Cathedral of the Assumption (Успенский Собор) (Moscow)

Cathedral of the Assumption (Успенский Собор) (Moscow)

Subway: Alexandrovskiy sad, Biblioteka imeni Lenina, Borovitskaya

Bus: 6, K

Open: 10am- 5pm Fri- Wed


Description of the Cathedral of the Assumption

Cathedral of the Assumption is one of the most important church in Moscow Kremlin. It holds several stone coffins of Russian princes, metropolitans and patriarchs are buried. Although the Church of the Assumption stood on this site since the 14th century, Ivan the Great decided to rebuild it in 1470s and increase its size and splendour. The first version of the church collapse and tsar gave the task of rebuilding it to Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti. The second time around the church was completed.


Interesting details of the assumption Cathedral
Iconostasis Of The Assumption Cathedral
The 14th-century icon of the" Saviour not made with hands " is one of several icons that form part of the iconostasis of the assumption Cathedral. The iconostasis itself dates back to 1652.

Frescoes Of The Assumption Cathedral
In 1642-4 a collective of artists, headed by Sidor by Popovym and Ivan and Boris Paseena painted these murals. The walls of the Cathedral were first gilded to give the appearance of an illuminated manuscript.

Scenes from the life of Metropolitan Peter
Attributed to the great artist Dionysius, this 15th-century icon is located on the South wall of the Cathedral. It depicts various events in the life of this religious and political leader.

The Throne Of Monomakh
The Royal throne of Ivan the terrible Monomakh is decorated with carvings dedicated to the exploits of Prince Vladimir Monomakh. Panels depict his military campaigns, and one shows him receiving the crown from the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachus. This legend was used to give legitimacy to the idea that the Russian monarchs were the heirs of Byzantium.

The Patriarch's seat was carved out of white stone in 1653 for use by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Tombs of Metropolitans and patriarchs are arranged along the wall of the nave and crypt. Almost all the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are buried in the Cathedral.

The chandelier is cast from silver, taken from the French after their occupation of Moscow in 1812.

South entrance of the assumption Cathedral
The magnificent arch of the southern entrance is decorated with frescoes from the 17th century. It served as the main entrance for Royal processions. The gate was brought to Moscow from Suzdal in 1401. The back of the door is engraved with scenes from the Bible.

History Of The Assumption Cathedral
The first assumption Cathedral in Moscow was founded on August 4, 1326 under Ivan kalit, and consecrated on August 14, 1327. It was founded by Metropolitan Peter of Kiev and all Russia, who moved his throne from Vladimir to Moscow. Initially, it was a single-domed white-stone three-apse temple, crowned with kokoshniks, to which later chapels were added. In style, it resembled the Vladimir-Suzdal buildings of the early XIII century, in particular St. George's Cathedral in Yuriev-Polsky. The temple was built in a typical technique for this time: masonry from roughly processed squares of white stone combined with smooth-hewn elements of architectural decoration. The Cathedral kept the icon "our lady of Odigitria, with holidays in the fields", brought from Byzantium.

During a major fire in 1470, raging in the Kremlin, the North aisle of the temple — the Church of Worship of the verig of the Apostle Peter-collapsed, the vaults cracked, and then they were reinforced with massive logs. Metropolitan Philip of all Russia initiated the renovation of the Cathedral. The reason for perestroika was also the change in the status of Moscow, which became the political and spiritual center of the Russian state. To raise funds, all monasteries were taxed, and laity and clergy were encouraged to donate. The project was assigned to the Pskov masters Krivtsov and Myshkin, the work was headed by Vladimir Grigorievich Ivan Vladimirovich Hourani and Vasily Yermolin. In 1472, a solemn ceremony of laying the Foundation of the temple was held. The assumption Cathedral in Vladimir was chosen as a model of construction. Inside the building, a temporary wooden Church was built, where Ivan III married Sophia Palaiologos.

The construction was not completed: the temple built to the vaults collapsed after the "coward" - an earthquake that occurred in Moscow on may 20, 1474. The chronicler testifies:
... being a coward in the city of Moscow and the Church of St. The mother of God, made byst already to the upper chambers, falling at 1 o'clock in the morning, and the temples all shaken, as if the earth was shaken.

Researchers call the cause of destruction insufficient strength of the mortar and thin side walls. To complete the construction, the Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti was invited to Moscow. According to his project, the Cathedral was built from hewn blocks of white stone and brick, which laid out the pillars, arches and drums of the heads. To strengthen the walls, iron piles were laid in them. The facades were divided by vertical protrusions. The Church was consecrated on 12 August 1479 by Metropolitan Gerontius. In 1481, the Cathedral was painted by the iconographer Dionysius and his students. Sergey Zagraevsky points out the peculiarity of the architect's engineering idea: the bricks were built into the masonry in such a way that the whole building retained its white-stone appearance.

XVI-XIX centuries
During the restoration after the fire of 1547, the top of the Church was covered with gilded copper sheets, and the relics of Metropolitan Peter were transferred from a silver Shrine to a gold one. In 1561, four ancient images were brought from Veliky Novgorod and placed in the assumption Cathedral: "Saviour on the throne (Spas Golden robe)", "the Apostles Peter and Paul", "Ustiug Annunciation" and "virgin Hodegetria".

