One of the oldest convents in the capital is St John the Baptist’s (Ivanovasky) Stauropegic ConventRussian: Ioanno-Predtechensky (Ivanovsky) monastyr, or Иоанно-Предтеченский (Ивановский) монастырь or John the Forerunner (or John the Baptist), the prophet who foretold the coming of Jesus Christ and baptized Him in the waters of the River Jordan. The shrine gave name to the area around it – Ivanovaskaya HillRussian: Ivanovskaya Gorka or Ивановская Горка – one of the most picturesque historic districts of the city. At certain times during its history, the Convent was a prison for state criminals. The main church of the convent is one belonging to the Beheading of John the Baptist CathedralRussian: khram Useknoveniya glavy Ioanna Predtechi or храм Усекновения главы Иоанна Предтечи. It boasts very unusual architecture for an orthodox church. It was built in the 19th century and patterned after Italian basilicas, in particular, the Florence Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
CONVENT FOR TSARS AND CRIMINALS
The convent is located in the very centre of Moscow not far from the Kremlin. It has been here since 1530s when a long-awaited heir was born to Grand Prince Vasily IIIthe Grand Prince of Moscow from 1505 to 1533. His name was Ioann (John) and he was to become known as the great Russian ruler Ivan IV the Terribleruled from 1533 to 1584. Before that, John the Baptist’s Convent was a monastery and was located on the opposite side of the Moskva riverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река. By the Prince’s order, it became a convent and in the 16-17th centuries, the convent was the place where Tsars went to pray, financed by the head of state.
In the 18th century, a prison appeared on the convent premises where dangerous state criminals were kept. One of them, Daria Saltykova (commonly known as Saltychikha), was sent to the convent prison for murdering her serfs. She was put in an underground cell “so that she had no light there whatsoever.” Her meals were served by candle light, and the candle was put out as soon as she finished eating. Daria Nikolaeva (she was deprived of her aristocratic surname Saltykova by a court resolution) served a sentence of over 30 years in the convent. Another famous resident of the convent was nun Dosiphea, “the Russian Iron Mask”, daughter of Empress Elizabeththe Empress of Russia from 1741 until 1761 by her marriage to Alexei Razumovsky a Ukrainian-born Russian Registered Cossack who rose to become the lover of Empress Elizabeth. Under the decree of Empress Catherine the GreatEmpress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, the country's longest-ruling female leader and its most renowned, who feared other claimants to the throne, the girl was sent to the Ivanovsky ConventRussian: Ivanovskiy monastyr or Ивановский монастырь, where she lived as a recluse until her death in 1810.
When Moscow was captured by the French in 1812, there was a fire in the convent but its main church did not suffer. However, in the mid-19th century the old church was dismantled and a new one, designed by famous Moscow architect M. Bykovsky, was erected in its place. The new cathedral of the Beheading of John the Baptist was patterned after Italian basilicas, in particular, the Florence Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which is why it is called the “Moscow Florence”, even today. However, the architecture of St. John the Baptist’s Cathedral bears typical Russian features too, in particular, a small onion dome crowning the faceted dome of the church.
COLAPSE AND REHABILITATION
In the 20th century, the convent faced hard times. In 1918 it was one of the first in Moscow to be closed down. For quite a while it housed a concentration camp for “class enemies of the Soviet Republic” where nobles and priests served their sentences along with criminals, profiteers, and spies. The convent was then passed over to the state, and the faithful were left with only two churches at their disposal. In 1927 the building of the former convent came to house an experimental branch of the Institute for the Study of Crime and the CriminalRussian: institut po izucheniyu prestupnosti i prestupnika or институт по изучению преступности и преступника. That same year, the faithful were evicted from the convent, and in 1931 all the nuns and novitiates of the former Ivanovsky Convent were arrested.
Later, the convent buildings housed departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the regional archive, and the heating system services. After the Soviet era came to an end, John the Baptist’s Convent was given back to the faithful, and in 2000 monastic life was renewed at the convent. Since that time, the convent buildings have been under restoration. The convent runs a refectory, where you can eat delicious convent porridge as well as tasty turnovers and buns made in the convent bakery.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com