Novodevichy Convent

Novodevichy monastyr

The architectural ensemble of the Convent is unique for it has had no major alterations after its construction over the 16th – 17th centuries. One of the best known Russian Orthodox maidens’ convents was founded by Grand Prince Vasily III in 1524 to commemorate the repossession of a strategically important city of Smolensk.

The history of the Convent is closely interlinked with those of the royal dynasties. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible his closest relatives – widows of his younger brother and son – were sent to live at the Convent. In 1598 tsarina Irina Godunova (named Alexandra as a nun) moved here, while tsar Peter I turned the Convent into a prison for his sister tsarina Sophia, who overlooked the construction of most of the Convent’s buildings replacing the original gloomy design with the ornate Moscow Baroque, which we can see today. Nowadays, some people believe that wishes made by the Nadprudnaya Tower of the Convent, the one which tsarina Sophia was imprisoned in, will be granted. In 1727-1731 the first wife of Peter I, tsarina Eudoxia Lopukhina (named Elena as a nun), resided here.

The six-tire 72 meters high Naryshkin Baroque style bell tower build in the late 17th century was the tallest in Moscow after Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Inside the Smolensky Cathedral (1524-1525) visitors can still see the 16th century mural paintings and the 17th century icon screen, which has the icons painted by Simon Ushakov. In 2009 one of the most revered Orthodox icons, an ancient copy of the Iviron Theotokos, was handed over to the Convent.

The Novodevichy Cemetery was inaugurated in 1898 along the southern wall of the Convent. During the Soviet era this was the second most important cemetery after the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. Many of the Novodevichy Cemetery graves are listed as the cultural heritage objects.

In the park close to the Convent, across the pound, you can see a duck family, sculptured by Nancy Schön inspired by Robert McCloskey’s children’s book Make Way for Ducklings: the mother-duck Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings - Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. In 1991 the United States first lady Barbara Bush gave this exact replica of a the original sculpture installed in Boston Public Garden to the Soviet first lady Raisa Gorbachev. The brass ducklings had been stolen several times, and had to be replaced with the new ones. Nowadays, the sculpture is secured. At nights the Convent is beautifully illuminated, and the bank of the nearby pound is a perfect place for a picnic on a fine day. There are also a number of restaurants in the vicinity.

Address: 1 Novodevichy Lane (Novodevichy proezd, 1)
Opening hours: daily from 9 am to 5 pm, closed on the first Monday of every month.
How to reach: Sportivnaya metro station
Coordinates: 55.726853, 37.557685