There are places in Moscow where time seems to have stopped, and eight hundred year old St. John’s HillRussian: Ivanovskaya gorka or Ивановская горка is one of them. This magical spot is encompassed by MaroseykaRussian: Маросейка, SolyankaRussian: Солянка and PokrovkaRussian: Покровка Streets, and Lubyansky DriveRussian: Lubyanskiy proezd or Лубянский проезд, and monuments dating back to different historical periods harmoniously coexist here.
It’s pure joy to wander through Bolshoy SpasoglinishchevskyRussian: Большой Спасоглинищевский, StarosadskyRussian: Старосадский, KolpachnyRussian: Колпачный, KhokhlovskyRussian: Хохловский, Bolshoy TryokhsvyatitelskyRussian: Большой Трехсвятительский, Maly TryokhsvyatitelskyRussian: Малый Трехсвятительский, PodkolokolnyRussian: Подколокольный and PetropavlovskyRussian: Петропавловский. The names of lanes are derived from churches, old natural landmarks and craftsmen. Listen to these names and you’ll hear a real ‘symphony’ of the old Moscow!
Only here will you see three religious landmarks belonging to three different religions and located practically all in one small area: the ancient Orthodox Ivanovsky ConventRussian: Ivanovskiy monastyir or Ивановский монастырь, the Сhoral SynagogueRussian: horalnaya sinagoga or хоральная синагога (the oldest of all Jewish buildings in Moscow), and the Lutheran Peter and Paul CathedralRussian: lyuteranskaya kirha Petra i Pavla or лютеранская кирха Петра и Павла (the only Lutheran church in the city). Urban legends have it that it is also the heart of late 19th – early 20th century criminal Moscow, the famous KhitrovkaRussian: Хитровка, which marked the beginning of Russia’s organized crime.
In the Middle Ages, the area, today crisscrossed with lanes, was a place outside the city walls where Muscovy’s princes had their country residences. Later, St. John’s Hill was surrounded by the Bely Gorodthe central core area of Moscow beyond the Kremlin and Kitay-gorod which wall was erected in 1585-1593’s (White Town) wall following the lines of present-day boulevards which comprise the so-called Boulevard RingRussian: Bulvarnoe koltso or Бульварное кольцо. The Russian nobility – boyarsmembers of the highest rank of the feudal society in Russia Shuysky, princes Dolgoruky and others – settled here. Some centuries later, the estates of the Mamontovs, a family of merchants and patrons of arts, and the baronial family of the Knops, built their mansions here. Around the same time, at the turn of the 20th century, revenue houses began to spring up on St. John’s Hill. During the Soviet times, so-called ‘communal apartmentsRussian: kommunalka or коммуналка’ were arranged in the former revenue houses, most of the churches were closed (although, surprisingly, all of them survived the Soviet regime!), and the Ivanovsky Convent was converted into a prison. Currently, all of these churches are being used for their original purpose.
Another surprising feature of St. John’s Hill has to do with residential buildings constructed throughout the 20th century. It is one of the neighbourhoods in downtown Moscow where office construction and commercial developments did not force the local dwellers to move to the city’s outskirts. If you want to get the feel of old Moscow you will find it all here, on St. John’s Hill.
THE ORIGINS OF ST. JOHN’S HILL. SLAVYANSKAYA SQUARE
The best starting point for your tour of St. John’s Hill is Slavyanskaya (‘Slavic’) SquareRussian: Slavyanskaya ploschad or Славянская площадь, by the south exit of Kitay-gorodRussian: Китай-город Metro Station. Stand for a while at the foot of the monument to Saints Cyril and MethodiusRussian: pamyatnik sv. Kirillu i Mefodiyu or памятник св. Кириллу и Мефодию and enjoy the wonderful panorama unfolding before your eyes. To your right, you’ll see two sumptuous buildings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Novovarvarinsky CourtyardRussian: Novovarvarinskoe podvore or Нововарваринское подворье and Boyarsky DvorRussian: Боярский двор (‘Boyar’s Courtyard) by architects A. Ivanov and F. Schechtel. Both buildings are typical samples of Moscow’s Art Nouveau. They used to be hotels, but today they house the Presidential Administration of RussiaRussian: Administratsiya Prezidenta RF or Администрация Президента РФ.
