The ancient town of SerpukhovRussian: Серпухов is situated 99 km to the south of Moscow in one of the most charming locations of Moscow OblastRussian: Moskovskaya oblast' or Московская область. It is first mentioned in Russian chronicles in 1339, which makes this town almost two centuries younger than Moscow. Serpukhov was used as a fortress protecting the Grand Principality of Muscovy during the TatarMongol invaders of Russia and Europe and Polish invasions of Russia from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Monasteries and churches, – the oldest ones dating to the 16th century, – are reminiscent of Serpukhov’s glorious past. Fragments of the stone Kremlin, whose ramparts saw countless sieges, can still be seen on the high bank of the NaraRussian: Нара River. Dozens of residential and industrial buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries have come down to our days on VolodarskogoRussian: Володарского, KaluzhskayaRussian: Калужская and other streets.

The Russian writer A. Bolotov compared this town built along an uneven twisting slope to a beautiful amphitheatre, whose belfries crowned with golden crosses add special charm to it. Today Serpukhov is a well-developed administrative centre and port on the Nara River boasting numerous historical landmarks. Serpukhov harmoniously blends modern amenities with the beauty of the past centuries. Serpukhov’s protection of its cultural and historical heritage won it a diploma of the first international contest, The Best City in the CIS.

History of Serpukhov

The first mention of Serpukhov is in a document written by Prince Ivan I of MoscowGrand Duke of Moscow from 1325 and Vladimir from 1332. A little later, in 1360, Metropolitan Alexis of Moscow founded the Vladychny MonasteryRussian: Vladychnyi monastyr or Владычный монастырь on the right bank of the Nara River. The construction of a wooden kremlin on Serpukhov’s Red MountRussian: Krasnaya gora or Красная гора started in 1374, and later the Vysotsky MonasteryRussian: Vysotskiy monastyr or Высоцкий монастырь was founded on the left bank of the Nara River and consecrated by St. Sergius of Radonezha spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia himself. The town became the centre of a small principality and even struck its own coins.

In 1380, Prince Vladimir the Brave, the main companion-in-arms of Saint Prince Dmitry Donskoythe first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Mongol authority in Russia, participated in the Battle of Kulikovowas fought between the armies of the Golden Horde, and various Russian principalities and later built a church with a refectory and a stone cathedral in Serpukhov’s Vysotsky Monastery in honour of the Russian victory over the enemy. In 1382, however, Serpukhov paid dearly for the common victory when the army of Tokhtamysh, a khan of the Blue Hordethe eastern part of the Golden Horde, attacked the town. The Mongol-Tatar hordes attacked Serpukhov again in 1408 and 1409. They represented a constant threat to the Grand Principality of Muscovy, so Serpukhov was given the role of Moscow’s southern stronghold charged with the protection of the capital city. Russian troops were headquartered in Serpukhov and a strong white-stone kremlina fortified complex was built there by the mid-16th century.

In 1598, Tsar Boris Godunovwas elected tsar of Muscovy (reigning 1598–1605) after the extinction of the Rurik dynasty launched his Serpukhov campaign: Russian troops stationed near the Vladychny Monastery and stayed there several weeks staging military parades to show their strength to the Tatar Khan Gazy II Girey. They was no longer any need to fight after the khan’s ambassadors proposed a peace deal to Godunov. In a fit of generosity, Tsar Boris made a substantial donation to Serpukhov monasteries funding the construction of the stone gate Church of St. Theodotus of AncyraRussian: khram muchenika Feodota Ankirskogo or храм мученика Феодота Анкирского, the Church of St. George the MartyrRussian: khram velikomuchenika Georgiya Pobedonostsa or храм великомученика Георгия Победоносца and the walls of the Vladychny Monastery.

In 1605, not far from these walls the troops of False Dmitry I the first of three #pretenders# who claimed during the Time of Troubles to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terriblewere getting ready to march on Moscow. Serpukhov remained a major military centre in the 17th century, and stone buildings continued to be built here. The new Trinity CathedralRussian: Troitskiy sobor or Троицкий собор and the gate Church of the Three HierarchsRussian: nadvratnaya Tryokhsvyatitelnaya tserkov' or надвратная Трёхсвятительная церковь were built in the Vladychny Monastery, and the Immaculate Conception CathedralRussian: sobor Zachatiya or собор Зачатия in the Vysotsky Monastery was reconstructed in 1627. During the reign of Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725, residents of Serpukhov built ships and opened cloth factories and paper mills. The town of Serpukhov became a part of Moscow GovernorateRussian: Moskovskaya guberniya or Московская губерния in 1708.

