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The elegant Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, with golden stars decorating its five blue domes, is a monument church dedicated to the liberation of Moscow and Russia from the Polish invasion in 1612.
The church was built on the order of Tsar Mikhail, the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty. The miracle-working image of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan was in possession of the troops of Prince Pozharsky and helped them to liberate the Kremlin from the invaders. The church construction site was chosen for a reason – in 1610, this was the location of the camp of False Dmitry the Second, also called the rebel of Tushino, and Polish military governor Sapieha.
During the reign of Tsar Aleksey I Romanov, the Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan was rebuilt in stone and connected to the imperial palace with a covered arcade to serve as a family chapel. Later, from the second half of the C17th, it served as a parish church in Kolomenskoye.
The Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan houses one of Russia's most revered icon – the Icon of the Mother of God ‘Reigning’.
There is an interesting story about how this icon was found. In February 1917, peasant woman Eudokia Adrianova from Pererva—a village nearby Kolomenskoye—heard a voice in her dream: ‘Kolomenskoye Village, a big black icon, take it and make it red, then pray and ask her what you wish’. So, the woman went to Kolomenskoye and there, together with Father Nikolay Likhachov, found a large dust-blackened icon in the basement of the Church of the Ascension. When the icon was carefully cleared of dust, they could see the image of the Mother of God wearing a red garment and holding a sceptre and an orb in her hands. This happened on the day of abdication of Emperor Nikolay the Second.
After the revolution and the closure of the Church of the Ascension, the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was given to the neighbouring Church of Saint George. Later, the icon was kept in the depository of the State Historical Museum. In 1990, the ‘Reigning’ Icon was returned to Kolomenskoye, to then functional Church of Kazan, where another icon was kept – a copy of the miracle-working image of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan.
Incidentally, there was also an image of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan in the Tsar’s palace office. The icon was protected with an embroidered towel decorated with pearls and gems.
The word ‘icon’ is of Greek origin meaning ‘likeness, image’. In Medieval Russia, icons were called ‘images’. Strictly speaking, icons are not works of art. Icons became to be considered to be works of art quite recently, when they appeared in museums and exhibitions. Originally, though, icons were created as sacred objects. Similarly to crosses, they are objects of worship and, therefore, their proper place is in churches. In the old times, icons were highly respected. The phrase ‘to buy an icon’ sounded sacrilegious. Instead, they said ‘to exchange for money’. It was prohibited to destroy old icons, but it was allowed to bury them or ‘sail’ downstream. If an icon perished in a fire, they said that it ‘withdrew’, instead of ‘burnt’.
In the old times in Russia, icons were kept not only in churches, but also in every house, in the holy corner. Icons were placed near road forks, water wells, and on city gates. No wonder that saints were the most popular icon subject. In the Middle Ages, saints were very important for people, whoever they were. When baptised, children were given Christian names of some saints. It was believed that relevant patron saints protected people throughout their lives.
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.