A medium-sized Church of the Nativity of St. John the BaptistRussian: tserkov Rozhdestva Ioanna Predtechi or церковь Рождества Иоанна Предтечи, a fine example of 18th century church architecture stands to the left of the Novovarvavinsky Courtyard, near the Varvarka GatesRussian: Varvarskie vorota or Варварские ворота. Behind this church is the start of Varvarka StreetRussian: ulitsa Varvarka or улица Варварка, one of Moscow’s oldest streets and a priceless treasure for lovers of antiquity. A brick wall going down along the left side of Varvarka is the recently reconstructed fragment of Kitay-gorod, a wall built around Moscow in the first half of the 16th century. Turn left from the wall and you’ll see two other remarkable landmarks. The first is the Delovoy DvorRussian: Деловой двор (‘Business Courtyard’), a curious hotel designed by architect I. Kuznetsov in 1911–1913 in the neoclassic style – a massive five-storey building topped with a rotunda and a dome. The Novovarvarinsky Courtyard, Boyarsky Dvor and Delovoy Dvor were something like five-star hotels in their time: there were hot and cold water dispensers, electricity, telephones and lifts.
In the vicinity of the Delovoy Dvor stands the small but festive Church of All Saints in KulishkiRussian: Tserkov Vsekh Svyatykh na Kulishkakh, or Церковь Всех Святых на Кулишках. Legend has it that the first temple on this site was erected by Dmitry Donskoythe first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Mongol authority in Russia in memory of those who fell in the Battle of Kulikovobetween the armies of the Golden Horde under the command of Mamai, and various Russian principalities under the united command of Prince Dmitri of Moscow (1380). The modern church was built here in the 17th century in the Russian uzorochyea unique 17-century Russian architectural style characterised by abundant and highly ornate decoration style. Today it houses Patriarch of Alexandria’s MetochionRussian: podvore Aleksandriyskogo patriarha or подворье Александрийского патриарха. Have a closer look at its bell tower which is a bit tilted away from its axis and is rightfully referred to as ‘Moscow’s Leaning Tower of Pisa’.
Let’s move on from Slavyanskaya Square to the beginning of Solyanka, an ancient Moscow street named after the Salt YardRussian: Solyanoy dvor or Соляной двор that used to be here (‘sol’ means salt in Russian). Walking up the left-hand side of the street, you’ll see several revenue houses with shops dating back to the 18th and early 19th centuries on your right. Although their façades are covered with advertising signs and modern decorative elements, these buildings give you an idea of what a merchant street in Moscow would have looked like two hundred years ago.
And here we are at a crossroad. Solyanka Street continues to the right in the direction of the Moscow OrphanageRussian: Vospitatelnyi dom or Воспитательный дом. To the left – toward Maroseyka Street – up goes Bolshoy Spasoglinishchevsky Lane, home to the Moscow Choral Synagogue, the oldest Jewish institution in Moscow built between 1887 and 1891 by architects S. Eibuschitz and R. Klein.
Our path continues along Zabelina StreetRussian: ulitsa Zabelina or улица Забелина toward the Ivanovsky Convent. As you walk down this street, take a look at the impressive grey building to your right, which is a complex of revenue houses designed by V. Sherwood and owned by the Moscow Merchant SocietyRussian: Moskovskoe kupecheskoe obschestvo or Московское купеческое общество. Two five- and six-storied neoclassic massive buildings constructed between 1912 and 1915 feature the so-called “wells”, or enclosed courtyards surrounded by walls on all sides, reminiscent of St. Petersburg in the very heart of Moscow.
