires in Sophia's Tower

Popular rumor says that if you visit the Naprudnaya Tower (Sophia’s tower, in which Princess Sophia, the sister of Peter I, who tried to take his place on the throne, was imprisoned in 1698), then all wishes will come true. According to the legend, the walls of the monastery acquired magical powers as Sophia suffered greatly while living in her unusual prison. It is enough to lean against the walls of the tower and pronounce a wish so it can come true.

  • Mystic pond

The pond located near the Novodevichy Convent is surrounded by a halo of mystery. It is known that on the ice of this pond Peter I personally chopped the heads of rebellious archers.

  • Noble inhabitants of the monastery

Only representatives of the nobility could become nuns of the Novodevichy Convent for a long time. Many of them were here not of their own free will - they were forcibly tonsured as a nun.

  • Romantic belief

Many believe that if you visit the square at the Novodevichy Convent with your loved one in the spring, picking a few leaves from the trees and drying them, you can perpetuate fidelity to each other.

What you should definitely see

  • The Cathedral of Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God is the oldest stone building in the monastery

  •  The Transfiguration Church which is called the hallmark of the entire Novodevichy Convent

  • Monastery bell tower 72 meters high

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