- One of Moscow’s best-known churches, located on Pyatnitskaya Street, is a fine sample of church Baroque architecture.
- Clement (2nd c. AD) was one of the Seventy Apostles and the 4th bishop of Rome. Back then, Christianity had not yet split into Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.
- The church was, mostly likely, built in the 17th century by one of the richest Moscow merchants Kozma Matveyev whose mansion was situated on Pyatnitskaya Street.
- The author of this architectural project is said to be Pietro Antonio Tresini, a Swiss architect who designed many palaces and churches in St. Petersburg.
- The church’s iconostasis and external decoration illustrates the richness of Moscow Baroque architecture.
St. Clement’s ChurchRussian: Tserkov’ Klimenta Papy Rimskogo or Церковь Климента Папы Римского is located in PyatnitskayaRussian: Пятницкая Street in the historic centre of Moscow. The majestic building with its light blue domes can be seen from afar. This is one of Moscow’s most famous churches and a unique example of Baroque church architecture (from Italian la perla barocco meaning ‘imperfect pearl’). The church boasts iconostases which are atypical of Orthodox architecture; the gilded wooden central iconostasis with its sculptures is second to none in Moscow.
If you look at St. Clement’s Church from the outside, the lower two tiers resemble a Baroque palace. The total surface area of the church is nearly 1,500 square metres. The church consists of a prayer hall with five side altars, a refectory with two side altars, and a bell tower. The church is an architectural monument of national importance, and is therefore part of the Golden Ringa ring of cities northeast of Moscow, that preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history excursion and pilgrimage route.
WHO IS SAINT CLEMENT?
Saint Clement (2nd century AD) was one of the Seventy Apostles, the fourth bishop of Rome (Pope). Back in his era, the Christian Church had not yet split into Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. According to legend, Clement was ordained a bishop of Rome by Saint Peter himself. He was persecuted by the Roman Emperor Trajan and exiled to the Crimean stone quarries. However, he never stopped delivering sermons and even organised divine and baptismal services for pagans, for which the Romans ordered him to be drowned in 103. His remains were later discovered by his disciples at the bottom of the sea whose shores had retreated to reveal them.
Saint Clement was regarded as a patron saint in Kievan Rus’. Part of his remains (his relics) was deposited by Vladimir the Greatthe ruler from 980 to 1015 who converted Kievan Rus' to Christianity in 988 in the Church of the TithesRussian: Desyatinnaya tserkov' or Десятинная церковь in Kiev, the first Orthodox church in Rus’.
The church’s history goes back to the 17th century, when one of the battles during the Time of Troublesperiod of political crisis in Russia that followed the demise of the Rurik dynasty (1598) and ended with the establishment of the Romanov dynasty (1613) took place by a small fortress built by Cossacksa group of predominantly East Slavic-speaking people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities next to the wooden church of St. Clement. Klimentovsky OstrozhekRussian: Климентовский острожек (Clement’s Little Ostroga Russian term for a small fort) became an outpost in the fight against the invaders and a symbol of the Orthodox soldiers’ stamina in 1612. During the course of heavy combat, Russian Cossacks managed to drive the troops of Hetman Chodkiewicz, who was racing to the rescue of a Polish garrison stuck in the Kremlin. This victory was the first step to the liberation of Moscow and Russia from foreign invasion.
It is believed that a Duma clerka ministerial title from that time called Alexander Durov later constructed the first small church stone building as an expression of his gratitude to the Lord for his miraculous escape. Sentenced to death during the reign of Michael Ithe first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov after the zemskiy sobor of 1613 of Russia, the clerk prayed in his prison cell before an icon of Our Lady of the Sign and had a vision that he would be granted pardon. The penalty, indeed, was soon removed because the Tsar had had the same vision.
