Cathedral of the Annunciation

Cathedral of the Annunciation

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The Cathedral of the Annunciation is a Russian Orthodox church dedicated to the Annunciation
The Annunciation, also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her...

 of the Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

. It is located on the southwest side of Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square may refer to:*Cathedral Square, Brisbane, Australia*Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand*Cathedral Square, Glasgow, Scotland*Cathedral Square, Moscow, Russia*Cathedral Square, Mobile, Alabama, United States...

 of the Moscow Kremlin
Moscow Kremlin
The Moscow Kremlin , sometimes referred to as simply The Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River , Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square and the Alexander Garden...

 in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, where it connects directly to the main building of the complex of the Grand Kremlin Palace
Grand Kremlin Palace
The Grand Kremlin Palace , also translated Great Kremlin Palace, was built from 1837 to 1849 in Moscow, Russia on the site of the estate of the Grand Princes, which had been established in the 14th century on Borovitsky Hill...

, adjacent to the Palace of Facets
Palace of Facets
The Palace of the Facets is a building in the Moscow Kremlin, Russia, which contains what used to be the main banquet reception hall of the Muscovite Tsars. It is the oldest preserved secular building in Moscow. Located on Kremlin Cathedral Square, between the Cathedral of the Annunciation and the...

. It was originally the personal chapel for the Muscovite tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

s, and its abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 remained a personal confessor of the Russian royal family until the early 20th century.


The Cathedral of the Annunciation was built by architects from Pskov
Pskov is an ancient city and the administrative center of Pskov Oblast, Russia, located in the northwest of Russia about east from the Estonian border, on the Velikaya River. Population: -Early history:...

 in 1484-1489 as part of Grand Duke Ivan III
Ivan III of Russia
Ivan III Vasilyevich , also known as Ivan the Great, was a Grand Prince of Moscow and "Grand Prince of all Rus"...

 plans for a large-scale renovation of the Moscow Kremlin. It was built on the spot of an older 14th century cathedral of the same name, which had been rebuilt in 1416. This older cathedral in turn had replaced a previous wooden church from the 13th century that had fallen victim to the frequent fires in the Kremlin.

Construction work began using the existing foundations in 1484, and was completed in August 1489. A number of the early 15th century icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

s were re-used in the new building. Due to its proximity to the palace, the church was chosen by Ivan III to be his personal chapel, and a staircase connecting the church directly to his personal chambers in the palace was constructed.
Initially, today's Annunciation Cathedral just three dome
In architecture, a cupola is a small, most-often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome....

s. After being badly damaged in a fire again in 1547, the then Grand Duke and (the first Russian Tsar) Ivan the Terrible began a restoration of the church, which was completed in 1564. Two additional domes were added on the western side. The building was surrounded by parvise
Parvise or parvis may refer to:#A room over the porch of a church — quite often found in Norman churches in England. In some churches these rooms were used for school rooms and in Castle Ashby was the home of a woman - who saved the manor house from burning when she saw the fire taking hold from...

s from three sides, and four single-cupola side chapel
A chapel is a building used by Christians as a place of fellowship and worship. It may be part of a larger structure or complex, such as a church, college, hospital, palace, prison or funeral home, located on board a military or commercial ship, or it may be an entirely free-standing building,...

s were built over the arched parvises, each with a dome, so that the cathedral is now a total of nine domes. In 1572, the cathedral received an additional staircase on its south facade, later called "Grosnenski"), named after Ivan the Terrible (Russian for "Ivan Grozny").

Many of the church treasures were lost during the occupation of Moscow by the armies of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1612 at the close of the Time of Troubles
Time of Troubles
The Time of Troubles was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last Russian Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, Feodor Ivanovich, in 1598, and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. In 1601-1603, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third...

. It was also damaged by the great Kremlin fire of 1737. During the French occupation of Moscow
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened French hegemony in Europe...

 in 1812, the cathedral was used as a barracks and was mostly robbed. It was restored in 1815-1820.
During the 1917 Russian Revolution, the cathedral was damaged during the fighting. Afterwards, it was closed by the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 regime. During the 1950s, along with the other surviving churches in the Moscow Kremlin, was preserved as a museum. After 1992, occasional religious services resumed, including a service on the Feast of the Annunciation, conducted by the Patriarch of Moscow. The church building underwent a restoration in 2009.

From the time of Ivan the Terrible’s coronation as Tsar, the members of the royal family worshiped at the Annunciation Cathedral, got married and baptized their children there. Even after the relocation of the capital to St. Petersburg, the Annunciation Cathedral remained one of the most important churches in Russia.


