The cathedrals of the Kremlin - the Annunciation Cathedral and the Assumption Cathedral - have long been included in the "compulsory tour package" of excursions around Moscow. They are interesting because they serve as museums along with the sacred function. In fact, the Annunciation Cathedral is a whole complex of buildings, as it is possible to pass through the covered passages and galleries to the Duma chambers of the sovereign. However, this temple was "private", intended only for members of the royal family. This explains its small size and luxurious decoration. This temple can be compared with Saint-Chapelle in Paris or the royal chapel in Cracow Castle Wawel. What can you see in this most visited museum-temple of the Moscow Kremlin? Read about this in this article.

What is the Kremlin?

Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin: history, description

Before we look at the external and internal decoration of the Annunciation Cathedral, let's see what the Kremlin is like? This is a detail of the town-planning peculiar to the so-called German type. Once the ancient Slavs completely protected their settlements. And this was called "fortification", "Kremlin". In the Ukrainian language, as more archaic, the word "vidokremlyuvaty" was preserved. It means "to separate", "to protect".

The Norman princes introduced their custom into the town planning of ancient Rusich. The house of the rulers stood apart from other dwellings and was protected from the "landing" by a wall. This fortress in the city was still called the Kremlin. Residents were forced out of the fence and settled without defense walls. Under German law, the lord of the castle was to provide shelter to his vassals in case of an enemy attack. But this is not the case of the Moscow princes. They regarded their fortress as a private residence. And decorated it appropriately.

So there were Kremlin cathedrals. The Annunciation Cathedral served as a house church, and the Archangel - a burial vault for members of the royal family. Usual Muscovites listened to divine services in the parish churches of the villages. And all the luxury of the interior decoration of the Kremlin churches was given only to the elect, close to the throne.

Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin: history

This monument of architecture is not as ancient as the fortress itself. In the fourteenth century, according to the orders of the Moscow prince Ivan Kalita, three stone churches were built inside the Kremlin (at that time fenced with oak walls): the Uspensky (1327), the Archangel (1333) cathedrals and the St. John Climacic Church (1329) with a bell tower. Dmitry Donskoy shielded his fortress with new walls. It was because of them that Moscow became known as "white stone".

During the reign of this prince, Metropolitan Alexy founded a monastery near the Spassky gate of the Kremlin Chudov Monastery (1365). The widow of Dmitry Donskoy, having taken monastic vows, founded the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Ascension Convent (1407). Ivan III started a grandiose reconstruction of the Kremlin, as required by European fortification. Then the cathedrals of the Kremlin and acquire a modern look. In the seventies of the fifteenth century, the invited Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti completely reconstructed the Assumption Church. And in the eighties of the same century there are two more sacred buildings: the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin and the Church of the Deposition. In 1505-1508 the Archangel's tomb and the bell tower of Ivan the Great are under construction.


Tradition says that back in 1291 Prince Andrew, son of Alexander Nevsky, built in the Kremlin a wooden church of the Annunciation. However, the earliest written sources reporting the palace temple date only to 1397. Then from Byzantium was brought the icon "The Savior in the Rize of the White", placed in the prince's court. Perhaps the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin was formerly called the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God and was that sacred construction that was erected in 1395 by order of Evdokia, the widow of Dmitry Donskoy?

One thing is clear: the church was repeatedly rebuilt and decorated. The chronicle from 1405 says: "Masters Feofan, Grechin, Prokhor from Gorodets and Andrei Rublev began to paint the stone church of the Holy Annunciation." A document from 1416 says that on July 18, "a stone church in the courtyard of the Grand Duke - Annunciation" was completed. But this reconstruction was not the last. In 1482, together with the restructuring of the entire Kremlin, the "Annunciation Church" began to be destroyed. The first stone of the new cathedral was laid on May 6, 1484 under the reign of Ivan III. And on August 9, 1489, five years later, the temple was consecrated by Metropolitan Gerontius.


Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich himself chose builders. This was influenced by the unsuccessful attempt of the architects Myshkin and Krivtsov to build the Assumption Cathedral. When the walls of the temple collapsed, the king decided to turn to the experience of the Pskov school. We know about this from the annals of 1474. It reads: "The Grand Duke sent to Pskov, to bring the church masters. They also praised the works (the architects of the Uspensky Cathedral), but they stole the theft of lime, because they did not glue. Then the Grand Prince instructed him to make the Annunciation in his court and the Rezopolozhdenya to the Metropolitan. "

The place of the construction of the new church, as we see, is old - the socle of the ancient church, which existed even with the widow of Dmitry Donskoy, and possibly earlier, under Ivan Kalita. From the chronicle, it can be clearly shown that the architects of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin built the architects of the Pskov school. The socle tier, which served as the foundation for the late church, is dated to the end of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century. But the ongoing excavations reveal traces of even earlier buildings. It is known that initially it was a small four-pillar and three-headed cross-domed church. From all sides the temple was surrounded by covered porch-galleries. Who built this non-preserved white-stone Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin? The architect remained unknown.

