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ENMoscowSightseeingCity tour, Novodevitchiy Monastery 
 
 
       Moscow 2°C / 36°F  
CITY TOUR WITH VISITING NOVODEVITCHI MONASTERY

   

Duration: 5 hours
Car: included
Guide: included





This is an ideal variant to get in touch with the city, its historical centre and major monuments. We will walk along the broad streets such as famous Tverskaya street, we will get to the Red Square, which has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is named for its surrounding buildings made from red bricks: the History Museum, the Kremlin walls, and St. Basilís Cathedral with its famous onion domes, which was built on the order of Ivan the Terrible. Red Square is also home to the Lenin Mausoleum, and the Red Army marches there on various holidays throughout the year. Close by are the Bolshoi Theatre, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the noble edifice of Lubyanka, KGB headquarters, and the small churches of Kitai-gorod. We will also explore streets on the bank of the Moscow River, as well as see the Parliament, Duma and White House, Olympic stadium, and Sparrow Hills, home to the Stalin-era skyscraper of Moscow State University is. Then we will see Arbat Street, the favourite meeting place of Muscovites and the thoroughfare which is the heart of the ancient city centre.

Novodevitchi Monastery

This is one of the most beautiful convents in Moscow and its was founded in the early 16th century. Its main cathedral was consecrated in honour of the Smolenskaya Icon of the Mother of God Hodigitria. According to legend, the icon was painted by St. Luke himself, and it is closely linked with the convent's foundation.

The icon was brought to Rus from Greece in 1046 by Tsarina Anna Monomakh, the wife of the Chernigovsk Prince Vsevolod Yaroslavich, and later ended up in Smolensk. In 1398 Sofia, the wife of Prince Vasily I, went to Smolensk to visit her father, the Lithuanian Duke Vitovt. He allowed her to take the icon back to Moscow, and it was placed in the Kremlin Cathedral of the Annunciation. Several years later the citizens of Smolensk asked the Moscow Grand Prince to return their object of worship. Eventually Vasily II the Dark, who had succeeded Vasily I, acceded to their request in 1456. He had an exact copy of the icon made, and then sent the original revered icon back to Smolensk. The icon was solemnly accompanied by a religious procession to the banks of the Moscow River opposite the Vorobyovy Hills, where a service was held. From that day onwards (up to the revolution) a religious procession was held annually at this place.

In 1514 Grand Prince Vasily III, the grandson of Vasily II, subjugated Smolensk, the 'necklace of Russia', and united it to the Moscow principality. In 1524 the New Maiden Convent was built at the place where long ago the Smolenskaya Icon had been received. The convent is like a miniature Kremlin. Its cathedral church was built with the Kremlin Cathedral of the Assumption as a model, perhaps by the Italian architect Aleviz Fryazin, and in 1525 the copy of the Smolenskaya Icon was placed in it. The convent's fortified, toothed walls and the towers were added at the end of the 16th century in the reign of Boris Godunov, and their design was also based on the Kremlin. In the 17th century the towers were decorated with splendid tracery crowns.

This was the richest convent in Moscow. Its full name was formerly New Maiden Convent of the Immaculate Holy Virgin, Hodigitria to distinguish it from the Kremlin Ascension or Old Maiden Convent. Noblewomen of the time became novitiates in this convent, just as in the Old Maiden Convent — wives and widows of tsars and boyars, their daughters and sisters — and on taking the veil they handed over their jewels, pearls, gold and silver.

After the death of Tsar Fyodor, his widow Tsarina Irina Godunova withdrew to New Maiden Convent, and her brother, the boyar Boris Godunov, stayed with her in the convent until his election to the throne. Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich attended services regularly here, but it was his eldest daughter Sofia, half sister to Peter theGreat, who took particular concern over the convent. Under her direction the wonderful bell-tower in the style of Moscow, or Naryshinsky, baroque was built. It was 72 metres high (232 feet), which at that time was the highest bell-tower in Moscow after the Ivan the Great tower.