According to the most widely accepted version of events, the existing five-domed church was built in the mid-18th century by one of Moscow’s richest merchants Kozma Matveev, who had an estate in Pyatnitskaya Street. Another version of the story goes that the construction was ordered by Count Alexey Bestuzhev-Ryumin, a field marshal and the Chancellor of the Russian Empire, who lived nearby. St. Clement’s Day, which fell on the 25th of November 1741, witnessed a palace revolution that swept Elizabeth Petrovnathe Empress of Russia from 1741 until 1761 into power. From that point onwards, St. Petersburg and Moscow began to build churches consecrated to St. Clement.
The person who designed the church is also unknown. Legend has it that it was the famous Pietro Antonio Trezzini, a Swiss architect, Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725’s godson and the author of many palaces and churches in St. Petersburg. The bell tower, differing in style, was constructed by Prince Dmitry Ukhtomsky, the chief architect of Moscow.
It was on pure luck that St. Clement’s Church survived through the Soviet era. Its property, except for the icons, was liquidated and transferred to the Treasury in the 1920s, and the church itself was intended to be demolished during the next decade. The fence and the pavilion fulfilling the role of the Holy Gate had already been demolished, when two famous restorers, professor Pyotr Baranovsky and the academic Igor Grabar, stood up for the church, which was ultimately granted a reprieve from its planned destruction and was subsequently used as storage for the books from the Lenin LibraryRussian: Biblioteka imeni V. Lenina or Библиотека имени В. Ленина. This may be regarded as divine providence, as Saint Clement is considered to be the patron saint of books and science.
Besides the gorgeous Kremlin and Red Square, there are a lot of outstanding historical landmarks in Moscow. You should visit Novodevichy convent, Moscow cathedral of Annunciation, monasteries near Moscow and other unique sights. You can read about them on our website pages “World religions in Moscow” and “History and Architecture”.
The vibrant architectural language of the Moscow Baroque style manifested itself in the church iconostasis and interior design. It is not for nothing that art historians compare it to the façade of Apraksin-Trubetskoya rare example of Moscow's luxuriant Elizabethan Baroque style House in PokrovkaRussian: Покровка Street and other Moscow Baroque structures. The icons in the central iconostasis may have been painted by Vasily Vasilevsky and Dmitry Levitsky, who are known to have worked on similar iconostases in churches in OrdynkaRussian: Ордынка and SolyankaRussian: Солянка Streets back then.
The northern (left) side altar of the refectory is consecrated to the Most Holy Theotokos the Unburnt Bush IconRussian: ikona Presvyatoy Bogoroditsy «Neopalimaya kupina» or икона Пресвятой Богородицы «Неопалимая купина», placed left of the royal doors and protecting the church from fire. A side altar consecrated to the Icon of Our Lady of the SignRussian: ikona Bogomateri «Znameniye» or икона Богоматери «Знамение» is located to the left of the Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) Side AltarRussian: Preobrazhenskiy pridel or Преображенский придел.
The southern (right) side altar of the refectory is consecrated to Saint Clement and Pope Peter I of Alexandria. This side altar occupies the place of the original church, next to which Polish and Russian troops battled in 1612as a sequence of military conflicts and eastward invasions carried out by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The main part of the building contains five side altars, which is rare in Moscow church architecture. The church icon of Saint Clement is normally placed on an analogion. Ancient 18th-century icons are kept in kiotsa decorated case or glass shelf for keeping and displaying religious icons placed against the walls under the arches.
The majority of the church was constructed in 1770 in the style typical of Western European church architecture. Angel statues are placed on pedestals at the level of the second tier, and icons are in the style of 18th-century Italian art and encased in luxurious frames. The church was the first in Moscow to use the ‘kiot’ iconostasis structure, where all the five altars of the central part are connected with a single iconostasis. The Iconostasis in Sts. Peter and Paul CathedralRussian: Petropavlovskiy sobor or Петропавловский собор in St. Petersburg resembles the one at St Clement’s.
Two more altars, The Nativity of Mary AltarRussian: pridel Rozhdestva Bogoroditsy or придел Рождества Богородицы and the Ascension AltarRussian: Voznesenskiy pridel or Вознесенский придел, are placed in the choir stalls, which can be accessed via a staircase. These were damaged significantly during the Soviet times due to their placement under a leaky roof.
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