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One might think that this big white-stone building with a hip roof, situated in Zaryadye district, is a fortress. In reality it is an ancient Boyar (or Baron’s) residence built in the 16th century, now a branch of the State Historical museum.
Zaryadie was once a big area of market stall - long ago there were row upon row of lanes of little booths and lean-to buildings. Craftsmen and market traders used to live there. But the whole area was flattened in the 1960s, to make way for the new Hotel Rossiya. The Russian word 'zaryadie" translates as "place for market booths".
The ancient boyar, or baronial, residence in Zaryadye district is located on the territory of a very big mansion. In the 16th century it belonged to the tsar Mikhail’s grandfather, who was the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty. In fact, the boyar residence is located onsite an even more ancient building. In the 17th century tsar Mikhail presented the neighbouring Znamensky Monastery with the boyar residence and the entire mansion. The building was first used as monastic cells and then rented out. According to an old legend, tsar Mikhail Romanov was born right here. The boyar residence was renovated in the middle of the 19th century. Later, following the order of emperor Alexander II, the Romanov Boyar Residence Museum was opened here, one of the first museums in Russia. The museum exhibits a unique collection, including many objects of material culture and everyday life in C16th, C17th and C18th, C17th weapon and much more.
The building of the Boyar (or Baron’s) residence consists of several parts, built in different times, namely: C16th boyar storeroom, C17th monastic cell and C19th additional storey for the museum. If you have some free time, don’t hesitate to visit the museum – it will give you an idea about the everyday life of the Russian boyars, or barons. For example, you can see here all the crucial elements of an ancient Russian hut, which consisted of “klet” - the living quarters; and “podklet” – auxiliary room on the ground floor. Inside the building you will see small rooms, low arched ceilings, thick walls, doors and windows, as well as small stoves with curved tops typical for the C17th. Many ancient ornaments are preserved in the exterior of the building: window platbands, cornice and half-columns in the corners. The lower floor is decorated with the diamond-pointed rustic stones. Behind the museum there is an 18th century one-storey painted service building with an arched entrance.
Kitay-gorod is one of the oldest parts of Moscow. It appeared nearby the old wooden Kremlin. Although the name translates as “Chinatown,” it probably derives from kita (wattle), referring to the wall that surrounded this early Kremlin suburb. Today, remains of an old city wall and colorful churches are scattered throughout this ancient neighborhood.
The stone walls were erected in the 16th century by an Italian architect known under the name Petrok Maly and originally featured 13 towers and six gates. They were as thick as they were high. The last of the towers were demolished in the 1930s, but small portions of the wall still stand. One of two remaining parts of the wall is located in Zaryadye and the other near the exit from the Okhotny Ryad station of Moscow Metro behind the Hotel Metropol.
Kitay-gorod starts at Red Square. Apart from Red Square, the quarter is bordered by the chain of Central Squares of Moscow, notably Theatre Square (in front of Bolshoi Theatre), Lubyanka Square (in front of the KGB headquarters), and Slavyanskaya Square.
Since time immemorial Kitay-gorod has been developing as a trading area. And for centuries it was known as the most prestigious business area of Moscow. Its three main streets — Varvarka, Ilyinka, and Nikolskaya — are lined with banks, shops, and storehouses. There are also lots of historical buildings that relate to the heritage of the federal and global importance now.
In our tour you will walk along Nikolskaya Street that is famous for being the site of Moscow's first university, the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, housed in extant Zaikonospassky monastery (1660s). Another monastery cathedral, the main church of Epiphany Bogoyavlensky Monastery (1690s), is the oldest male monastery in Moscow, stands in the middle of Kitay-gorod in the eponymous Bogoyavlensky Lane. The 18th century survives in the exterior walls of the otherwise rebuilt Gostiny Dvor (Guest Merchant's Court) by Giacomo Quarenghi.
A whole quarter of Kitay-gorod adjacent to the Moskva River and known as Zaryadye (now just Varvarka Street) was demolished in the 20th century, sparing only those structures that were classified as historic monuments. These include the Cathedral of the Sign (1679–84), the Church of All Saints (1680s), St. George's Church on Pskov Hill (1657), St. Maksim's Church (1698), St. Anna's Church at the Corner (1510s), St. Barbara's Church (1796–1804), the Old English Embassy (1550s), and the 16th century Romanov boyar residence. The two last are the museums. You can visit them to see the life of the first Romanovs in the 16-17th centuries.