A beautiful Orthodox church, known as the Church of St. Vladimir in the Old GardensRussian: Tserkov Svyatogo Vladimira v Starykh Sadekh, or Церковь Святого Владимира в Старых Садех, is located at the beginning of Zabelina Street. Saint Vladimir is Vladimir the Great, grand prince of Kiev who Christianised the Kievan Rus in 988. The first church was erected on this site in the 16th century by renowned Italian architect Aloisio the New. By the 17th century, the church had grown old and decrepit, and had to be rebuilt. Its south portal is the only part left from Aloisio’s old building. A bell tower was added to the church in the 18th century. White-stone five-domed St. Vladimir’s ChurchRussian: Vladimirskiy sobor or Владимирский собор is a typical example of 17th century Russian architecture. The church is now restored, and religious services are regularly held here.
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN STAROSADSKY LANE
As you step outside St. Vladimir’s Church, you’ll see Starosadsky LaneRussian: Starosadskiy pereulok or Старосадский переулок on your right and Maly Ivanovsky LaneRussian: Malyi Ivanovskiy pereulok or Малый Ивановский переулок on your left. The Peter and Paul Cathedral, the main Lutheran church in Moscow and the entire European part of Russia, is located in Starosadsky Lane. The first Lutheran church appeared in Moscow as early as 1626, while the present-day church was built in the early 20th century by architect V. Kossov in the then-popular Eclectic and neo-Gothic styles. Worship services in Russian and German are held here on Sundays at 11:30am. The church puts on regular classical music concerts. Check the religious service and music concert schedule on the official website of the cathedral.
THE IVANOVSKY CONVENT
The Ivanovsky ConventRussian: Ivanovsky monastyr, or Ивановский монастырь is Moscow’s main altar of John the Baptist, a prophet who announced Jesus’ coming and later baptised Him in the Jordan River. The Convent was founded in the 14thcentury and then moved to St. John’s Hill in the 1530s, when Grand Prince Vasily IIIthe Grand Prince of Moscow from 1505 to 1533 had a son, the long-awaited successor and the future great ruler of Russia, Ivan IV, or Ivan the Terribleruled from 1533 to 1584. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Convent was a place of worship for the Tsar and his family. In the 18th century the Convent served as a prison for dangerous criminals, one of whom was a woman named Darya Saltykova (commonly known as Saltychikha), who had been imprisoned for murdering numerous serfs in her estate. She was put in a cell in the convent’s basement so that ‘no light would come into her cell from anywhere’. Meals were brought to her together with a lit candle which would be put out as soon as she finished eating. In this convent, Darya Nikolayeva (the court had stripped her noble surname Saltykova) spent over 30 years.
A nun known by the name of Dosifeya, the Russian ‘iron mask’, who lived at the Convent, is no less famous. She was the daughter of Russian Empress Elizabeththe Empress of Russia from 1741 until 1761 and Count Alexey Razumovskya Ukrainian-born Russian Registered Cossack. The girl was sent off to the Ivanovsky Convent on the orders of 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, and lived in religious reclusion until her death in 1810.
During the French Invasion of Russia in 1812the war between the Russian Empire and Napoleonic France on the territory of Russia in 1812, fire seriously damaged the Convent, but the Church of John the Baptist survived only to be dismantled, in the mid-19th century, and replaced with a new church designed by the renowned Moscow architect Mikhail Bykovsky. The new Church of the Beheading of St. John the BaptistRussian: Sobor Useknoveniya glavy Ioanna Predtechi, or Собор Усекновения главы Иоанна Предтечи was designed on the model of Italian basilicas, although it does have some traditional Russian features, too.
In 1918, the convent was closed and its premises were used as an internment camp for ‘class enemies of the Soviet republic’: criminals, profiteers and spies were imprisoned there along with former noblemen and priests. The government confiscated the Convent’s property, and only two churches were left open to worshippers. In 1927, the former convent housed an experimental department of the Institute of Criminal ResearchRussian: Institut po izucheniyu prestupnosti i prestupnika or Институт по изучению преступности и преступника. In subsequent years, the former convent housed offices of the Ministry of Internal AffairsRussian: Ministerstvo vnutrennih del or Министерство внутренних дел , a regional archive, and offices of a heat supply network. It was not until Perestroikaa political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s until 1991 (‘Reconstruction’) that the Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist reopened its doors to worshippers, and the monastery itself was restored in 2000. Some of the Convent’s buildings are still under renovation.
