Dormition Cathedral (Moscow)

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Assumption Cathedral

Russian: Uspensky Cathedral
Успенский собор
The Dormition Cathedral as seen from Cathedral Square

The Dormition Cathedral as seen from Cathedral Square

place Moscow
Construction year 1475 to 1479
Coordinates 55 ° 45 '3.7 "  N , 37 ° 37' 1"  E Coordinates: 55 ° 45 '3.7 "  N , 37 ° 37' 1"  E
largest church within the Moscow Kremlin · oldest completely preserved building in Moscow · from 1547 to 1896 place of the coronation of the tsars · burial church of the Moscow Metropolitans and Orthodox Patriarchs
Location in the Kremlin

The Assumption Cathedral , sometimes also called Uspensky Cathedral in Russian ( Russian Успенский собор / Transliteration Uspenskij sobor ) is the largest church within the Moscow Kremlin and the oldest fully preserved building in Moscow . In its current form it was 1475–79 at the behest of the Moscow Grand Duke Ivan III. Built by the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti and architecturally influenced by the Renaissance . The tsars were crowned in the cathedral from 1547 to 1896 . The Moscow Metropolitans and the Patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church are also buried there.

The name refers to the death of St. Mary , mother of Jesus .


The Dormition Cathedral stands free on the highest point of the Kremlin (or Borovitsky) Hill on the north side of the Cathedral Square (Соборная площадь). A narrow lane separates it in the north from the Patriarch's Palace with the Twelve Apostles Church. The bell tower Ivan the Great rises to the southwest, and the Archangel Michael Cathedral in the south at the opposite end of the square . In the southwest, also only separated from the church by a narrow passage, is the Faceted Palace .


Foundation building hypotheses

There are no more contemporary records of the early building history. Therefore, the question of when previous buildings were erected and what shape they had is a controversial science. In excavations we discovered in 1968 in the area of the present church a medieval burial ground with partly extremely valuable offerings that have been to the mid-12th dates to the 20s of the 14th century. The existence of the cemetery and the old age of some of the finds suggest that a church stood on this site at the time the Moscow Kremlin was first mentioned in 1156. Like all buildings in high medieval Moscow, it was most likely made of wood and has therefore completely disappeared. During the excavations, remains of foundations, enclosing walls, pillars, flooring made of masonry bricks and zoomorphic console stones were also uncovered at the northwest corner of today's cathedral . These findings led WI Fyodorov to believe that there is already in the reign of the Prince of Moscow Daniil Alexandrovich in the 80s or 90s of the 13th century a church of limestone have passed, with architecture by the Church of St. George in Yuriev-Polsky (1230-34 ) was influenced. Vsewolod Wygolow and Sergei Sagrajewski contradicted this thesis, however, and assigned the discovered building remains, especially the console stones, to later periods due to stylistic and material-technical considerations.

Metropolitan Peter Cathedral (1326/27)

Reconstruction of the cathedral from 1326/27 (Sergei Sagrajewski)

The first reliably verifiable church building on the site of today's cathedral was built in 1326/27 and was related to the planned expansion of the Kremlin under Prince Ivan Kalita . The remains of the wall that were discovered suggest a relatively modest limestone complex, the design of which was close to the architecture of the Vladimir-Suzdal Rus of the 12th and 13th centuries. The house of God not only fulfilled the function of the main town church; after Ivan Kalita had already obtained in 1325 that the residence of the Metropolitan was moved from Vladimir to Moscow, it was also the house church of the Metropolitan. The cathedral had a cross-shaped floor plan , a large western porch and three Ostapsiden containing the grave Put the client, Metropolitan Peter (in office 1308-26), and his successor Feognost (1328-53). In 1329, the chapel of St. Peter in chains with a semicircular end of the choir was added to the north apse .

