Novodevichii Convent

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Novodevichii Convent


(also, Bogoroditsa-Smolensk Convent), a nunnery in Moscow founded in 1524 by Grand Prince Vasilii III in honor of the taking of Smolensk. The convent was built as a fortress at three crossings near a loop in the Moscow River (Dorogomilovo, Krymskii Brod, and Vorob’evy Gory). It became an important link in the capital’s southern defense belt, which was formed by the Don, the Danilov-Simonov, and other monasteries.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Novodevichii Convent accepted into religious orders women from the royal family and from noble boyar families (including Irina, the wife of Tsar Fedor Ivanovich). From 1689 to 1704, Tsarevna Sofia Alek-seevna was cloistered there. Toward the end of the 17th century, the Novodevichii Convent controlled 36 villages (164,215 desiatinas [each equaling 1.09 hectares] of land) in 27 districts of the country. In 1744 its holdings included 14,489 male serfs.

The Novodevichii Convent is surrounded by late-17th-century brick, crenellated walls. The main buildings—the cathedral, the bell tower, and the refectory—are set in a line and face the entrance to the convent. The small square in front of the cathedral is flanked by buildings of secondary importance. At about the time the convent was founded, construction of the Smolensk Cathedral was begun (1524–25). The cathedral has 16th- and 17th-century paintings and a five-tiered carved wooden iconostasis (1683–85, by K. Mikhailov and others); there are also icons by S. F. Ushakov, F. Zubov, and K. Ulanov. The refectory (1685–87), the six-tiered octagonal bell tower (1689–90), the Preobrazhenskaia and Pokrovskaia churches (1683–88), and the Lopukhina and Maryna residences adjacent to the churches (1683–88) are excellent examples of the Naryshkin style (Russian baroque). From the 16th through 19th centuries the convent had a library.

In 1922 the convent was converted into a museum; it has been a branch of the State Historical Museum since 1934. Many notable pre-revolutionary Russians, including D. V. Davydov, S. M. Solov’ev, M. N. Zagoskin, and A. A. Brusilov, are buried on the convent grounds.


Antushev, N. Istoricheskoe opisanie Moskovskogo Novodevich’ego monas-tyria. Moscow, 1885.
Mashkov, I. P. Arkhitektura Novodevich’ego monastyria v Moskve. Moscow, 1949.
Retkovskaia, L. S. Putevoditel’ po muzeiu Novodevich’ego monastyria. Moscow, 1964.
Retkovskaia, L. S. Smolenskii sobor Novodevich’ego monastyria. Moscow, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.