Serpukhov shared the same destiny as the rest of Russia during World War II. Thousands of its heroic residents died in battle, and Hitler’s Nazis dropped some 35,000 incendiary bombs and 500 high-explosive ones on the town, damaging and destroying 597 buildings and killing thousands of civilians. Nonetheless, Serpukhov remained a stronghold and resisted to the enemy together with the rest of Russia.

Churches and sanctuaries

Serpukhov’s oldest church, the 13th-century Trinity CathedralRussian: Troitskiy sobor or Троицкий собор is located on the Sobornaya GoraRussian: Sobornaya gora or Соборная гора in the Kremlin (1, Krasnaya GoraRussian: Красная Гора Street). The belfry and the cathedral’s octagonal base were considerably restructured in the Classicist style between 1837 and 1841. At the same time, the side chapel of St. Nicholas the WonderworkerRussian: pridel svyatitelya Nikolaya Mirlikiyskogo or придел святителя Николая Мирликийского was added to the cathedral, the side chapel of St. Demetrius of ThessalonikiRussian: pridel svyatogo muchenika Dimitriya Solunskogo or придел святого мученика Димитрия Солунского underwent restoration and the façade was embellished with new classical redecoration. In the late 1930s, the cathedral was shut but avoided demolition. The Trinity Cathedral was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2011. Religious services resumed there after a large-scale reconstruction

A short distance from the Trinity Cathedral, at 2A Volodarskogo Street, is located the active St. Elijah’s ChurchRussian: tserkov' Ili Proroka or церковь Ильи Пророка, built in 1747-1748. Funded by the merchant family of Popov, the church dominates the historical trading quarter once inhabited by artisans and merchants. In the 19th century, St. Elijah’s Church took on a new appearance when its onion domes had been replaced with vase-shaped ones. The church was active throughout the Soviet period and the side chapel consecrated in the name of the Seeking the Lost Icon of the TheotokosRussian: ikona Bozhyey Materi «Vzyskaniye pogibshiy» or икона Божьей Матери «Взыскание погибший» was added to the church in the 20th century.

Volodarsky Street has another historical Church of the Assumption of the TheotokosRussian: khram Uspeniya Presvyatoy Bogoroditsy or храм Успения Пресвятой Богородицы, built in the pseudo-Russian architectural style in 1744. This building had a tragic destiny: it was shut and its archpriest Aleksey Sinaysky shot in the 1930s. The church was given back to the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1990s.

Priests from another Serpukhov church, the Church of the Holy MandylionRussian: khram Spasa Nerukotvornogo or храм Спаса Нерукотворного, located at 52, ChernyshevskogoRussian: Чернышевского Street, also suffered martyrdom in Soviet times: the archpriest and other religious officials were shot in the 1930s. As for the church, this architectural masterpiece built by architect R. Klein was transformed into a fish warehouse and a smoke house before its restitution to the Orthodox Church in 1990.

At 26/12, Kaluzhskaya Street is located Serpukhov’s main cathedral, the Church of St. Nicholas (Nikola Bely)Russian: tserkov' svyatitelya Nikolaya (Nikoly Belogo) or церковь святителя Николая (Николы Белого), built between 1833 and 1857. A stone’s throw from it, at 40, Kaluzhskaya Street, stands the former building of the 18th-century Crucifixion MonasteryRussian: Raspyatskiy monastyr or Распятский монастырь; it now accommodates a medical school. The best-known building on this street, however, is the Vysotsky Monastery (110, Kaluzhskaya Street), built in 1374 and rebuilt in stone in the 16th century, followed by numerous upgrades and further construction in the subsequent years. Today it is an active friary.