The important role of the cathedral

This temple has its own distinction even from other churches of the Kremlin. It is actually part of the whole palace complex. From the church it was possible, without going out to the street, to reach the sovereign's chambers. The covered gallery of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin sometimes even served as an entrance to the palace for foreign delegations. Immediately behind the temple were the Duma chambers of the boyars. It was the Annunciation Cathedral from all the churches of the Kremlin that was the first in importance, since it was the "house temple" of the Russian tsars. It was said about him that he was placed "in the porch of the Grand Duke". The Protopop of the Annunciation Cathedral automatically became the confessor of the tsar. He not only accepted the confession of the Moscow ruler, but baptized, crowned and sung to his family members. He taught his children literacy and helped to make a will. Moreover, the court status of the protopresbyter of the church was preserved even when the capital was moved to St. Petersburg.

In the Cathedral of the Annunciation there was a sacristy of the Tsar, in which particularly revered icons and relics were kept. Among the latter the most valuable were the relics of the heavenly hundred - the saints of the Russian and Greek Churches. Once a year, to Lent, the ablutions of these relics were washed. Silver crabs with relics were transferred from Blagoveshchensky to the Assumption Cathedral and sprinkled with holy water. An important role of the temple and became the reason that for its decoration attracted the best masters of that time.

Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin: description

The temple was built by Pskov architects, who traditionally worked with a white stone. However, they built this cathedral from brick. Later the church of the Annunciation was repeatedly rebuilt. So, in 1547 the temple, which did not stand still for a hundred years, suffered very badly in the fire. It was completely restored only fourteen years later, in 1564, and two more chapters were added to it from the west.

When Ivan the Terrible was excommunicated after the fourth marriage, the king ordered to build a covered porch on the south side of the church. From there he listened to divine liturgies. Subsequently, this porch began to be called Groznensky. The present image of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin was found in the sixties of the sixteenth century. Then on the ends of the porch were installed chapels, crowned with gilded heads. Then the temple bought two more domes. The cathedral became nine-headed with a beautiful pyramidal silhouette. In terms of the structure is made in the traditions of the Pskov masters. The main dome rests on raised arches. But there are also elements of Moscow architecture: keeled portals, figured belts that adorn the walls, kokoshniki main drum. From all sides the temple was surrounded by covered galleries. They led to the Treasury Chamber (dismantled in the eighteenth century). In the second half of the sixteenth century, all the domes were covered with gilded copper. So the Annunciation Cathedral received a second name: the nine-headed golden-haired.

The interior of the temple

Since the building was erected as a family chapel, its original dimensions were small. Later the space was slightly enlarged by the side chapels. But, despite this, the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin seems somewhat cramped. This impression is created by massive choirs located in the western part. But the architects skillfully used a small space to give it the look of airiness. Vertical proportions of the central nave - stepped arches, central drum, box vaults - create the illusion of aspiration skyward. This is further enhanced by light: the darkened lower part and brightly illuminated from the numerous upper windows.

Some dissonance looks like broad choirs that rely on low vaults. What explains such an archaic architecture for the sixteenth century? The Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, according to art historians, to some extent repeated the layout of the previous building. There are also suggestions that the choirs performed the role of babintsa - that is, they listened to the liturgy of the woman of the royal family. They are led by two ladders: one hidden in the thickness of the wall in the south-west corner of the cathedral. And the second one comes directly from the royal chambers. It is impossible not to pay attention to the floor of jasper-colored honey. Tradition claims that Ivan the Terrible brought him to the Kremlin from Rostov the Great.

Cathedral paintings

Only chronicles mention how beautiful was the former, white-stone church. According to the saved estimate of the beginning of the XVI century, the murals of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin were made by the master Dionysius "with the brethren". However, all this splendor was lost in the great fire of 1547. Only partially preserved is a fresco performed by the son of Dionysius, Theodosius.

After the fire, the cathedral was painted by artists from the times of Ivan the Terrible. All frescoes are quite canonical, and their stories are predictable. On the domes we see God the Father, Christ the Almighty and the Mother of God "The Sign". The walls of the temple cover scenes from the Gospels. As tradition requires, the western part is reserved for illustrating the horrors of the Last Judgment. However, it should be borne in mind that the church played the role of a palace chapel. Therefore, the frescoes of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin demonstrate the continuity of the royal family from the ancient princes. On the pillars supporting the vaults, we can see images of Ivan Kalita and Dmitry Donskoy. Particularly original paintings look porch. On its arch the "Tree of Jesse" is depicted. The Virgin with the Child Christ crowns his crown. However, an interesting moment is that among the branches we can see "portraits" of pagan wise men - Homer, Virgil, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Menander, Anaxagoras and Ptolemy. In the Byzantine tradition, Greek philosophers were revered as the forerunners of the New Testament, as evidenced by the scrolls with their quotations.

The performance of the canonical paintings and icons couldn't trust the Gentiles. But the interior design and decoration could be fashionable charge at the time of the Italian masters. Cutters from Lombardy and Tuscany was decorated with white-stone portals dolphins, flowers, fruits and lamps. This decor is typical of the art of the High Renaissance.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the portals of the Annunciation Cathedral were decorated with double-winged copper gates. Their doors are covered with images of prophetesses of Sybil, sages and prophets. The technique of execution is interesting. This is a gold tip using amalgam.

It should also be mentioned that it was from the palace church of the Annunciation that the Muscovites first began to learn time. The monk from Athos Lazar Serbin installed the masses with a wooden human figure. She also beat round the clock with a blow to the bell. It was back in the fourteenth century. And in 1624 the English master Christopher Galovei installed the main chimes of Russia on the Spassky Tower of the Kremlin. The museum, which now operates in the temple, keeps the frescoes of Andrei Rublev. You should also pay attention to the picture "About you rejoice" of the sixteenth century.