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Ilyinka is one of Moscow's oldest streets. It connects Red Square to the Ilyinka Gates Square. It got its name from the long-since vanished monastery of Ilya (in English, Elijah) The Prophet – of which now only the monastery church survives. In earlier times the street was called Dmitrovka, due to the chapel here of St.Dmitry the Holy Martyr of Solunsk. The chapel lasted until the mid-C18th. The renaming happened in the C16th, when the monastery church of Ilya the Prophet became the principle place of worship in the neighbourhood. Ilyinka has long been a street of business and commerce = there were merchant halls, trading posts, banks and insurance companies all based here. Other traders from all over Moscow and the surrounding area gathered here to do their business deals.
The fires that followed the Napoleonic occupation in 1812 rased almost all of the buildings along Ilyinka. New stone mansions grew up in their place, designed by architect Osip Bové. Big money moved into the street at the turn of the C20th, when Russia's major banks built premises here. The Upper Trading Rows – as GUM was originally called – were built here. During the soviet era Ilyinka became home to various soviet administrative organisations and also ateliers. The street is still home to many bureaucratic organisations of government.
Ilyinka Street has a special interest during the traditional Church feast-day of Ilya (or Elijah) the Prophet. Traditionally people asked for Ilya's intercession and protection from famine and disaster. The procession went from Red Square and led to the Church of St.Ilya on Ilyinka. Back in the C17th, the “Time Of Troubles”, the procession was given especial reverence, as Ilya was Patron Saint of Russian soil. The celebratory Mass at St.Ilya's Church was conducted by the Patriarch of the Russian Church in person. Almost all of the services and ceremonies at St.Ilya's Church in those times are recorded in the archives of the Patriarchs. The Royal Family would often attend St.Ilya's Day. After the 1917 revolution the Cross-bearing procession was cancelled – but it was subsequently revived nearly a century later. However, the route now leads in the opposite direction – from St.Ilya's Church to Red Square. It's a very attractive ceremony.
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.