logo

DONSKOI MONASTERY

Micha Jelisavcic
John Sloan

When in 1591, the armies of the Crimean khan Kazy-Girei approached Moscow and took Kotly, the Russian voyevodes brought their forces up to this location, placing themselves between the attackers and the city walls: "His excellence the tsar (Feodor Ioanovich) ordered the boyars and war lords to bring up all their regiments along the Moscow river on the meadows under the Kolomenskoye and Danilov monasteries." Next to the Danilov they set up "Oboz," a mobile fortified camp (gulai gorod). The khan sent against the oboz his sons, "tsars," but "would not directly engage us and his regiments he did not deploy," retreating to Kolomenskoye and holding both sides of the river.
The Russian armies remained in camp - "and from the fortified camp oboz they did not set out." - However during the night alarm was raised, the canoniers opened fire, and were supported by heavy artillery from the Moscow walls. The sudden cannonade scared the Crimeans, and the armies of Kazy-Girei panicked and ran from the Russia's lands.
The monastery was built beginning in 1593 to commemorate the victory on this field with the miraculous help of the Presviatoi Bogoroditsy (the Holy Virgin), the icon of whom was presented to the great prince Dmitrii Ivanovich by the Don cossaks, and which Muscovites believed saved their city in 1591 from the attack of the Crimean Tatars. The Monastery was to serve as a defensive bastion for the Kaluga gates of the city.
Most of the fortification was not built until 1684-1733. The Virgin of Tikvin gate church is over the north entrance. The monastery contains seven stone churches; the Old Cathedral of the Donskaya Virgin was the first to be built, in 1593, and its domes are capped by half-moon crosses that signify Christianity's triumph over Islam. It has two chapels: Sergei Radonezh and Fedor Stratilate. The church was built when the monastery was founded on the site, where stood the camp church of the Tsar Fedor Ivanovich at the time of the attack of the Crimeans, and the chapels where added in 1659. The New Cathedral of the Donskaya Virgin was erected at the order of the Regent Sophia in in 1684-1693. Inside are frescoes painted by the Italian Antonio Claudio. It was later sacked during the Time of Troubles and restored by the Romanovs. It was again damaged by the French in 1812. It was one of the richest monasteries and has a famous cemetery, adorned with pyramids, temples and sarcophagi, that contains some of the most famous names in Russian history, including the philosopher Peter Chaadayev, writer Turgenev, aviator Nikolai Zhukovsky and a number of Decembrists.
In the XVIIth century, the monastery was named in honor of the Saintly Mother of God "Donskoi, "Chto v oboze." In the monastery was kept the genuine Icon of the St. Virgin of Don painted in 1392 by Theophanes the Greek which had been preserved in the Kremlin's Annunciation Cathedral, Blagovechenskiy sobor, now in the Tretyakov Gallery). The icon was taken by Dmitrii Donskoi on his campaign against Mamai. Russian tsars in the XVIIth century prayed for victory over their enemies and carried her to battle in the Sergei Radonezhskyi campaign church.

Photographs and descriptions

 

Link

Description

 
  {short description of image}

Donskoi Monastery, Frieze showing St Sergius Radonezh blessing Dmitri Donskoi while preparing for the campaign to Kulikovo Battle. The monastery is also across the Moscow river and defends half of the area between the two river bends.

 
  {short description of image}

Close up of the frieze in high relief. This is among the many religious items collected from around Russia and tossed into this monastery in the 1930's.

 
  {short description of image}

Donskoi Monastery, New Cathedral, 1684-93.

 
  {short description of image}

Donskoi Monastery, Crucifix brought to the monastery.

 
  {short description of image}

Donskoi Monastery, outside the wall.

 
  {short description of image}

Cathedral at Donskoi Monastery - Moskva Pamyatniki page 164.

 
  {short description of image}

Cathedral at Donskoi monastery - Moskva Pamyatniki page 165.

 
  {short description of image}

Bell tower for Cathedral at Donskoi Monastery - Moskva Pamyatniki page 166.

 
  {short description of image}

New cathedral at Donskoi Monastery - Moskva Pamyatniki page 167

 

Return to Moscow. Return to Russian cities. Return to Russian history. Return to Xenophon main page.