Cathedral of Metropolitan Filip I (1472–74)

The church of Peters was already in such bad shape around 1470/71 that Metropolitan Filip I suggested a new building, which began in April 1472. The Moscow building contractor Ivan Golowa entrusted the masters Ivan Myschkin and Kriwzow (first name of the latter is not recorded) with the planning and construction management. Grand Duke Ivan III. and the clergy stipulated that the new church should be based on the famous model of the Dormition Cathedral in the old metropolitan seat of Vladimir (1158–60, expanded 1185–89). There were two reasons for this: on the one hand, the Cathedral of Vladimir, despite its age, was still considered an aesthetic ideal of Russian church architecture; On the other hand, the Moscow princes wanted to distinguish themselves as the rightful successors of the princes of Vladimir-Suzdal, whose secular and ecclesiastical power had passed to the growing Moscow in the 14th century, by closely stylistically aligning their new main church with the famous model in Vladimir. The new Moscow Cathedral should also symbolize Moscow's position as the new center of Orthodoxy (" Third Rome "), which the city had since the conquest of Byzantium in 1453 by the Ottomans.

However, the four - pillar cross- domed church of Myshkin and Kriwzow collapsed shortly before its completion on the night of May 20-21, 1474. According to an anonymous chronicler from Rostov , the cause was an earthquake. A subsequent report, which was drawn up by master builders from Pskov , came to the conclusion that static inadequacies as well as serious errors in the manufacture of the lime mortar and the masonry had led to the accident. The Russian architectural historian Nikolai Brunow attributed the failures to the fact that the Mongolian rule , during which (except in Novgorod and Pskow) practically no stone buildings were erected, had forgotten a large part of the tried and tested old building techniques.

New building by Fioravanti (1475–79)

Myshkin and Kriwzow were deprived of construction management as a result of the accident. Soon afterwards, Ivan III, probably on the advice of his wife Sofia Palaiologa , sent the envoy Semjon Tolbusin to recruit a suitable master builder in Italy , which at the time was also known in Russia as the cradle of the Renaissance with its highly developed building technology . He found it in the Bolognese Aristotele Fioravanti , who came to Moscow in June 1475 with his son Andrea and a few colleagues. He had the ruins of the cathedral completely cleared away and built today's church in just four years. At the express request of Metropolitan Filipp, Fioravanti also took the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir as a model for his new building, but also used elements and techniques of Renaissance architecture. For example, he applied modern construction methods to the construction work - among other things he introduced the golden ratio in Russia - as he knew them from his homeland and passed them on to the Russian builders. While the building was consecrated by Metropolitan Geronti on August 15, 1479, the completion of the rich interior, in which the well-known Russian icon painter Dionissi , among others , was involved, took until the second decade of the 16th century.

The lighthouse effect of the new main church of Orthodoxy and the revolutionary construction methods that Fioravanti had introduced in Russia resulted in numerous new churches elsewhere that were more or less closely based on the Moscow model. Especially the five-domed type (the domes symbolize Jesus Christ and the four evangelists ) subsequently found widespread use. Immediate successors include: a. the Catholic Church of the Assumption Monastery in Tikhvin (1507-15), the Warlaam-von-Chutyn-Monastery near Veliky Novgorod (1515), the Trinity Monastery in Sergiev Posad (1558-85) and the Sophia Cathedral in Vologda (1568ff.) .

16th to early 20th century

Dormition Cathedral (1856)

In the following centuries the cathedral was devastated several times, for example in 1518, 1547, 1682 and 1737 by fires and in 1610 by the Polish-Lithuanian invaders . In 1812, during their invasion of Russia , Napoleon's troops looted the cathedral and repurposed it as a stable for horses. Under the direction of the Moscow architect Konstantin Bykowski , a thorough restoration took place in 1894/95 , through which the original condition of the cathedral was to be restored. The original size of the apse windows was reconstructed, the profile of the basement was changed and the interior wall and ceiling paintings were freed from the overpaintings of the late 17th to 19th centuries. In addition, Bykowski had the original white paint on the façade removed, giving the cathedral its current appearance. From 1910 until the outbreak of the October Revolution in 1917, a special commission chaired by Prince Alexei Shirinsky-Schichmatow was entrusted with the maintenance and repair of the cathedral; under her direction, the floor level of the cathedral square was lowered and a thorough restoration study of the building was carried out.

Soviet era and post-reunification

Soon after the new Soviet Russian government moved to Moscow in March 1918, the cathedral, like all other churches in the Moscow Kremlin, was closed for services and declared a museum. For the Orthodox Easter on May 5, 1918, Vicar Trifon von Dmitrow celebrated the last service in the cathedral for a long time. The artist Pavel Korin recorded this memorable event in an oil sketch entitled “The Offense of the Rus” (Русь уходящая, 1935–59). In 1922 the regime confiscated most of the furnishings and the church treasures , most of which were transferred to the Kremlin Armory and the Tretyakov Gallery . Some pieces were sold abroad for foreign exchange . Restoration work took place in 1949/50, 1960 and 1978. The Dormition Cathedral was revived as a place of worship only a few years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, during the perestroika period: After services had already taken place in the church in 1989 and 1990, the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991 .