Serpukhov also has an active Vladychny ConventRussian: zhenskiy Vladychnyi monastyr or женский Владычный монастырь (40, OktyabrskayaRussian: Октябрьская Street) that was founded in 1360. It contains such relics as the Icon of Panagia PantanassaRussian: ikona Bozhiyey Materi «Vsetsaritsa» or икона Божией Матери «Всецарица», the miraculous Icon of St. Dimitry of Uglich and the myrrh-streaming Golgotha Cross. Many believers also visit the Church of All SaintsRussian: Khram Vsekh Svyatykh or Храм Всех Святых, built in Municipal Cemetery of All SaintsRussian: Vsekhsvyatskoye gorodskoye kladbische or Всехсвятское городское кладбище (2, Rabfakovsky LaneRussian: pereulok Rabfakovskiy or переулок Рабфаковский) in 1870. This five-domed stone church with a tall belfry built by K. Grinevsky in the Russo-Byzantine style was given back to the believers in 1995.

Reconstruction works are now under way in the almost completely destroyed Moscow Baroque Church of the Presentation of Our LordRussian: Sretenskaya tserkov' or Сретенская церковь, located at 36, Karla Marksa StreetRussian: ulitsa Karla Marksa or улица Карла Маркса. This church was founded in 1702, rebuilt in the 19th century and shut in the 1930. The Epiphany ChurchRussian: Bogoyavlenskaya tserkov' or Богоявленская церковь located at 86, ProletarskayaRussian: Пролетарская Street among present-day industrial and residential buildings dates back to the 16th century. The building that we see today was built in 1713. In the 1930s, the church was used as a club for the workers of a cloth mill. It was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2006.

Serpukhov in different periods

Numerous architectural landmarks echo the century-old history of Serpukhov. Not only the Trinity Cathedral, but also the ruins of the old kremlin have survived on Sobornaya Gora at the confluence of Nara and SerpeykaRussian: Серпейка Rivers, marking the center of the old town. Only paintings and photographs have retained the initial beauty of Serpukhov’s white-stone kremlin, which had been taken to pieces to construct the Moscow MetroRussian: Moskovskiy metropoliten or Московский метрополитен in 1934. The demolition of the town’s cultural masterpiece was to no avail, as metro architects rejected the rubble stone and redirected it to secondary construction sites. Only parts of the walls have remained on Sobornaya Gora, echoing the past glory of the stronghold.

At 5, Volodarskogo Street is situated a house built in the second half of the 18th century. It once belonged to merchant Konshin, the owner of the ‘Association of N. N. Konshin’s Manufactures in Serpukhov’, an enterprise that consisted of a cotton-printing mill, a spinning and weaving mill and a dyeing-and-finishing plant. An enterprising businessman, N. Konshin was a wealthy and thrifty person; no wonder that his mansion has made it to this day. It now accommodates the Serpukhov cloth factoryRussian: fabrika «Serpukhovskiy tekstil» or фабрика «Серпуховский текстиль». Konshin’s another mansion from the second half of the 18th century is located at 12/8, Volodarskogo Street and now houses the Serpukhov Mechanical Engineering CollegeRussian: Serpukhovskiy mashinostroitelnyi tekhnikum or Серпуховский машиностроительный техникум.

Satellite dishes that can be seen on a mid-19th century residential house at 17, Volodarskogo Street indicate that the building is still inhabited. The mansion with its wooden windows, ancient plasterwork and darkened roof has changed little over the past one century and a half. Another residential building at 19, Volodarskogo Street – an almost 200-year-old modest two-storey building – has almost the same appearance today as it had in the past. An ensemble of 18th-century residential quarters, surrounded by tall trees and a beautiful fence, can be seen at 23/51, Volodarskogo Street. It now accommodates the Serpukhov Fuel CorporationRussian: Serpukhovskaya toplivnaya korporatsiya or Серпуховская топливная корпорация, a local limited liability company, but visitors can still admire it from outside.

The mid-18th-century historical building of the malting plantRussian: solodovennyi zavod or солодовенный завод is located at 5, Kaluzhskaya Street and a short distance from it, at 46/12, Kaluzhskaya Street, there is a country estate of the Sollobug family built in the late 18th-century (the building now accommodates a medical school). Of great interest is the nearby house No 48 built in the first half of the 19th century. This former residential building now houses a children’s school of art. A nearby mansion at 50, Kaluzhshkaya Street (mid-18th to late 19th centuries) once belonged to the merchant Kishkin and now houses a detention centre. The most significant historic building on this street is, undoubtedly, the Vysotsky Monastery (110, Kaluzhskaya Street), which was rebuilt in stone between the 16th and 19th centuries. Today, it is an active friary.

