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The Church of the Ascension was built in 1532 on the order of Grand Prince of Moscow Vasily the Third. Legend has it that the Church was erected by the vow in honour of the birth of the heir to the throne – the future tsar Ivan the Fourth, also known as Ivan the Terrible. At present, it is difficult to ascertain whether or not it was a fact. Some researchers think that it was absolutely impossible to construct such a grand and highly engineered church in such a short time, as the church was consecrated only two years after the birth of Ivan Vasilyevich. It is highly probable that the Church of the Ascension was laid as a ‘stone prayer’ for sending a successor.
Nobody knows from certain the name of the architect who built the Church of the Ascension. Most scientists are inclined to think that the church was constructed by famous Italian architect Petrok Maly, who in those years also built the Kitai-Gorod vallum at the commission of Yelena Glinskaya. However that may be, but your only thing that we can be sure of is the author of the Church of the Ascension was definitely familiar with the Italian architecture. This is evidenced by the architectural elements and techniques of this wonderful church. But whoever was the architect who built this elegant snow-white marvel, he was an outstanding master and his creation is perfect.
Interestingly, during the renovation of the 1970s, they found that one of the church’s capitals was dated 1533, a year of the Common Era, which was not adopted in Russia at that time. This proves that the church was built by foreigners and the finishing work continued after the consecration of the church.
In those days, the elegant soaring Church of the Ascension was an important spiritual symbol interpreted as the Ascension of Christ, the path to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Second Advent.
Apparently, the Church of the Ascension was also used as watch tower, which is evidenced by a lockout turret on the top of the tented roof. It can be accessed by internal winding stairs and a chain-ladder.
The Church of the Ascension was probably the first stone tent-roofed temple in Russia. in addition, it was the tallest church for a long time—62 metres high—before the construction of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Moscow Kremlin during the reign of Boris Godunov. Internally, however, the church is quite small. It was initially built as a royal family chapel. The temple is emphatically centrical in shape. All its façades are uniformly decorated. Even its sanctuary is not accentuate from outside. Cruciform in its ground floor, the temple is crowned with a high tented roof. The lower part of the church is surrounded by ambulatory galleries. At one time, they were open galleries, with a tsar seat behind the sanctuary. From that place, the tsar gave alms after worship services.
The first wife of Grand Prince of Moscow Vasily the Third was Solomonia Saburova. He selected her from nearly one and a half thousand daughters of nobleman and boyars. They were brought to Moscow from a bride show from across the country. Vasily the Third and his wife lived together for twenty years. But they had no children. The Grand Prince decided to remarry. Divorces, however, were not practiced in those days. So, Solomonia was forced to take the veil. Metropolitan of Moscow Varlaam, had strongly recommended against the decision, was disgowned. It is said that Patriarch Mark of Jerusalem warned the Prince at that time: ‘If you marry again, you will have an evil child, your kingdom will be filled with terror and grief, and blood will be shed like water’.
There are quite a few of strange and even macabre stories associated with the birth of successors of Vasily the Third. One of them is about the childlessness of his wife Solomonia. According to foreigners’ numerous testimonies, the situation was not so simple. Baron Sigismund von Herberstein in his Notes on Muscovite Affairs wrote as follows: ‘During our visit to Muscovy, some people testified that Salome had given birth to a son named George, but would not show the child to anyone. Moreover, when certain individuals were sent to her to establish the truth, she was said to answer that they were not worthy of seeing the child and that he would avenge his mother’s grievance when he achieves greatness. Some people stoutly denied that she had given birth. So, it is rumoured in different ways with regard to this affair’.
Legend has it that Solomonia, the wife of Vasily the Third, finally give birth to a royal successor after long years of their infertile marriage. The child was said to be named George. In support of this theory, they mention the Church of Saint George the Victorious, near the Frolovskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin, whose foundation stone was laid by Vasily the Third in 1527.
In addition, theory that Ivan the Terrible had an elder brother is indirectly supported by the discovery of a secret burial place at the convent where Solomonia Saburova had been sent. There, they found a rag doll in a baby-sized coffin.
