The Novodevichy Convent & the memorial cemetery

$93 / €78

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The Novodevichy Convent is a masterpiece of Russian and Italian architects which best represents Moscow baroque style. It was put on the UNESCO list of world heritage in 2004. This a unique architectural ensemble remained unchanged since 17th century when it was rebuilt in in red brick and embellished with white stucco decor.

58738d5d19ac33b64dcf78b43ecd42fdToday the Novodevichy Convent is a functioning cloister and museum expositions, and a place enveloped in legends. It keeps the secrets of divorced tsars’ wives and one rebellious sister who challenged the sovereign power of her brother.

Founded in 1524 by the father of Ivan the Terrible Sovereign Basil III with his own money and on his land, the convent marked the re-conquering of the Russian town of Smolensk from Lithuania. However, there was another private reason, why Sovereign Basil III began this construction. He was going to divorce his wife, who for 20 years of marriage did not give him a heir, and send her to this convent as a nun. But the Grand Princess was never a prisoner of the Novodevichy – after the tonsure, she insisted that she’d be sent to the Intercession Monastery of the city of Suzdal, far away from Moscow.

With time the Convent became a shelter for the noble women to retire, some took the monastic vows less willingly than the others.

Disagreeable wives, widows, unmarried daughters and sisters of the Russian sovereigns and boyars lived as nuns behind the high masonry walls.

Among the noble nuns who lived in the convent were the widows of the sons of Ivan the Terrible, the wife and daughter of Boris Godunov, unmarried daughters of tsar Alexei Romanov. Yet, the most well-known nun was Princess Sophia, elder sister of Peter the Great, who was forced to take the veil after unsuccessful coup d’etat.

Another of the Convent “inmates” was Eudoxia, Peter the Great first wife. Peter considered her a pest and sent to a faraway convent in Suzdal, and only after his death his grandson let Eudoxia (his grandma) to return to Moscow and spend the rest of her life in the Novodevichy Convent.

Now the Novodevichy Convent is an acting nunnery with 30 nuns who live in the grounds permanently. They teach in a Christian school for girls, work in hospitals and do a lot of handmade embroidery with golden and silver thread for religious needs.

The Novodevichy Cemetery sits adjacent to the convent and is one of the most prestigious resting places in all of Russia – as well as the third most popular tourist destination. Over 26 000 people are buried here, including Russian and Soviet notables such as writers – Checkov and Gogol; poet Mayakovsky; former Soviet leader Khrushchev and former Russian President Boris Yeltsyn, the wife of former Russian leader Gorbachev – Raisa. A few more names which may be familiar to you: theatre director Stanislavsky, film director Eisenstein, who shot “The battleship Potemkin”, 2 most famous composers of the XX century Shostakovich and Prokofiev, singer – Feodor Shalyapin, balerina Ulanova and many other famous people.

View Moscow through the eyes of locals with your private guide and check out the places loved by Moscovites.

Key highlights:

  • Private 3-hour tour of Moscow with our experienced guide.
  • Walk through the tranquil grounds of the Novodevichy Convent and learn the stories of the aristocratic women taking the veil here, some more willingly than the others
  • Visit the Assumption church and the living quarters of Princess Sophia, sister of Peter the Great
  • Visit the Novodevichy cemetery and see the graves of the prominent Russians

Itinerary:

10 am – Hotel pick-up

10.30 am – visit the Novodevichy Convent

12.00 am – visit the Novodevichy cemetery

1.00 pm – Drop-off at your hotel or destination of your choice

What makes it different:

  • You can adjust the itinerary according to your wish: we offer ideas & you choose what you want. We will meet you at your hotel with your personalized itinerary.
  • Your tour will be a lot of fun, not a history lesson.
  • You may ask your guide any question which interests you about people, ways and traditions.
  • We can invite you to a Moscow family home. Check out “Eat with locals” page on our website.