This unique example of mid-17th century Moscow architecture located in the very centre of the Russian capital on the grounds of the Kremlin is an impressive three-storey building designed as a single architectural complex intended to unite the Patriarch’s PalaceRussian: Patriarshi palaty or Патриаршьи палаты and the church. It is in excellent condition, with the interior having been completely restored and painted in keeping with the style of the 17th-century, and the original decor having been preserved in places. It now accommodates a museum of 17th-century Russian applied artsRussian: Muzey prikladnogo iskusstva i byta Rossii XVII v. or Музей прикладного искусства и быта России XVII в..
Patriarch Nikonknown for introducing many reforms which eventually led to a lasting schism known as Raskol in the Russian Orthodox Church organised for this residence to be built between 1652 and 1656, along with the chapel. Subsequently, they were rebuilt on several occasions, in keeping with their original design. Subsequent modifications turned them into a complex architectural area combining elements from different periods and styles to produce a harmonious composition.
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The first floor was mostly used for housekeeping purposes, while the second accommodated the ceremonial chambers. The Patriarch’s private quarters were located on the third floor. The main hall on the second floor, known as the CrossRussian: Krestovaya or Крестовая, or Chrism ChamberRussian: Mirovarennaya palata or Мироваренная палата, served as the Patriarch’s reception hall, which hosted feasts in honour of the tsar, as well as important State guests, church councils and trials. Every few years, the chism was prepared (chism is a special holy oil used in the Orthodox Church religious services). The large, well-preserved 18th-century furnace designed for this purpose is in the form of a cross and features marble tiles and golden canopies dating back to the 19th century. Kad’Russian: кадь (a silver receptacle used to cool holy oil) and alavastersRussian: алавастр (containers for storing it) have also been well preserved.
This 280-square-metre chamber covered with a huge cloistered vault without abutments was a very ambitious architectural project from the technological perspective. Prior to its construction, large vaulted halls had at least one pillar in the centre (as is the case in the Palace of FacetsRussian: Granovitaya palata or Грановитая палата, for example). Ironically, it was here that Patriarch Nikon, who initiated the construction of this architectural area, was defrocked.
Church of the twelve ApostlesRussian: Tserkov 12 apostolov or Церковь 12 апостолов
It was built as the patriarch’s private church, highlighting the Byzantine tradition of five cross-domed churches. The exterior walls are decorated with belts of columned arches which are also visible on the walls of the palace, visually combining the buildings into one ensemble. The church’s basement has two arches which allow passage to the patriarch’s courtyard. Interestingly, the south wall of the church features an entry portal, inaccessible today, since the church has no parvis, and no stairs lead up to it. A door suggests, however, that there once was an open arcade going round the church. The intricacies of 17th-century frescos have survived in the church’s interior, in particular, inside the dome drums, as well as a carved iconostasis brought from the Voznesensky MonasteryRussian: Voznesenskiy monastyr or Вознесенский монастырь dating back to the same period.
Today, the Patriarch’s Palace and the church accommodates the museum of 17th-century Russian applied arts. Many pieces of art by both Russian and foreign artists are on display here, including icons, decorations, books, embroidery and watches. Some icons were painted by Simon Ushakov, one of the most renowned Russian icon painters of the 17th century.