Zaikonospassky Monastery, Moscow
Temple of the Baroque Era
The curious name of Zaikonospassky Monastery in Moscow literally translates as ‘Savior behind the icon shops’, for the monastery was long located behind a row of stores selling religious icons. Also known as the Monastery of the Holy Mandylion, its history is as colorful as its name.
The monastery was built by Boris Godunov in 1600, while the first written data on Zaikonospassky Monastery didn’t appear until 1635. Yet the fact that it existed before 1610 is evidenced by its inclusion in the "Sigismund Map of Moscow” drafted during the Polish-Muscovite War (1605-1618). Zaikonospassky was built on the territory of one of Moscow’s oldest monasteries, the 14t-century Nikola Staryi Monastery.
In 1626 a fire raged on the territory, leading to the decision in 1660 to build a new stone cathedral to replace the original wooden structure. A few years later, by decree of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, a school was opened at the monastery to teach Latin and was headed by Simeon Polotsky. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Zaikonospassky was a key center of Russian learning and the first institute of higher education in Moscow. The great Russian scientist Mikhail Vasilievich Lomonosov even studied here for some time.
At the turn of the 20th century, Zaikonospassky Monastery was rebuilt. A bell tower was erected and encircled with the Holy Gates, which remain today, and two buildings for trade were added to the complex. In 1929, as with many houses of worship and religious institutions at the time, the monastery was closed. A television studio operated in its trading sector until 1941.
The monastery was returned to the ownership of the Church only in 1992. A school was nearly opened on its premises again, but this effort was abandoned at the last minute.
What to See
When visiting the Zaikonospassky Monastery in Moscow you can see the church, located in the middle of the monastery courtyard, a tenement house with a bell tower, shopping areas, the old school building and some monks’ chambers.
Despite the fact that the monastery complex remains active, the territory is considered the property of various institutions and therefore a conglomerate of restaurants and historical archives can also be found in the old trading houses.
Visitors to the monastery have the option of joining a tour of the complex and surrounding neighborhood. Guests are introduced to the history of the Kitai-Gorod and Bely Gorod neighborhoods, nearby archaeological excavations and the history of the monastery itself. Those who wish can climb the bell tower to view the nearest quarters of old Moscow from the top.
How to Get There
The monastery is conveniently located just a block from the Kremlin in the Kitai-Gorod neighborhood. It’s a 5- minute walk from Revolution Square and the Ploschad Revolyutsii Metro Station.
Zaikonospassky Monastery holds daily services at 7:30 and 17:00. In addition, the cathedral hosts a Sunday school, youth center, men's choir and theological courses.
Plan for 15-20 minutes to see the monastery, and consider combining this tour with stops at nearby attractions such as the State Historical Museum, Nikolayskaya Tower and Red Square.