The Novospassky stauropegic monasteryRussian: Novospasskiy stavropigialnyi muzhskoy monastyr or Новоспасский ставропигиальный мужской монастырь is one of the largest active monastic cloisters in Moscow. Every day it welcomes a great number of believers seeking spiritual guidance as well as tourists interested in the Orthodox culture. Many sacred relics including particles of Jesus and the Mother of God’s robes are kept within its walls. Here you will also find the Romanov family crypt where the ancestors and relatives of the Romanov imperial dynastythe second dynasty to rule Russia, after the House of Rurik, reigning from 1613 until the February Revolution of 1917 are buried. The architecture of the cloister is a remarkable example of Moscow monastic architecture of the 17-18th centuries. On the Novospassky monastery premises are five active churches, a publishing house, and a Sunday school.
The monastery history
The Orthodox community of the Novospassky monastery is considered Moscow’s earliest monastic cloister. Originally though, it had a different location – first, on the site of the present-day Danilov MonasteryRussian: Danilov monastyr or Данилов монастырь, and later in the Kremlin. In fact, the founder of the community of the monastery was St. Daniel, the first PrinceTitled Knyaz in Russian tradition of Moscow, St. Alexander Nevskya key figure of medieval Rus' known for his military victories over German and Swedish invaders in the 13th century’s son. In the late 15th century, the monastic community was again relocated to Krutitsky HillRussian: Krutitskiy kholm or Крутицкий холм on the bank of the Moskva RiverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река. This is where its current name comes from – originally, it was called the Saviour on BorRussian: Spas na Boru, or Спас на Бору, meaning “the monastery consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord and standing on Borovitsky HillRussian: Borovitskiy kholm or Боровицкий холм”, and after the relocation, it was renamed Novospassky (the New Spas), meaning “located in a new place”.
In the Novospassky Monastery, the family burial place of the Romanov Boyarsthe ancestors of the royal dynasty is situated. The Romanovs kept this tradition both after Mikhail Romanovalso known as Michael I was elected to the throne in 1613 and after the capital was relocated to St. Petersburg in 1712. The emperors were laid to rest in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. PetersburgRussian: Petropavlovskiy sobor or Петропавловский собор while the grand princes and other relatives of the royal family were still buried in the family crypt in the monastery. Unfortunately, all the graves were destroyed after the revolution of 1917 but in the 1990s the crypt was restored. The church inside is consecrated in honour of St. Romanos the Melodist, the heavenly patron of the family. The crypt also has a small museum dedicated to the history of the Novospassky monastery.
The Novospassky monastery took shape gradually. It acquired its stone walls in the 17th century, but at that time they served not so much a decorative purpose but rather a strategic one as the monastery was one of the fortresses built to protect Moscow from enemy attacks. To get onto the territory of the cloister today, you have to enter the gate topped with an 18th century elegant bell tower, one of the tallest in Moscow (78 metres high). In line with the Transfiguration CathedralRussian: Preobrazhensky sobor, or Преображенский собор is the main cathedral of the monastery, the foundation of which was laid in the 17th century. Its interior is decorated with paintings, including the Romanov family tree. On the cathedral porch are see images of ten ancient philosophers (including Homer, Plato, and Aristotle) – this is quite unique for an Orthodox church.
Nearby is the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of GodRussian: khram Pokrova Presvyatoy Bogoroditsy, or храм Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы also dating back to the 17th century. Next to it on the other side is the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “The Omen”Russian: tserkov ikony Bogomateri «Znamenie» or церковь иконы Богоматери «Знамение», a remarkable classicist landmark of the late 18th century. It houses the crypt where many representatives of well-known Russian aristocratic families including the Sheremetyevs, the Urusovs, the Lobanov-Rostovskys, and the Cherkasskys are laid to rest.
Today, a large number of holy relics are kept in the monastery churches. Some of the relics are priceless, including a particle of Jesus Christ’s robe and the Mother of God’s robe, a splinter of the cross the Saviour was crucified on, particles of relics of many saints (e.g., Mark the Evangelist, St. John Chrysostom, Great Martyr Panteleimon, St. Basil the BlessedMoscow holy fool, Venerable Seraphim of Sarovone of the most renowned Russian saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and others). All of them are kept in one reliquary. Another reliquary contains relics of the saints of the Kiev Caves MonasteryRussian: Kievo-Pecherskiy monastyr or Киево-Печерский монастырь. St. John of Kronstadt’s belt is also kept in the Novospassky monastery. There are also especially revered icons in the cloister, one of which is the icon of the Mother of God “Vsetsaritsa”Russian: ikona Bogomateri «Vsetsaritsa» or икона Богоматери «Всецарица», an exact copy of the miraculous original icon from Mount Athos. It has also become famous for working miracles, including healing many of those who prayed at it asking for help sincerely and in faith.