The last coronation of the tsar in the Dormition Cathedral took place in 1896 ( Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna )
painting by Laurits Tuxen , 1898

The Dormition Cathedral fulfilled a number of religious and representative functions from its first construction in 1327 to 1918: It was the court and coronation church of the Grand Dukes of Moscow and the Russian tsars and emperors , even as the seat of government long after Saint Petersburg had been relocated. As the main church of the Moscow eparchy and the entire Russian Orthodoxy, metropolitans and patriarchs were consecrated in it (from 1589) and buried until 1721. The enormous importance of the cathedral is also shown in the large property it owned until the nationalization of the church property by Catherine the Great in 1765.



Floor plan of the Fioravanti building (based on Kavel'macher 1995)

Fioravanti based the design on the cathedral of the same name in Vladimir - among other things, the limestone masonry , the surrounding blinds in the lower window zone, the portals , the semicircular shape of the Sakomary and the up to then unusual five-numbered pendentive domes with tambour ; however, he also introduced numerous new design elements. Deviating from the Russian building practice of the time, Fioravanti had the pillars, vaults and dome drums made of brick . The significantly lower weight compared to stone houses relieved the surrounding walls. The latter are made of limestone like all other parts of the building, which were then sculptured. The entire structure stands on a high limestone base, which in turn rests on countless oak piles driven four meters into the ground.

The Dormition Cathedral is a three - aisled cross-domed church, the vaults and dome drums of which rest on six pillars. The vaults were not constructed as a cantilever , as was customary in Russia until then , but as a groin vault with belt arches . The building material used were specially made bricks, which were larger than the Russian standard of that time. The comparatively low weight in contrast to the cantilever vault also enabled the vault supports to be slender. Only the easternmost pair of pillars in front of the apses has the shape of massive rectangular free pillars that is common in Russia ; the remaining four are in the form of columns with pronounced bases , shafts and capitals , although the original Corinthian ones were later replaced by simpler cube capitals . The slim shape of these columns contributes significantly to the light, spacious effect of the interior.

The wall templates on the facade, which are not designed as simple pilaster strips , but as Tuscan pilasters , are also clearly influenced by the Renaissance . The arched sakomary originally enclosed wide profile strips that were cut off after the fire of 1682.



The oldest parts of the rich decoration have been preserved in the Chapel of Marian Praise (придел Похвалы Пресвятой Богородицы). They were created between 1479 and 1481 and are stylistically close to the frescoes by master Dionissi in the Ferapontow monastery . According to Viktor Lazarev, two different masters, possibly Dionissi's pupils, were involved in its execution. Most of the rest of the painting in the church dates from 1642/43, but its composition is based on older frescoes.

Mobile equipment

The iconostasis in the Dormition Cathedral
Tomb of Metropolitan Filipp

The huge, five-tier iconostasis in front of the central east apse dates back to 1547 and replaced a much more modest predecessor, which was made in 1481 with the participation of the masters Dionissi, Timofei, Jarez and Konja. The top two ranks are additions from 1626 and 1653/54, when the church was remodeled under Patriarch Nikon ; the icons that were created at the same time were made by various masters from Yaroslavl , Kostroma and Ostashkov , some of whom were involved in the painting of the neighboring Archangel Michael Cathedral . The rich silver and bronze fittings, on the other hand, were only added after the cathedral was sacked by Napoleon's troops in 1813 and 1881–83. In addition to its liturgical function, the iconostasis also served as a gallery of fame for the Muscovite war successes, as the most important icons from the conquered cities were built into it. One of the oldest and most significant examples in terms of art history is an icon with the bust of St. George (12th century), which Ivan IV had transferred from Veliky Novgorod to Moscow in 1561. To the left of the royal door was one of the most important cult images of the Russian Orthodox Church from 1395 to 1919, the icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir , a Byzantine work from the second quarter of the 12th century. It came to Moscow from Vladimir in 1395 and has been part of the Tretyakov Gallery collection since 1926.