In the works by Andrey Kurbsky, an opponent of Ivan the Terrible, it is mentioned how the future Russian tsar came into the world. His father, Vasily the Third, did not have any children for 24 years. They tried all kinds of potions and charmed water, but nothing helped. According to Andrey Kurbsky, Vasily the Third ‘looked for the most powerful enchanters from far and wide, so that they could help him’. Different sorcerers were brought to the court but their charms proved to be powerless. And then, they sent for some wizards from Korela, an ancient city in the north-western part of Russia. So, they brought ‘the most evil satanic advisors’ to Moscow. Through their help, Vasily begot two sons from ‘the worst seeds’. One of them was ‘the most ferocious bloodsucker’, while the other one was ‘mindless, memoryless, and speechless’. This was the description of the future tsar Ivan the Terrible and his is feeble-minded brother Yury, ho died at the age of 31.
It was popularly believed that in his childhood the eldest son of Vasily the Third, George, whose birth was never proved, was smuggled to Kerzhenky Forest and secretly raised in small forest monasteries. Later, he became Kudeyar, the famous robber in the manner of Robin Hood. Kudeyar featured not only in folk legends and songs, but also in a novel, a story, and a poem written in the C19th. In addition, the repertoire of famous Russian bass singer Fyodor Shalyapin included a song, ‘The 12 Robbers’, composed to the lyrics by Russian poet Nikolay Nekrasov.
The second wife of Grand Prince Vasily the Third was Yelena Glinskaya. She was very beautiful. According to a legend, she traced her ancestry back to Mamai, the famous general of the Golden Horde. Having waited for an heir for so long, the tsar placed high hopes on her. With his new wife, he had to wait four years until she finally had a child in 1530. His first-born child was named Ivan – the future Ivan the Fourth or Ivan the Terrible. By that time Vasily the Third was 54 years old. Soon, he had another son, Yury.
A year after Yury was born, his father Grand Prince Vasily the Third suddenly died in 1533. By all appearances, he died of blood poisoning caused by an abscess on his thigh. Before his death, Vasily the Third gave his throne to Ivan and ordered his ‘wife Olena’ and the Boyars' Council to ‘hold the country under his son’ until he grows up. The bloody era of Ivan the Terrible began. The death of his son Fyodor Ivanovich ended the rule of the Rurik dynasty.
Kolomenskoye is a nice park and a former royal estate situated several kilometers to the southeast of the city center of Moscow, on the ancient road leading to the ancient picturesque town of Kolomna (hence the name).
The area overlooks the steep banks of the Moskva River. This fact will allow you to do a lot of great panoramic photos. This is also a place where seasonal folk festivals take place: honey and handicrafts trade-fairs, religious festivities and processions. If you fond of painting, this is the right place for drawing nature, city landscapes and churches.
The area is rich with cafes and restaurants offering traditional Russian cuisine in wooden houses. Try Russian pan-cakes with different filling, small and big pies, and honey cakes.
Kolomenskoye village was first mentioned in the testament of Ivan Kalita in 1339. As time went by, the village was developed as a favourite country estate of grand princes of Muscovy. The earliest existing structure is the exceptional Ascension church (1532), built in white stone to commemorate the long-awaited birth of an heir to the throne, the future Ivan the Terrible. Being the first stone church of tent-like variety, the uncanonical "White Column" (as it is sometimes referred to) marked a stunning break from the Byzantine tradition.
Recognizing its outstanding value for humanity, UNESCO decided to inscribe the church on the World Heritage List. The estate was one of the favourite places for Ivan the Terrible. He used to celebrate here his name-day in August. In XVI-XVII centuries there develops a unique architectural ensemble, subordinated to the idea of ceremonial royal residence, which is of great artistic and historical value. The heyday of Kolomenskoye is associated with the reign of Alexey Mikhailovich - Kolomenskoye was his favorite residence also. In 1667-1668 a magnificent wooden palace (the Eighth Wonder of the World) which had 250 rooms, was erected. The complex of the royal buildings was surrounded by the wall with three gates: Front, Back and Garden.
The future Empress Elizabeth Petrovna was born in the palace in 1709, and Tsar Peter the Great spent part of his youth here. Upon the departure of the court for St. Petersburg, the palace fell into disrepair, so that Catherine II refused to make it her Moscow residence. On her orders the wooden palace was demolished in 1768, and replaced with a much more modest stone-and-brick structure.
Fortunately, detailed plans of the 17th century palace survived and Moscow Government has completed a full-scale reconstruction in 2010.