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The brick-red church next to the boyar, or Baron’s residence is the cathedral of the Znamensky Monastery.
Onsite the current buildings number 8 to 12 on Varvarka street there used to be Znamensky Monastery earlier. It was founded in the 17th century on the territory of Romanov’s estate, also called “old monarchic court”. The monastery was loved by the tsar. On thepatron saint's day in the presence of the tsar and his courtiers the patriarch himself performed here the sacred rites. During the mass, while all the clergymen and the entire imperial family were in the monastery, the bell on the Kremlin’s Ivan the Great bell tower rang. When St.Petersburg became the capital of Russia, the monastery was abandoned and fell into decay. Later, in 1812, when the French occupied Moscow, the monasterymiraculously remained intact. In fact, the french chief provision officer, who had served in Russia before, was accommodated in the tsar’s residence. He did his best to save the monastery. Moreover, with the permission of the commandant, public worship continued in the lower floor of the Znamensky Cathedral, which was very rare in the occupied Moscow. You can go downstairs and have a little walk around the preserved buildings.
The five-domed cathedral of the Znamensky Monastery was built by the Kostroma architects in the beginning of the 17th century. In the 19th century their names were found in the contracts hidden in one of the cathedral walls. At the bottom of the outer side of the sanctuary one can see the embedded ancient tiles with the epitaphs. Some of the later buildings can still be seen as well. Among them are the bell towers and the monastic cells. In the end of the 18th century the cathedral could boast a very rich interior with many classicism items: numerous piers, medallions, paintings, golden rosettes.
In Soviet times the Znamensky Monastery was closed and reconstructed into living quarters. In the beginning of the 1960-s the condition of the monastery buildings was recognized as an emergency, upon which they were renovated. The promotion office of theAll-Russia Society for Protection of Monuments of History and Culture was allocated in the cathedral, where they built lecture and concert halls. Both church interior and its layout were altered. The upper floor was turned into a hall with stage, while a large picture of skomorokhs – buffoons and clowns in medieval Russia - was hung instead of the iconostasis. Afterwards the promotion office was closed for reconstruction that lasted many years. Starting from 1992 the cathedral resumed divine services.
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.