Novodevichy Convent was founded in Moscow by Grand Prince Vasil the third in 1524. It was built in honor of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. Nine years before the convent was built the prince made a vow to erect it in the event of his winning the battle for Smolensk. Therefore, in 1523, 230 kilograms of silver (507 pounds) were allocated for the monastery. The building was finished within a year, in 1525. We do not know who the foreman of this building was, Aleviz Novy or Nestor. According to the legend, Russian girls were sent to the Golden Horde by Tatar-Mongols from the land where the monastery was built. For that reason the convent was named Novodevichy, which means a new convent for girls.
Despite the fact that the first building of the monastery was made of wood, its towers were very high and incredibly beautiful. Elena Devochkina was the first Mother Superior of the monastery, and her grave has been attracting pilgrims for many centuries.
Novodevichy Convent was located on the hill which led to the Moscow River, and it helped to protect the river crossing from enemies. The stone walls and 12 towers were erected later by the end of the 16th century by the example of the Kremlin.
Despite the fact that Novodevichy has been a women’s monastery, its impregnable walls turned it into a very safe place. In case of attack archers used it to protect the city. In 1591 the monastery’s cannons stopped the Crimean Khan’s warriors during their expedition against Moscow.
In 1598 Boris Godunov accepted the throne in Cathedral of Our Lady of Smolensk in Novodevichy Convent. Moreover, many noble and wealthy women took vows in the convent and donated their property to it.
As we have learned, the convent was a home of God, a powerful fortress, and a dark dungeon. Princess Sophia was imprisoned in the convent by the order of Peter the First in 1698-1704 after the Streltsy Uprising. Princess Evdoxia Fedorovna Lopukhina was sent to the convent after being vowed against her will.
As Romanovs were set to the throne the monastery passed through various hands, and was burned out. Later it was rebuilt and granted with lands, jewelries and generous funding.
New churches and church towers in baroque style were built at the territory of the convent. This massive building was initiated by the regent Sofia Alexeyevna.
A foundling shelter which could fit up to 250 kids was opened in the convent in 1724. Girls lived there and were taught lace-making.
Later, in the beginning of the 19th century, the Napoleon’s army occupied the monastery and attempted to burn it out. Luckily, nuns saved it. A part of the convent’s treasures were moved to Vologda and hidden there.
A famous historian and restorer Pyotr Dmitrievich Baranovsky lived and worked in the monastery in 1939-1984.
In 1943 the Moscow Theological Courses were held at the monastery. Later in 1945 Assumption Cathedral was reopened for believers. Twenty years later in 1964 the residence of the Metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna Juvenalius located at the territory of Novodevichy.
In 1992 the convent was closed and turned into the Museum of Women's Emancipation. Four years later the museum was transformed into a history and art museum. Some of its buildings were handed out. A day care, a hostel, laundries, gymnastics rooms functioned at the territory of the monastery.
The convent has been opened for believers since 1994. Now a days it is under control of Metropolitan Krutitsy and Kolomna. The monastery owns some of its buildings, such as the Cathedral of Smolensk.
The convent is a popular place both for believers and tourists. Many outstanding people, such as A. P. Chekhov, S. M. Soloviev, D. V. David are buried at its cemetery. The Necropolis consists of two parts. The old one was destroyed in the 20th century, and the new one was established outside the south wall.
St. Sophia's tower is a popular place for tourists.
Convent is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the most beautiful places in Moscow.
Video: The Novodevichy Сonvent in Winter
The original text: www.moscow.org/moscow_encyclopedia/18_no