If you walk along Kaluzhskaya Street towards the Serpukhov Kremlin and turn right, you’ll get to the main historical square, Lenina SquareRussian: ploschad Lenina or площадь Ленина. Once, it was known simply as the Trading Square, as merchant stalls used to be located here and fairs would take place prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Small parks and an old tavern are still in existence today. Among the historical buildings situated on Lenina Square are the 19th-century Gostiny DvorRussian: Гостиный двор (9, Lenina Square) and merchant stalls, the current condition of which leaves much to be desired. Many other historical buildings are in desperate need of renovation, including merchant Kishkin’s canvas factory (first half of the 18th century, 8/19, 2nd MoskovskayaRussian: Московская Street), the 19th-century Voronin’s country estate (27/3, Proletarskaya Street), the 18th-century chamber palaceRussian: palaty XVIII veka or палаты XVIII века (48/2, Proletarskaya Street) and the 18th-century Church of the Presentation of Our LordRussian: tserkov' Sreteniya Gospodnya or церковь Сретения Господня (36, Karla Marksa Street).

The former building of the Serpukhov District AdministrationRussian: Serpukhovskaya zemskaya uprava or Серпуховская земская управа (1860), now occupied by the Serpukhov Metallist PlantRussian: Serpukhovskiy zavod "Metallist" or Серпуховский завод "Металлист", is in perfect condition. Entina’s Mansion (45, VoroshilovaRussian: Ворошилова, former DvoryanskayaRussian: Дворянская Street) built in the early 20th century is slightly worse for wear – it is where 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 held their illegal meetings between 1905 and 1907.

You can combine a sightseeing Moscow tour with lunch in a café or spend some time in one of the parks. Lovers of Russian provincial history might be interested in visiting the Serpukhov Museum of History and ArtRussian: Serpukhovskiy istoriko-khudozhestvennyi muzey or Серпуховский историко-художественный музей, located in the beautiful 19th-century country estate of the industrialist family of Marayev at 87, ChekhovaRussian: Чехова Street. This museum displays an exciting collection of Orthodox relics and Russian and Western European art (17th to 19th centuries), including paintings by F. Rokotov and D. LevitskyRussian famous painters. The museum also boasts a Western European art collection, displaying works by Italian, Holland, French, German and Spanish painters. There are no works by internationally-renowned painters here, but the paintings and sculptures on display here are, nonetheless, of exceptional artistic significance. Of particular interest is the museum’s rich collection of Italian paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Many paintings from the museum’s collection were confiscated from nearby country estates during the nationalization period following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

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Outside Moscow


Serpukhov. After the bombardment. 1941-1942
Serpukhov. The Kremlin and Trinity Cathedral. 1905
Serpukhov. Fragment of the Kremlin Wall. 1556
Serpukhov. Konshin House. 2nd half of the 18th - 19th centuries
Serpukhov. Residential building. Mid-19th century
Serpukhov. Residential building. Mid-19th century
Trading Stalls. North Side
Crucifixion Monastery
Peter I the Great
Monument to Vladimir the Brave in Serpukhov
Chambers. 2nd half of the 18th century
Kishkin's Canvas Factory
Ivan the Terrible
Building used for Bolshevik meetings
Gostiny Dvor
Oleg Stepanov Park. Wedding Palace
Entrance to the Vladychny Convent
Trading Stalls. East Side
Vladychny Convent in the past
Serpukhov Kremlin. Trinity Cathedral viewed from the site of the former Karaulnaya Tower. 2006
Vasily IIV of Russia
Former building of the Serpukhov Zemstvo Board. 1860
Boris Godunov
General view of Torgovaya Square
General view of residential chambers and two residential buildings
Church of the Presentation of Our Lord. 18th century
St. Elijah's Church
Epiphany Church in 1905
Vladychny Monastery. Churches
Church of the Holy Mandylion
All Saints' Church viewed from the northwest
Vladychny Convent. Churches
Church of the Assumption viewed from the Sobornaya Gora
The Sollogubs' Mansion
Voronin's Mansion. Early 19th century
An old building on Kaluzhskaya Street
Trinity Cathedral viewed from the northwest
Trinity Cathedral in 2007 viewed from the north
Church of the Presentation of Our Lord viewed from the southwest
Serpukhov Music and Drama Theater
Serpukhov History and Art Museum
Serpukhov. Sobornaya Gora
Serpukhov. The Kremlin and Trinity Cathedral in 1905
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