The Ivanovsky Convent is open to visitors every day from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Its entrance policy is no different to other Orthodox churches and monasteries; women should cover their heads and men should avoid wearing shorts. The Convent has a refectory where you can try some tasty monastery porridge along with delicious pastries fresh from the Convent’s bakery.
KHOKHOLVSKY AND KOLPACHNY LANES
The name, ‘Khokhlovsky LaneRussian: Hohlovskiy pereulok or Хохловский переулок’ refers to citizens of Ukrainian origin who lived here in the 17th century. The large red building standing here was constructed by V. Kossov in 1892 to house a girls’ Lutheran schoolRussian: Zhenskoe lyuteranskoe uchilische or Женское лютеранское училище, and the neigbouring two-storey white-stone building is known as Mazepa’s chambersRussian: palaty Mazepy or палаты Мазепы (although Hetman Mazepaserved as the Hetman of Zaporizhian Host in 1687–1708 never lived there) and is among the oldest civic buildings of 16th and 17th-century Moscow.
The small but very picturesque Morozov GardenRussian: Morozovskiy sad or Морозовский сад is located on the corner of PodkopayevskyRussian: Подкопаевский and Khokhlovsky Lanes. Its name is reminiscent of the merchant family of Morozov who owned the house standing in the back of the garden. Russian painter Isaac Levitan spent the last 11 years of his life in one of its annexes located in the courtyard of the apartment building no. 10/7 on Khokhlovsky Lane (the entrance to the courtyard is from the same lane).
Podkopayevsky Lane features a number of historic buildings; two of them are especially worth a look. Closer to the middle of the lane is a mansion of the boyar family of Shuysky, one of Muscovy’s most noble and powerful families tracing their origins to Rurikthe founder of the Rurik Dynasty, which ruled the Kievan Rus' and its successor states, including the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Tsardom of Russia, until the 17th century. The mansion has undergone considerable modifications, but a closer look at it reveals the architraves on the first floor which are classic examples of 17th century Russian architecture.
The second important historic monument on the same lane is the Church of Saint Nicholas in PodkopayevoRussian: Tserkov Svyatitlya Nikolaya v Podkopayakh, or Церковь Николая Святителя в Подкопаях . Saint Nicholas (or, Nicholas the Miracle Worker, as he is commonly known in Russia) is venerated by Russia’s Orthodox Christians, perhaps more so than any other saint. St. Nicholas’s ChurchRussian: Nikolskaya tserkov or Никольская церковь has stood here since the 15th century however it underwent a reconstruction in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Fire of Moscow in 1812, the church burned down and wasn’t restored until 1855 by architect N. Kozlovsky. This relatively small church was designed in the late classic style presenting some elements of the then-popular Eclecticism. Take a look at the vast porch in the front of the church featuring a four-column portico illustrative of the dawning neo-Russian style.
This legendary neighbourhood in Moscow was named after one of its previous owners, the renowned Russian nobleman General Nikolay Khitrovo. Today, Khitrovskaya SquareRussian: Hitrovskaya ploschad or Хитровская площадь is occupied by a lovely park with benches and flowerbeds. A hundred years ago however, this place looked quite different. In the years preceding the revolution, a giant marketplace was located here, surrounded by lodging houses inhabited by thieves, professional beggars, buyers of stolen goods and other social outcasts. Coming here was dangerous even during the day, let alone at night; a passerby could easily be robbed, stripped naked and sent out on the boulevard after they were finished with him or her.
The basements of these lodging houses were occupied by taverns bearing names that speak for themselves: KatorgaRussian: Каторга (‘forced labor’), PeresylnyRussian: Пересыльный (‘the transit prison’) and SibirRussian: Сибирь (‘Siberia’). It was this place that Konstantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko would visit to embrace the ‘spirit of the slums’ when staging Maxim Gorkya Russian and Soviet writer, a founder of the socialist realism literary method and a political activist’s The Lower Depths at the Moscow Art TheatreRussian: Moskovskiy hudozhestvennyi teatr or Московский художественный театр.
