January 2, 2012

0088 RUSSIA (Moscow) - Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent (UNESCO WHS)

So important was Smolensk, that in 1524, to the 10th anniversary of its conquest, the Grand Prince of Moskow Vasili III had built the Novodevichy Convent (also known as Bogoroditse-Smolensky Monastery), and dedicated it to the Icon of the Mother God of Smolensk Hodegetria, the highest shrine of Russian orthodoxy. Ivan the Terrible, the first tsar of All Russia, later granted a number of other villages to the convent. Located in the south-western part of the historic town of Moscow, at a curve of the Moskow River, the convent is enclosed within a high masonry wall with 12 towers, and was an important part of the southern defensive belt of the russian capital. It was called Novodevichy (The Virgin Hodigitria New Maiden) to differ from the Ascension Convent, Voznesensky Starodevichy (Old Maiden), located in the Moscow Kremlin.

The layout of the convent can be referred to two axes: the east-west axis, formed by the Church of the Assumption and the Bell Tower, and the north-south axis, defined by the two entrance gates. The North Gate is linked with the Church of Transfiguration, and the South Gate with the Church of the Holy Virgin. The Refectory and the Church of St. Amvrosi Mediolanskiy are close to the South Gate. The six-pillared five-domed Smolensky Cathedral, situated in the centre of the axes between the two entrance gates, was the first stone building of the ensemble, possibly designed by an Italian architect. The interior walls, pillars and vaults are covered with mural paintings on a tempera base, having as main theme Akaphist’s text praising the Virgin, made in a style tending toward classical ancient Russian style. The Bell Tower (1683-1690), built in red brick in Moscow baroque style, using whitestone decorative elements, is 72 m high in five tiers.

The Convent was one of the most respected and rich nunneries, joined by women of tsarist and boyar families, and was used as an alternative residence for tsarist family. The end of the 16th century was active for the Convent related with the coronation of Boris Godunov, and his sister Tsarina Irina taking monastic votes. This is the period for the construction of the surrounding stone walls with towers. The cathedral of Novodevichy and the cathedrals of the Kremlin were the two sites used as burial places for the ruling dynasty in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1898 another Cemetery was opened without monastery walls, where many notables was later buried, including Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Peter Kropotkin, Nikita Khrushchev, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Konstantin Stanislavski, Boris Yeltsin or Mstislav Rostropovich.

In 1812, Napoleon's army made an attempt to blow up the convent, but some nuns managed to extinguish the fuses on casks of gunpowder after the soldiers had fled. The Convent also made appearances in 19th Century fiction, as the site of Pierre's proposed execution in War and Peace, and as the meeting place for Lyovin and Kitty in Anna Karenina (the Maiden Field, below the convent walls, was Moscow's most fashionable skating rink, frequented by Tolstoy).

After the October Revolution, in 1922, the Convent was closed, and it became the Museum of Emancipation of Woman. It was later reorganised as the historical and art museum of The Novodevichy Convent. At present this is affiliated to the State Historical Museum of Kremlin. Unlike other Moscow cloisters, it has remained virtually intact since the 17th century, and in 2004 it was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, under the name Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of a series with wild animals, issued on 2008, about which I wrote here. The second is part of a series issued on August 12, 2004, four stamps with the same value (8.00p) depicting worverine gulo gulo in various positions.

The third belong to the Monuments of science and technology set, four stamps dedicated to the clock tower of Russia - one of the oldest types of mechanical watches. In Russia the first mechanical clocks were installed in the Kremlin in 1404. They had a rotating dial with a stationary arrow. Clock tower at Frolovska (Saviour) Tower of Moscow Kremlin appeared in the XVI century. The four stamps depicted the following clock:
• The clock on the Central Telegraph building - Moscow (9 RUB) - it’s on another postcard
• The clock on the building of the Admiralty - St. Petersburg (12 RUB)
• The clock on the building of Moscow State University - Moscow (15 RUB) – it’s on the postcard
• The clock on the building of the railway station - Sochi (25 RUB)

sender: Yulia Makarkina (direct swap)
sent from Zelenograd (Moscow / Russia), on 09.11.2011 

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