It was here in 1689 that Peter the Great confined the intelligent and power-loving Sofia, who did not wish to concede the throne to her brother after he had attained adulthood. She was supported in her ambitions by the streltsy, and several uprisings broke out. In 1698 after suppression of the riot the mutineers were interrogated in one of the convent rooms, and the guilty were hanged on the walls and outside the windows of Sofia's cell. Sofia died here in 1704.

The same fate was in store for Yevdokia Fyodorovna Lopukhina, the first wife of Peter the Great and mother of the Tsarevich Aleksei. In 1727 she was brought here from the Shlisselburg Fortress in St. Petersburg after Peter's death, and not long before her own. Both of Peter's relatives are buried in the convent's Smolensk Cathedral.

In the fire of 1812 the convent was nearly mined. At the beginning of September numerous French soldiers were billeted here, and shortly afterwards Napoleon himself visited the place on horseback. Without dismounting he looked round at the convent, gave orders for the Church of John the Baptist to be blown up, and then departed. On the night of 8 October the French troops were preparing to retreat. Before leaving, these uninvited guests stuck lighted candles on the wooden iconostases and threw them on to the floor where they had scattered straw everywhere. In the cellar of the Smolensky Cathedral the nuns discovered open barrels of powder with smouldering fuses. With only seconds to go before a terrible explosion, the nuns managed to put out the fuses and prevent a fire in the convent.

Just as in other Moscow monasteries laymen were buried here. New Maiden Cemetery is divided into 'old' and 'new.' The quiet, 'old' cemetery is situated on the territory' of the convent itself, and is the burial place for the partisan Denis Davydov, who was a hero of the Napoleonic War, the historians S. Solovyov and M. Pogodin. the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov and General Brusilov. The 'new' or 'south' cemetery adjoins the convent onits south side, and is separated from it by a red wall. It was laid out between 1898 and 1904, and was extended in the Soviet period when New Maiden Convent became the second most honoured place for burials in the USSR, after the Kremlin walls.

Chekhov was one of the first people to be buried in the 'new' cemetery in 1904. In the spring a 'cherry orchard' blossoms over his grave, for a little cherry tree was planted here. Gogol's remains were brought here from Daniilovsky Monastery and re-interred not far from Chekhov's grave. At that time many distinguished figures in Russian culture were re-interred here, among them the writers S. Aksakov and A. Khomyakov, and the artists I. Levitan and D. Venevitinov, so that their mortal remains should not fall under the Bolshevik bulldozer.

The actress Lyubov Orlova, Stalin's wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva, and Bulgakov are among those laid to rest in the 'new' cemetery. By a twist of fate the grave stone put up on Bulgakov's grave was the stone taken from the grave of his favourite writer — Gogol. This stone is known as 'Golgotha,' since it is shaped like the hill in Jerusalem. The philosopher K. Aksakov selected this stone in the Crimea especially for Gogol's tombstone in Daniilovsky Monastery, and later it turned up at New Maiden Convent, and by chance was placed on Bulgakov's grave.

Nikita Khrushchev is buried at New Maiden Convent. The famous memorial in black and white marble at the graveside, which symbolises the ambiguous and contradictory Khrushchev period, was made by the sculptor Ernst Neizvestny.

New Maiden Convent was closed in 1922. The nuns were evicted from their cloisters, and the premises used as 'the Museum of Women's Emancipation', which later became transformed into the historical and cultural museum 'New Maiden Convent'. In the 1920s the well-known artist Tatlin — a futurist — acquired a studio in the convent bell-tower. It was he who designed the giant III International Tower, which luckily for Moscow was never built. It was from the bell-tower that Tatlin released his flying machine, the 'Letatlin', which was supposed to be operated by the muscle power of the newly-emancipated man.

In the convent's old rooms of the 17th century the renowned architect Pyotr Baranovsky lived for nearly 50 years. It is thanks to him that many monuments of Russian culture were saved from destruction.

Since 1964 the official residence of the Metropolitan of Krutitsky and Kolomensky has been located in New Maiden Convent.
 
 
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