Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery

Nestled in a crook of the River Moskva in a south-western suburb, the 'Convent of New Maidens' presents the classic image of historic, fairytale Russia, with its sixteen gilded onion-domes crowned with crosses, and a pagoda-like bell tower – an ensemble enhanced by lake views and peaceful gardens.

Built in the early 16th century, the convent has remained virtually unchanged since the 17th century, and in 1994 it resumed its function as a nunnery. At its heart is the five-domed Cathedral of the Virgin of Smolensk, with its elaborate frescoed interior, celebrated above all for its iconostasis (icon screen), with frames of gold. Also on view are several other churches, the refectory, the convent cells, and a museum.

The convent served as a refuge (or effectively a prison) for many ladies of noble rank, and so was richly endowed. The adjacent cemetery became the last resting place for numerous noble or famous Russians, including the writers Chekhov and Gogol, the theatre director Konstantin Stanislavski, composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich, the Soviet premier Khrushchev, and premier Gorbachev's wife Raisa.

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