Other significant icons that belong or were part of the decor of the cathedral are the following:

  • Savior icon , not made by human hands (Vladimir-Suzdal school, second half of the 12th century), now in the Tretyakov Gallery
  • Deesis (Vladimir-Suzdal school, late 12th / early 13th century), formerly in the northern royal door, now in the Tretyakov gallery
  • Annunciation of Ustyuschna (Novgorod school, late 12th / early 13th century), transferred to Moscow in 1561 from the Jurjew monastery near Novgorod, now in the Tretyakov Gallery
  • Angel from a trinity icon (school of Andrei Rublev , late 14th century)
  • Christ-Immanuel , also Christ in the golden robe (Novgorod, 15th / 16th century), transferred from the Novgorod St. Sophia Cathedral in 1562 .

Near the south portal is Ivan IV's Monomachie throne (1551), the reliefs of which show the handing over of the Byzantine imperial insignia to the Kiev Grand Duke Vladimir Monomakh and the handing over of Monomakh's cap to Ivan IV. On the walls of the cathedral you can see the tombs of all Moscow metropolites and patriarchs up to the abolition of the patriarchate in 1721, with the exception of Patriarch Nikon , who rests in the New Jerusalem monastery near Istra .


The image of the Dormition Cathedral was immortalized on the lapel of two Soviet commemorative coins , in 1989 in the series “500 Years of the United Russian State” (in gold, face value 50 rubles) and in 1990 (in cupro-nickel , face value 5 rubles ).

See also

Notes and individual references

  1. See NS Šeljapina: Archeologičeskie issledovanija v Uspenskom sobore . In: Materialy i issledovanija . tape 1 , 1973, p. 54–63, here p. 62 . ( [accessed January 11, 2009]). - Original title: Н. С. Шеляпина: Археологические исследования в Успенском соборе. Из: Материалы и исследования. Вып. 1. Москва 1973. Стр. 54-63.
  2. Fëdorov 1985, p. 55 f.
  3. Vygolov 1988, p. 62.
  4. Zagraevskij 2003, В.П.Выголов полагал […].
  5. Fëdorov 1985, p. 56.
  6. Zagraevskij 2003, Москва, Петроверигский придел Успенского собора. 1329 год […].
  7. Kloss / Nazarov 1989, p. 25 f.
  8. Kloss / Nazarov 1989, p. 27.
  9. NI Brunov: Mastera drevnerusskogo zodčestva . Gosstrojizdat, Moskva 1953, p. 23 . - Original title: Н. И. Брунов: Мастера древнерусского зодчества. Москва: Госстройиздат, 1953.
  10. Kloss / Nazarov 1989, p. 27f.
  11. Kloss / Nazarov 1989, p. 22 f.
  12. See KM Bykovskij: Doklad o restavracii Moskovskogo Uspenskogo sobora . Moskva 1895. - Original title: К. М. Быковский: Доклад о реставрации Московского Успенского собора. Москва, 1895.
  13. Brief summary of the restoration history by Kavel'macher 1995, Недостаточно подготовленная в научном отношении […].
  14. Kavel'macher 1995, Успенский собор был выстроен Аристотелем в смешанной технике […].
  15. Kavel'macher 1995, В процессе капитального ремонта собора в 1683 г. были разобраны белокаменные архивольты закомар и надстроены его лопатки.
  16. ^ Viktor N. Lazarew: Dionissi and his school . In: Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Institute for Art History (ed.): History of Russian Art . tape III . Dresden, Verlag der Kunst 1959, p. 338–385 , here p. 346 (Russian: История Русского Искусства . Translated by Kurt Küppers).
  17. Kačalova 1973, p. 104.
  18. Kačalova 1973, p. 106. The widespread attribution of the icons to Fyodor Kondratjew, Luka Afanasjew and Jakow Grigorjew from the Trinity Monastery was thus refuted (cf. [Ivan Michailovič Snegirev: Uspenskij sobor v Moskve. Moskva, 1856, p. 14. ] - Original title: Иван Михайлович Снегирев: Успенский собор в Москве. Москва, 1856).
  19. Монеты СССР и России. Retrieved January 12, 2009 (Russian).
  20. П. В. Дворецкий, Д. В. Шабунов, К. Г. Айги: Монетный Двор. Советские и российские памятные медно-никельевые монеты 1965–1991г. Retrieved January 12, 2009 (Russian).