Compared with the other two major Kremlin cathedrals, the Annunciation Cathedral has slightly smaller dimensions. It is also built in a more traditional style, as it was created by local architects from Pskov, rather than Italian expatriate architects. The most characteristic feature of the building is its nine golden domes, and roof with rich kokoshnik
The kokoshnik is a traditional Russian head-dress worn by women and girls to accompany the sarafan. It is patterned to match the style of the sarafan and can be pointed or round. It is tied at the back of the head with long thick ribbons in a large bow. The forehead is sometimes decorated with...

 ornamentation in an ogive
An ogive is the roundly tapered end of a two-dimensional or three-dimensional object.-Applied physical science and engineering:In ballistics or aerodynamics, an ogive is a pointed, curved surface mainly used to form the approximately streamlined nose of a bullet or other projectile.The traditional...


The Cathedral was built of brick, with facades of white limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 that are dressed and decorated. There are entrances to the cathedral on the eastern and the southern side of the building, with fretwork
Fretwork is an interlaced decorative design that is either carved in low relief on a solid background, or cut out with a fretsaw, coping saw, jigsaw or scroll saw. Most fretwork patterns are geometric in design. The materials most commonly used are wood and metal. Fretwork is used to adorn...

 influenced by Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

 architecture. The bronze doors are decorated with gold foil. Tourists enter the cathedral via the eastern staircase, while the southern staircase is the one added in 1570 by Ivan the Terrible. The relatively high entrance is due to the fact that the building was built on the raised base of its predecessor.

The interior of the cathedral consists of the central prayer area and several surrounding galleries, with the additions of side altars in the 16th Century. The northern (facing towards the Palace of Facets) is the first gallery space, which is entered through the visitor entrance. This contains a famous Image of Edessa
Image of Edessa
According to Christian legend, the Image of Edessa was a holy relic consisting of a square or rectangle of cloth upon which a miraculous image of the face of Jesus was imprinted — the first icon ....

 icon, attributed to the famous Russian icon painter, Simon Ushakov
Simon Ushakov
Simon Fyodorovich Ushakov was a leading Russian graphic artist of the late 17th-century. Together with Fyodor Zubov and Fyodor Rozhnov, he is associated with the comprehensive reform of the Russian Orthodox Church undertaken by Patriarch Nikon.-Biography:We know almost nothing about the early...

. The gallery is separated by a doorway from the main room, created in the 16th Century by Italian architects using a striking azure blue color with gilt floral ornaments. The door wings are decorated with figures of ancient poets and philosophers (including Diogenes
Diogenes is a Greek name shared by several important historical figures:*Diogenes of Sinope , better known as Diogenes the Cynic or simply Diogenes, philosopher...

, Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

, Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...


The main vault of the cathedral has a large iconostasis
In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church...

, which includes icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

s of the 14th-17th centuries, including the ones painted by Andrei Rublev
Andrei Rublev
Andrei Rublev is considered to be the greatest medieval Russian painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes.-Biography:...

, Feofan Grek and Prokhor
Prokhor from Gorodets was a medieval Russian icon-painter, thought to have been the teacher of Andrei Rublev....

, and 19th century, as well, particular on the middle tiers. The fifth (lowest) row is pieced by a silver door, behind which is the old staircase to the Tsar’s personal chambers.

Throughout the interior, fragments of murals, painted by Theodosius (1508) and others (second half of the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries). These include various biblical themes, heroic figures among other Russian princes and grand dukes.

Also striking is the altar area of the floor, consisting of sheets of agate
Agate is a microcrystalline variety of silica, chiefly chalcedony, characterised by its fineness of grain and brightness of color. Although agates may be found in various kinds of rock, they are classically associated with volcanic rocks and can be common in certain metamorphic rocks.-Etymology...

 yellow-red jasper
Jasper, a form of chalcedony, is an opaque, impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. This mineral breaks with a smooth surface, and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for vases, seals, and at one time for...

, which was brought from a cathedral in Rostov Velikiy
Rostov is a town in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, one of the oldest in the country and a tourist center of the Golden Ring. It is located on the shores of Lake Nero, northeast of Moscow. Population:...

 in the 16th century and which may have originally come from Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...


Behind the altar (where once the sacristy
A sacristy is a room for keeping vestments and other church furnishings, sacred vessels, and parish records.The sacristy is usually located inside the church, but in some cases it is an annex or separate building...

 was located) a large silver reliquary
A reliquary is a container for relics. These may be the physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures...

 containing the remains are of about 50 saints from different places in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

was discovered in 1894.

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