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The rose-coloured three-storey building on the corner of Ilyinka and Vetoshny Lane (or side-street) isn't immediately obvious as a church. Its small dome can only be seen from the opposite side of Ilyinka. This is one of Moscow's very oldest churches – the Church of St.Ilya the Prophet, whom English-speakers know as Elijah.
This Church of St.Ilya the Prophet was built for the Monastery of St.Ilya which once stood here, and after which Ilyinka Street is named. The bell-tower of this Church famously sounded the alarm in 1606 when the occupying Polish Army was routed from Moscow. However, in the following years the monastery was closed-down, and its church became a Parish Church instead. In the C17th St.Ilya's became famous for the rituals of the Bearing Of The Cross, which were performed here by the Patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church on St.Ilya's Day. During the soviet era the church was closed-down, but today Divine Worship is once again restored.
Among the parishioners of St.Ilya's are many paratroopers, who hold St.Ilya as their Patron Saint. On 2nd August – St.Ilya's Day – the procession here is attended by many members of the airborne troops. From Easter 2005 the tradition of the Bearing Of The Cross was revived, with a procession from St.Ilya's Church to the Lobnoye Mesto (or the Place of`Skulls) on Red Square – where a ceremonial service of prayer is held, according to ancient tradition. Many thousands attend this ceremony – including parishioners, paratroops, and guests.
Next to the Church of St.Ilya the Prophet we can find preserved the Heated Trading Rows. They were called “Heated” since there was heating provided in Winter. The building of the Heated Rows was put up in the latter C19th, but almost totally pulled-down in the early C21st. Even as early as the C19th they held what was known as “reduced seasonal prices”. Today we use the English word “Sale” for this event, but back then it went under the less charming term of “cheapened-off stuff”.
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.