Russian-language literature

  • VI Fëdorov: Uspenskij sobor: issledovanie i problemy sochranenija pamjatnika . In: Uspenskij sobor Moskovskogo kremlja. Materialy i issledovanija . Moskva 1985, p. 52-68 ( [accessed January 11, 2009]). - Original title: В. И. Федоров: Успенский собор: исследование и проблемы сохранения памятника. В кн .: Успенский собор Московского кремля. Материалы и исследования. Москва 1985. Стр. 52-68.
  • I. Yes. Kačalova: K istorii nyne suščestvujuščego ikonostasa Uspenskogo sobora . In: Gosudarstvennye Muzei Moskovskogo Kremlja [GMMK] (ed.): Materialy i issledovanija . tape II . Sovetskij chudožnik, Moskva 1976, p. 104–108 ( [PDF; accessed January 18, 2009]). - Original title: И. Я. Качалова: К истории ныне существующего иконостаса Успенского собора. В кн: Государственные Музеи Московского Кремля (ГММК): Материалы и исследования. Вып. II. Советский художник. Москва, 1976. Cтр. 104-108.
  • VV Kavel'macher: K voprosu o pervonačal'nom oblike Uspenskogo sobora Moskovskogo kremlja . In: Central'nyj naučno-issledovatel'skij institut teorii i istorii architektury (ed.): Architekturnoe nasledstvo . tape 38 , 1995, ISSN  0320-0841 , p. 214–235 ( [accessed January 13, 2009]). - Original title: В. В. Кавельмахер: К вопросу о первоначальном облике Успенского собора Московского кремля. В кн .: Архитектурное наследство / Центральный научно-исследовательский институт теории и историту. Вып. 38. Москва, 1995. Стр. 214-235.
  • BM Kloss, VD Nazarov: Letopisnye istočniki XV veka o stroitel'stve moskovskogo Uspenskogo sobora . In: Istorija i restavracija pamjatnikov Moskovskogo Kremlja . tape VI . Moskva 1989, p. 20–42 ( [accessed January 12, 2009]). - Original title: Б. М. Клосс, В. Д. Назаров: Летописные источники XV века о строительстве московского Успенского собора. В кн .: История и реставрация памятников Московского Кремля. Вып. VI. Москва 1989. Стр. 20-42.
  • KK Romanov: O formach moskovskogo Uspenskogo sobora 1326 i 1474 gg . In: Materialy i ssledovanija po archeologii Moskvy . No. 44 , 1955, pp. 7-19 . - Original title: К. К. Романов: О формах московского Успенского собора 1326 и 1474 гг. В кн .: Материалы и сследования по археологии Москвы. Вып. 44. Москва 1955. Стр. 7-19.
  • VP Vygolov: Architektura Moskovskoj Rusi serediny XV veka. Kul'tovaja architectura. Graždanskaja architektura. Krepostnaja architektura. Uspenskij Sobor v Moskve (1472–1479) . Nauka, Moskva 1988. - Original title: В. П. Выголов: Архитектура Московской Руси середины XV века. Культовая архитектура. Гражданская архитектура. Крепостная архитектура. Успенский Собор в Москве (1472–1479). Москва: Наука, 1988.
  • SV Zagraevskij: Zodčestvo Severo-Vostočnoj Rusi konca XIII-pervoj treti XIV veka. ALEV-V, Moskva 2003, ISBN 5-94025-046-7 ( [accessed January 12, 2009]). - Original title: С. В. Заграевский: Зодчество Северо-Восточной Руси конца XIII – первой трети XIV века Москва: АЛЕВ-В, 2003.

German-language literature

  • Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Institute for Art History (Ed.): History of Russian Art . tape III . Dresden, Verlag der Kunst 1959 (Russian: История Русского Искусства . Translated by Kurt Küppers).
  • Sebastian Kempgen: The churches and monasteries of Moscow - a regional history handbook (= Peter Rehder [Hrsg.]: Sagners Slavic Collection . Volume 21 ). Otto Sagner, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-87690-566-4 , p. 70-78 .

Web links

Commons : Cathedral of the Dormition (Moscow)  - collection of images, videos and audio files