May 01, 2018

An Oasis in Moscow

It is a miracle that Krutitsy, one of Moscow’s oldest church residences, has survived. Dating back more than 600 years, this masterpiece of Russian architecture stands in the Taganka District, Moscow’s historic center. You could easily miss it, as it is hidden among the residential and office buildings that have risen up around it. Even locals know little about this place, to say nothing of tourists. But once upon a time this church residence, or metochion (from the Greek), was of central importance to Muscovy. Over the centuries, it has housed legendary figures from Russian history, not all of whom, incidentally, were there of their own free will.

If, when you are strolling through Moscow, the air suddenly smells fresher and you seem to have wandered into another century, it could be that you have found yourself at the Krutitsy Patriarchal Residence. (In bygone days, “Krutitsy” was the name for an elevated point along the left bank of the Moscow River, not far from where it is joined by the Yauza).

You slow your pace, wanting to examine every brick. The residence has seen it all: it was burned and plundered by Poles during the Time of Troubles and by the French in 1812. Under the Soviets, its sacred images were smeared with paint and its ancient graveyard was used as a soccer field. Ironically, it was under a foreign invader, the Golden Horde, when Rus was reduced to a few faltering principalities, that the Krutitsy Residence was built by Prince Daniel of Moscow, sometime around 1270. It originally served as a monastery.

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