In 1624, the vaults that threatened to fall were dismantled and restored again with additional reinforcement with connected iron and the introduction of spring arches. Four years later, a fire broke out in the Cathedral, after which it was overhauled. The vaults and drums were reinforced again, and the white-stone archivolts were removed and replaced with brick ones. To protect the strands from the rain, canopies made of roofing iron were arranged over them. In 1625, the Lord's robe, sent as a gift to Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich by the Persian Shah Abbas I, was moved to the Cathedral. In honor of this event, the holiday "the Position of the Lord's Robe"was established. The precious ark with the robe was placed in a bronze tent for storing sacred relics.

In 1642-1644, the Cathedral was re-painted on the models of 1515. Fragments of the original wall painting, which is the oldest example of fresco painting on the territory of the Kremlin, have been preserved to this day. Among the masters were Ivan and Boris Paiseiny, Sidor Osipov Pospeyev, mark Matveev, Bazhen Savin, Stepan Efemov, icon painters and flag bearers from Vladimir, Novgorod, Kostroma and other cities. They wrote 249 story compositions and 2066 individual figures. In the 1660s, the painting of the exterior walls was updated: above the altars, over the North and West doors. In the second half of the XVII century, the pokhvalsky chapel, where services were held only on the patronal feast, was moved to the South-Eastern Chapter. By this time the Cathedral was in possession of 160 yards, and the 70-th years — 253.

The Trinity fire of 1737 damaged the Cathedral's paintings and the integrity of the walls. Repairs were carried out during the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna under the direction of the architect Ivan Michurin. Restoration of the paintings began in 1767. In 1775, by order of Prince Grigory Potemkin, icons from the Armory were transferred to the Cathedral, which were placed in iconostases near the North and South walls. In the 1790s, they were closed with gold and silver salaries. In 1797, the act of succession issued by Paul I, which canceled the decree of Peter I of 1722, was transferred to the Cathedral for safekeeping.

During the occupation of Moscow by the French in 1812, the Vladimir icon of the mother of God, the Lord's robe, Korsun crosses and other valuables were taken out of the Cathedral. Among the tombs of the saints, only the cancer of Metropolitan Jonah has survived. In the premises of the temple were arranged stalls for horses. The vestments from the icons were melted down to 5.3 tons of silver and 290 kg of gold. Part of the metal was recovered during the retreat of the troops, and in 1817, master A. Gedlung cast a chandelier decorated with images of flowers, ears of corn, and vines. The Cathedral was re-consecrated on August 30, 1813 by Bishop Augustin of Dmitrov (Vinogradsky).

In 1823, the Manifesto of Alexander I was placed in the Cathedral for safekeeping, according to which in the event of his death, in connection with the abdication of rights to the throne of Konstantin Pavlovich, Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich became the heir to the crown. By the coronation of Alexander III in the 1880s, the Church was being repaired. 200 thousand rubles were spent on its restoration. Once again, the Cathedral was restored in 1896 before the wedding of Nicholas II, the work was supervised by icon painters Grigory Chirikov and Mikhail Mikhailovich Dikarev, as well as architect Sergey Rodionov. During the restoration, frescoes of the mid-17th century were uncovered, icons were restored, and ceilings over the apses were replaced. The Windows in the arched belt were reduced to the size of the upper ones and decorated with semicircular lintels.

Modern building of the assumption Cathedral
After the destruction of the old Church, Ivan III invited Aristotle Fioravanti, a famous architect and engineer from Bologna, Italy, to come to Moscow and entrust him with the task of designing the Cathedral from scratch in the tradition of Russian architecture. Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir was once again taken as a model for a new project, and so Fioravanti travelled to Vladimir in order to study Russian methods of building. He created 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 assumption Cathedral was consecrated by Metropolitan Geronti. The interior was decorated with frescoes and decorated with many icons, including the virgin of Vladimir.

The design of the new Church with its five domes (one dome symbolizes Jesus Christ, and four at the corners of the Church of the four evangelists) proved very popular and was taken as a template for many other churches throughout Russia. In 1547, the first Russian Tsar Ivan the terrible was crowned in the assumption Cathedral. Since 1721, the Church has been the site of the coronation of Russian emperors. The assumption Cathedral also hosted a ritual ordination of metropolitans and patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Their graves can be found here.


The assumption Cathedral has suffered from many natural disasters over its long history, including fires in 1518, 1547, 1682, and 1737, and looting by the armies of the Polish-Lithuanian army during the Troubles of 1612. During the French occupation of Moscow, it was looted and used as a stable.

The assumption Cathedral was completely restored in 1894-1895 and from 1910 to 1918. On November 21, 1917, it was the site of the ordination of Patriarch Tikhon (Belavin), Metropolitan of Moscow, the first Patriarch of the restored Patriarchate of Moscow. However, after the Russian revolution of 1917, the new Bolshevik government closed all churches in the Moscow Kremlin and turned the Cathedral into a Museum. By special permission of Vladimir Lenin, the last Easter service was held here in 1918. The last moment of this Easter service was the subject of Pavel Korin's unfinished painting "Farewell to Russia". Most of the Church's treasures were transferred to the Kremlin Armory or were sold abroad.

There is a legend that in the winter of 1941, when Nazi Germany had already reached the threshold of Moscow, Joseph Stalin secretly ordered a service to be held in the assumption Cathedral to pray for the salvation of the country from the invading Germans. Whether this is true or not, but after his famous "brothers and sisters" during his address to the Soviet people, this version can be easily believed. The building of the assumption Cathedral was renovated in 1949/50, 1960 and 1978.

In 1990, the assumption Cathedral was returned to The Russian Orthodox Church for periodic religious services, just a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was officially transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991.