One of the creepiest spots was the famous KulakovkaRussian: Кулаковка, a lodging house owned by the ‘hereditary citizen of honour’ Ivan Kulakov. This lodging house stood at the intersection of Pevchesky and Petropavlovsky LanesRussian: Pevcheskiy i Petropavlovskiy pereulki or Певческий и Петропавловский переулки and its unusual shape earned it the nickname ‘IronRussian: Utyug or Утюг’. It was this den that gave refuge to the most dangerous criminals, murderers and burglars, who would leave the building at night to go and do their dirty business. In 1923, the new authorities had all beggars and thieves evicted from these buildings and revamped them into communal housing for simple Moscow dwellers. Today, residential apartments and painters’, sculptors’ and iconographers’ workshops have replaced Khitrovka’s former lodging houses.
Now, we arrive in the park on Khitrovskaya Square. Let’s walk beneath the arch and get to the courtyard of Building 11 in Podkolokolny LaneRussian: Podkolokolnyi pereulok or Подколокольный переулок, probably the last courtyard of old Moscow that’s still up and alive. It is amazingly quiet and cozy. Look to your right at the authentic Dutch tiles and architraves typical of 17th century Russian architecture, although they have been considerably remodeled. This mansion once belonged to Yemelyan Buturlin, a stolnika palace servant of Tsar Alexisthe tsar of Russia from 1645 until his death in 1676 of Russia.
Behind it is located another unusual courtyard with galleries typical of 17thRussian architecture. Back then, people would get to the second and third floors by climbing such galleries (or, as Muscovites mistakenly called them, ‘galdaries’). Today, almost no such building remains in Moscow, which makes the remaining few especially valuable.
Over the last hundred years, Khitrovka has undergone dramatic changes. Only a century ago, people would do their best to avoid this place, and today it has become one of the areas of Moscow that local people love, appreciate and protect. Khitrovka is known for its time-worn façades, but this only adds more charm to this area in the eyes of real connoisseurs of genuine, living antiquity.
The name of this lane running off Khitrovskaya Square has to do with the Peter and Paul ChurchRussian: tserkov apostolov Petra i Pavla or церковь апостолов Петра и Павла which stands here. Erected in the very beginning of the 18th century in the Naryshkin baroque stylea particular style of Baroque architecture and decoration which was fashionable in Moscow from the turn of the 17th into the early 18th centuries, it was open throughout the Soviet era and even kept its stunning décor. Today it houses the metochion of the Serbian Orthodox ChurchRussian: podvore Serbskoy pravoslavnoy tserkvi or подворье Сербской православной церкви.
PODKOLOKOLNY LANE: THE HOUSE OF THE RED ARMY OFFICER CORPS AND THE KHITROVO MANSION
As you stroll up Podkolokolny Lane, you’ll see a large yellow eight-storey building with two statues, built for the Red Armyit was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War officer corps by architect Ilya Golosov between 1934 and 1941. This period marks the transition from constructivism to the Stalinist Empire stylearchitecture of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, between 1933 and 1955.
Khitrovo MansionRussian: usadba Hitrovo or усадьба Хитрово stands in the courtyard of this building. It is a beautiful piece of architecture, built after the 1812 Fire of Moscow in the then-prevalent Empire style. The pediment of Khitrovo Mansion has preserved one remarkable detail of its time, the Khitrovo family coat of arms.
THE TEMPLE OF THE THREE SAINTS IN KULISHKI
Yet another Moscow church, the wonderful Temple of the Three Saints in KulishkiRussian: Tserkov Tryokh Svyatiteley na Kulishkakh, or Церковь Трех Святителей на Кулишках is located in Khitrovsky LaneRussian: Hitrovskiy pereulok or Хитровский переулок. Local residents built it in the late 17th century in the highly ornate style called ‘Russian uzorochyeRussian: узорочье’. Although the church has since undergone several reconstructions, it currently bears a striking resemblance to the original church. The domes are still covered with aspen wood shingles, just the way they were many centuries ago. Unfortunately, the church’s original interiors are no longer in the church. At present, the church is used for its intended function.
