The Donskoy MonasteryRussian: Donskoy monastyr or Донской монастырь is a functioning monastery for male monks, one of the largest and most important in Moscow. It has a stavropegic status – i.e., it is directly subordinated to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox ChurchRussian: Russkaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov or Русская Православная Церковь. A visit to the monastery will be of interest to both Orthodox Christians and lovers of Russian history and ancient architecture. Buildings dating from the 16-20th century have been preserved in the Monastery. In addition, the Donskoy Monastery boasts large well-groomed grounds, where it is a pleasure to stroll in good weather. The monastery necropolis features tombstones of representatives of famous noble families and public figures of the 18-20th centuries.
The miracle-working icon of Our Lady of the DonRussian: Donskaya Ikona Bozhey Materi or Донская Икона Божией Матери is considered the monastery’s major relic. It is one of the most venerated in Russia; whilst it is normally kept in the Tretyakov Art GalleryRussian: Tretiakovskaya galereya or Третьяковская галерея, every year on the icon’s feast day (19 August) it is delivered to the monastery for a church service and a cross procession.
HISTORY OF THE MONASTERY
The history of the foundation of the monastery is linked to the TatarsMongol invaders of Russia and Europe’ Moscow campaign in 1591. At that point, the army of Ğazı II Giray appeared at the unprotected accessways to the city between the Danilov MonasteryRussian: Danilov monastyr or Данилов монастырь and the Novodevichy ConventRussian: Novodevichiy monastyr or Новодевичий монастырь. Moscow troops were sent to fight the enemy; the field church which accompanied them was given the miraculous icon of Our Lady of the Don, which had previously been kept at the Annunciation Cathedral Russian: Blagoveschenskiy sobor or Благовещенский соборof the Kremlin. When the Khan had fled, the Donskoy Monastery was commissioned by Tsar Feodor Ithe last Rurikid Tsar of Russia (1584–1598). It was to be built on the site of the temporary church to commemorate the successful defense of the city. At the same time, construction of the Maly (Stary) Donskoy ChurchRussian: Malyi (Staryi) Donskoy khram or Малый (Старый) Донской храм, the first stone church of the monastery, began.
The monastery fell into disuse throughout the 17thcentury, a state which Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725’s sister, Ekaterina Alekseevna, put an end to. From 1684 ‒ 1698, a large new cathedral was built under her patronage. Just like the earlier church, it was dedicated to the icon of Our Lady of the Don. This enormous cross-shaped cathedral is crowned with five domes. Inside, there is an original carved iconostasis holding a large number of old icons. At the same time as the construction of the new cathedral, in 1696, the monastery acquired stone walls – it had previously only had wooden fortifications. In the 18-19th centuries, more buildings were constructed on the monastery grounds, including a few churches, such as gate churches, and brethren’s cells.
In Soviet times, the new owners of Moscow ruled the destiny of the Donskoy Monastery in their own way; in 1927, the first Soviet crematorium and columbarium started operating at the New Donskoy cemetery. Two years later, services were discontinued at the monastery. In 1934, an architectural museum was established there. At that time, the surviving fragments of destroyed architectural landmarks were brought to the monastery grounds, among them the Church of the Assumption on PokrovkaRussian: tserkov Uspeniya na Pokrovke or церковь Успения на Покровке, the Sukharev TowerRussian: Sukhareva bashnya or Сухарева башня and the Cathedral of Christ the SaviourRussian: Khram Khrista Spasitelya or Храм Христа Спасителя. High reliefs from the latter (1847 – 1849) are exhibited inside the monastery walls today.
After the Great Patriotic WarWorld War II was over, services were finally resumed in the Maly CathedralRussian: Malyi sobor or Малый собор. At the same time, a stove for the preparation of Chrism was placed there, and since that time, Chrism oil for the entire Russian Orthodox Church has been made at the Donskoy Monastery. In 1991, the monastery was transferred to the control of the PatriarchateRussian: Патриархат; in the same year the Bolshoi CathedralRussian: Bolshoi sobor or Большой собор was re-consecrated, and the full range of monastic activities was resumed.
If the Russian history is a subject of your interest and you want to know, for example, what is the oldest church in Moscow, what are the famous monasteries around Moscow, which style of Moscow architecture you can see only in this town, you can read on our website pages about Moscow historical places, “Kremlin and Red square” and “History and Architecture”.
RELICS AND DEPOSITIONS
The miracle-working icon of Our Lady of the Don is considered to be the monastery’s major relic, which is closely linked to the history of the foundation of the monastery. According to legend, the icon was painted by Theophanes the Greek in the 14th century. It also helped Dmitry Donskoythe first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Mongol authority in Russia to defeat the tatars in a crucial battle on Kulikovo FieldRussian: Kulikovo pole or Куликово поле in 1380. The icon is currently kept in the Tretyakov Art Gallery; however, as we mentioned before, it is delivered once a year to the Donskoy Monastery, where the Patriarch himself leads the vigil. A copy of the icon of Our Lady of the Don is constantly kept in the Maly Cathedral along with the icons of the Mother of God “Theodore” and “The Omen”Russian: ikony Bozhey Materi «Feodorovskaya» i «Znamenie» or иконы Божией Матери «Феодоровская» и «Знамение». The Donskoy monastery is the burial place of Patriarch St. Tikhon’s relics (he was the first Patriarch after this title was restored in 1917), who died in the monastery in 1925. His relics were uncovered during the restoration of the cathedral after the fire of 1992.
The Donskoy Monastery is also famous for its cemeteries. There are two of them on the monastery grounds, including the Old Necropolis, located within the monastery walls, and the New Necropolis, founded in 1910, which is outside. You can see tombstones with the surnames of many noble families such as the Dolgorukovs, the Trubetskoys, the Golitsyns, and the Vyazemskys in the old necropolis. A number of famous people are buried here, including philosopher P. Chaadaev and historian V. Klyuchevsky. Among the recent graves, you will find the grave of writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died in 2008.
DONSKOY MONASTERY AT PRESENT
There is an active Pilgrimage Service in the Donskoy Monastery; it runs a hotel and a refectory for pilgrims as well as excursions both around the monastery itself as well as other Orthodox shrines in Moscow and beyond. There is a Sunday school and a youth club affiliated with the monastery, as well as an icon shop and a monastery bakery.
From the point of view of architectural history, the Donskoy Monastery is not the only noteworthy landmark in the area. A number of monuments of Constructivist architecture (1920 ‒ 1930s) are located nearby, particularly around ShabolovskayaRussian: Шаболовская metro station. One of them is the famous Shukhov TowerRussian: Shukhovskaya telebashnya or Шуховская телебашня, an internationally recognised work of engineering art. All these sites can be visited on a single walking tour.
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