The majority of old Russian churches were built to commemorate military victories. Novodevichy Convent was no exception. Founded in 1524 to commemorate the recapture of the ancient city of Smolensk from Lithuania, it is one of the top tourist attractions in Moscow and on the UNESCO list of World’s Heritage.
Novodevichy Convent is connected to the name of Peter the Great. His rebellious sister took power in Russia for a few years. She had been forced into nunnery as punishment by Peter, uniquely managing to preserve her “civil” name even in skhima (nun’s highest rank). To paraphrase the famous Morgentau ‘all God servants are equal, but some are more equal than the others’ 😉
Having no rights to leave, Sophia spent her last 6 years closeted in 2 small rooms in one of the Convent’s towers. Her only entertainment was a few moments of conversation with her sisters, on major holidays.
As important to Russian culture as it is, Novodevichy Convent is only part of the story. Novodevichy Cemetery is no less remarkable. The Cemetery has as much history and as many visitors as the Convent itself.
Novodevichy Cemetery is divided in two: old and new. The older is around the Smolensk Cathedral, originally used as a burial ground for Russian aristocratic ladies. The name speaks for itself. Novo meaning “new” and devichy “girls’”.
The second part of the Cemetery dates from 1900.
In Soviet times the honour of burial here was second only to burial within the Kremlin. Since the collapse of the USSR the Kremlin is no longer used as a cemetery. Nowadays this is the resting place of Russian political, military and cultural elite. Novodevichy makes death “fashionable”.
The Cemetery has a park-like ambience and a truly fascinating collection of memorial art.
On entering the cemetery, the first grave locations on your right-hand side are known, for obvious reasons, as the “Artistic corner”. .Next is the “Writers’ corner”. Such well –known writers as Gogol, Chekhov, Bulgakov, Mayakovski are buried here…
The tours starts at 13h