KHOKHLOVSKY LANE: UKRAINTSEV’S CHAMBERS AND THE TRINITY CHURCH IN KHOKHLY
When Left-bank Ukraine joined Russia in 1654, Ukrainians coming to Moscow would normally settle in this neighbourhood. A kind of Ukrainian embassy was set up in the vicinity by order of the Russian tsar. This ‘embassy’ was known as the ‘Malorossian YardRussian: Malorossiyskoe podvore or Малороссийское подворье’, which subsequently gave its name to Maroseyka StreetRussian: ulitsa Maroseyka or улица Маросейка. The next owner of the mansion was General Mikhail Golitsyn, whose descendants sold the building to the Collegium of Foreign AffairsRussian: Kollegiya inostrannyh del or Коллегия иностранных дел which used it to store archives. Many young noblemen, nicknamed ‘Archive youths’, wanted to work there, since working at the archive was easy and quite beneficial for their future career.
At the end of the 19th century, the former Ukraintsev MansionRussian: palaty Ukraintseva or палаты Украинцева was handed over to the Moscow ConservatoryRussian: Moskovskaya konservatoriya or Московская консерватория and used as a music printing office. Almost all of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s music was printed here. The Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in KhokhlyRussian: Tserkov Zhivonachalnoy Troitsy v Khokhlakh, or Церковь Живоначальной Троицы в Хохлах is located opposite the Ukraintsev Mansion. The church, a typical example of 17th–18th century Moscow baroquethe fashionable architectural style of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, combining Muscovite traditions with Western decorative details and proportions, is a multi-level brick building richly decorated with white-stone fretwork. The influence of European architecture is visible, for instance, in the semi-columns surrounding the church’s octagon. Take a closer look at the architraves more resembling volutes of 18th century baroque churches, rather than the architraves decorating 17th century Moscow cathedrals. Avraam Lopukhin, a noble Moscow boyar and a relative of Tsarina Eudoxia, the first wife of Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725, funded the building of the church. The church survived Moscow’s devastation of 1812during the war between the Russian Empire and Napoleonic France on the territory of Russia in 1812 with relative ease, since its arch-priest managed to obtain a writ of protection from the French authorities. During the Russian revolutionin 1917, the church’s valuables were confiscated, and the church itself was shut down in 1935. Religious services resumed here in 1991.
THE CASTLE ON KOLPACHNY LANE
The pseudo-Gothic cupolas of Baron Andrey Knop’s estate will catch your eye from afar. Andrey Knop belonged to a well-known Moscow merchant and industrialist family of German origin. Architect Karl Treiman designed a house looking more like a Medieval European castle, in memory of his client’s historical homeland.
THE HOUSE WHERE “MOSCOW’S INCENDIARIES” WERE JUDGED
You’ll see the former stables of the Dolgoruky family estate under the arch of building 8/2 on Kolpachny LaneRussian: Kolpachnyi pereulok or Колпачный переулок. The main house, a curious mid-18th century city mansion built on top of an easily recognizable 17th century mansion, is located to the right of the stables. The Dolgoruky family houseRussian: dom Dolgorukih or дом Долгоруких in the vicinity of Pokrovka Street is famous for having housed, during the French invasion of Moscow in 1812, General Michel’s military committee. This committee was responsible for judging people accused of setting fire to the city. Twenty-six people were convicted, ten of whom were subsequently shot.
A HOUSE WITH A GALLERY
Another medium-sized 19th century revenue house is located behind the building No 6 in Kolpachny Lane, featuring surviving mid-19th century galleries. Just like in the old days, various shops now occupy its first floor, while residential apartments occupy the second and third floors.
Pokrovka Street is a beautiful place to finish your walk. Reconstructed in 2015, Pokrovka Street now boasts wider sidewalks, elegant street lamps, and bike parking racks, numerous cafés and restaurants.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com