- The Cathedral of the Archangel in the Moscow Kremlin was built in 1508 by the Italian architect Aloisio the New.
- A carved wooden iconostasis dating to the late 17th century deserves special attention.
- Most icons were painted in the 17th century, the oldest of them being The Holy Archangel Michael and The Scenes of His Deeds, dated 1399.
- The Cathedral’s mural paintings were created in the 17th century by artists from the Kremlin’s Armoury Chamber, one of whom was the renowned icon painter Simeon Ushakov.
- The Cathedral contains 54 graves, including those of Prince Ivan Kalita, Prince Dmitry Donskoy, Tsar Ivan the Terrible and Tsar Michael I of Russia.
- The Cathedral offers guided tours in Russian, English, German, French, Spanish and Italian.
The Cathedral of the ArchangelRussian: Arkhangelskiy sobor or Архангельский собор of the Moscow Kremlin was built in the early 16th century and dedicated to the Archangel Michael, the leader of God’s armies and the guardian of Paradise. In the past, it was the main necropolis of the grand princes of Moscow, as well as the site of funeral services. Very few people not related to the tsar’s family were granted the honour of burial inside the Cathedral of the Archangel. The tradition of burying the Russian grand princes’ and, later, tsars’ family members in this church was discontinued by Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725 after the relocation of the capital to St. Petersburg.
History of the cathedral of the Archagel
The present-day stately stone cathedral was constructed by an Italian architect named Aloisio the New in 1508. Grand Prince Ivan IIIknown as the #gatherer of the Rus' lands#, he ruled from 1462 until 1505 of Russia ordered Aloisio to take inspiration from Russian architecture, therefore the resulting cathedral incorporated many elements of both Russian and Venetian styles. The cathedral’s history dates back to the 13th century, when a wooden church was founded on this spot by Mikhail Yaroslavich Khorobrit, the brother of St. Prince Alexander Nevskya key figure of medieval Rus' known for his military victories over German and Swedish invaders in the 13th century, in honour of his patron saint, Archangel Michael.
Architecture and decoration
he cathedral is located on Borovitsky HillRussian: Borovitskiy kholm or Боровицкий холм, with amazing views from the side of the Moskva RiverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река. It is reminiscent of a mediaeval Venetian palazzo, as the wall’s surface, divided vertically by classic pilasters and horizontally by cornices, covered with ornate decorations from top to bottom reflects the cathedral’s inner design to a lesser extent than do many ancient Russian churches. A abundance classical decorative elements as cornices, pilasters and capitals creates the impression of synchronicity and visually splits the building into two tiers. Adorned with blind arches, the lower tier appears massive, while rectangular recessed panels embellish the upper tier. Unusual sculptures, shell-shaped niches and medallion windows are visible in the upper section of the cathedral.
The building is a cruciform domed church, i.e. its two crossing central aisles are topped with a dome at their intersection. The Cathedral features five domes, highlighting its special significance. Notice that four domes out of five are not golden – this reflects that the cathedral is used as a necropolis. From the side of the Cathedral SquareRussian: Sobornaya ploshchad or Соборная площадь, the building appears overly elongated – this is because a gallery was annexed to the loggia’s western part for use by the ruling family.
The tiered structure gives the impression that the inner space of the church is divided into two floors. This is not the case, however. Enter the cathedral, and you will find yourself in a cramped and dark space typical of traditional Russian architecture. This effect is produced by the narrow arrow slit windows which do not allow much light to pass, the dark walls covered entirely with frescos, the dome-supporting pillars, and the tombs lined up along the walls. It is worth noting the 17th-century carved wooden iconostasis. While most of the icons in the cathedral date back to the 17th century, the oldest is the patronal icon entitled The Holy Archangel Michael and the Scenes of His DeedsRussian: Mikhail Arkhangel s zhitiyom or Михаил Архангел с житием, dated 1399. The Icon of Our Lady of the Blessed HeavenRussian: ikona Bozhey Materi «Blagodatnoe nebo» or икона Божией Матери «Благодатное небо» (1678-1680) is known for its apparent healing properties.
Of special interest are the frescos, painted in the 17th century by artists from the Kremlin ArmouryRussian: Oruzheynaya palata or Оружейная палата, including the well-known icon-painter Simeon Ushakov. They are based on the ideology of the unity of church and state. As with other Russian religious buildings, the frescos are located in the dome and the apse and also cover the walls in tiers. Many scenes portray the miracles worked by the Cathedral’s patron saint, St. Michael the Archangel. What is unusual about the mural paintings are the representations of the deceased princes, located right over their graves. These are full-length portraits of the princes, whose figures face the altar, with medallion-shaped images of their patron saints above their heads. The princes embody the strengthening of Moscow and the gathering of the Russian lands, a cause for which they fought during their lifetimes.
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 Red square Moscow and “History and Architecture”.
Burials in the cathedral of the Archangel
The Cathedral contains 56 burials, including sarcophagi with the remains of women from grand prince and tsar families transferred here from the Ascension ConventRussian: Voznesenskiy monastyr or Вознесенский монастырь just before its demolition by the Bolsheviksmembers of a wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which, led by Lenin, seized control of the government in Russia (October 1917) and became the dominant political power in 1929. Some of the most outstanding Russian historical figures buried here include Grand Prince Ivan KalitaGrand Duke of Moscow from 1325 and Vladimir from 1332, Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoythe first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Mongol authority in Russia, Tsar Ivan the Terribleruled from 1533 to 1584 and Tsar Michael I of Russia (Romanov)the first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov after the zemskiy sobor (the first Russian parliament of the feudal Estates type) of 1613. The tombs in the Cathedral mark the place of interment, while the graves themselves are located beneath the floor slabs. The cathedral illustrates the dynasty of Moscow rulers, with over 40 tombs of Moscow princes and tsars, from Ivan Kalita to Ivan Alekseyevich, Peter Iruled from 1682 until 1725’s brother. The last Romanov to have been buried in the Cathedral of the Archangel was Emperor Peter II, who died of smallpox in Moscow in 1730. The cathedral also contains the relics of Saints Prince Michael of Chernigovone of the most powerful princes in Rus’ on the eve of Mongol invasion and Tsarevich Dmitry of Uglich, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible.