Compared to the Ivan the Great Bell TowerRussian: kolokol'nya Ivana Velikogo or колокольня Ивана Великого reaching for the sky, and the imposing Dormition CathedralRussian: Uspenskiy sobor or Успенский собор, the smallish, airy white-and-gold Cathedral of the AnnunciationRussian: Blagoveschenskiy sobor or Благовещенский собор does not convey any particular impression of grandeur and significance. Instead, its atmosphere is rather cozy and warm, almost home-like. This cathedral was originally designed as the main church for Russian tsars and their families. Here, Russian tsars were married and baptized, and here they went to confession. Nowadays, this temple is a perfectly preserved monument of architecture and church decor of the 16th century. Its iconostasis is considered one of the oldest in Russia: some icons date back to the 16th century. Also, the basement floor of the Annunciation Cathedral houses an exhibition entitled ‘Treasures and Antiquities of the Moscow KremlinRussian: Klady i drevnosti Moskovskogo Kremlya or Клады и древности Московского Кремля’. It features more than 1,500 items dating from the 12th to the 17th centuries, discovered during excavations at the Kremlin; items on display include sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, weapons and domestic implements.
The current church is the third one to be built on this site. The previous two churches served the same purpose – all of them were intended as a place of private prayer for the royalty. In the 15th century the Cathedral represented a more open structure, but, after burning down during the 1547 fire, it underwent a reconstruction that made it look the way it does today. The architects of the Annunciation Cathedral followed the old Moscow traditions of church building while simultaneously adopting some of the features of the already existing Dormition Cathedral, constructed by an Italian architect. The Cathedral of the Annunciation has a more detailed exterior decoration with an abundance of keel-shaped zakomarasarch-like semicircular tops of the church wall, oriental floral ornaments and other elements; yet, similarly to the Dormition Cathedral, its main motif remains to be the band of external blind arcading.
The Cathedral of the Annunciation is essentially made up of five smaller churches interconnected with a gallery. The inner area of the actual church isn’t very large: in fact, prayer only takes place in the central part of the Cathedral, which is crowned with five elegant-looking onion domes. The rest comprises of the gallery that goes around the church, which currently serves as an area for exhibitions. This gallery was glazed in the 16th century, sealing the formerly open-air passages. The sealing of the galleries with glass is what made it possible for us today to enjoy the extremely well-preserved fretted arcades – another characteristic feature of Moscow architecture. Four smaller domed structures, one on each corner of the Cathedral are only there for decorative purposes, giving the whole ensemble a lighter, more festive appearance.
There is a legend that the appearance of the covered gallery of the cathedral is connected with Tsar Ivan the Terriblereigned from 1533 to 1584. After the Tsar violated the church rules by getting married for the fourth time, he was forbidden to attend general worship at the church. So, he a covered gallery to be built so that he could visit his favorite church! According to another legend, from the porch of this gallery, he saw a comet, which he considered as the harbinger of his imminent death in 1584. This porch is called Groznenskyafter Ivan the Terrible or Ivan Groznyiy in Russian now.
On the inside, the church has a number of partially extant wall paintings made by Theodosius, the son of the renowned iconographer Dionisiuswas acknowledged as a head of the Moscow school of icon painters at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. Yet, most of its wall paintings were created by less prominent painters. The paintings of the porch are very unusual: they depict ancient Greek philosophers – Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Thucydides, and there are even images of the ancient Roman prophetesses Sibylles. There are scrolls with quotations in the hands of the wise men, which resemble Christian commandments. For example, on Socrates’ inscription we can read: “No evil will befall a good man,” on Plato’s one: “It is to be hoped that God Himself will send down the heavenly teacher and mentor to the people.”
The south side-chapel has a reliquary which was created in the 19th century to hold relics collected over the course of the 16th and the 17th centuries. Since 1993, the church has renewed divine services for the patronal feast of the Annunciation, which is performed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com